An Abbotsford senior has died after being struck by a vehicle, and police are now seeking to identify the driver.
The fatal collision occurred Tuesday evening at 8:30 p.m. in the 32600 block of Marshall Road, police said in a news release.
A 77-year-old South Asian man, who has not been identified, was walking on the roadway when he was hit by what police describe as a newer model, SUV-type vehicle.
He was transported to hospital by air ambulance, but died of his injuries Wednesday morning.
The driver of the vehicle, meanwhile, fled the scene, and investigators are now working to identify the individual.
“The Abbotsford Police Department are asking for the driver of the vehicle to do the right thing and come forward to speak with investigators,” police said in the release.
Detectives are also looking to speak to witnesses who stopped to help and act as interpreters at the scene, and are appealing to the public for CCTV and dash-cam footage that could help with the investigation.
Anyone with information pertinent to the incident is asked to call the Abbotsford Police Department.
Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove has requested a meeting with Health Minister Adrian Dix to express his concerns about the temporary closure of Chilliwack Hospital’s maternity ward. Francis Georgian / PNG
The mayor of Chilliwack is requesting a meeting with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to express concerns about a plan to close the maternity ward at Chilliwack Hospital for an indeterminate amount of time starting later this month.
The closure is caused by an “unexpected shortfall in obstetricians,” said Jennifer Wilson, medical director for Chilliwack Hospital. Due to a medical leave, the hospital is no longer able to ensure there is an on-call obstetrician available for emergency interventions and C-sections at all times.
Fraser Health is working on a plan to address the problem, but women who expected to give birth in Chilliwack after June 24 will have to go to Abbotsford Regional Hospital instead, said Wilson. “Our goal is to be up and running again as soon as possible.”
The doctor said the decision to close the maternity ward was not made lightly and she “respects” the concerns of women who are now faced with travelling outside their community to deliver. “We are really committed to making things as safe as possible for women.”
But Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove said it is “insane” that his community of 100,000 people will not have a maternity ward this summer. On average, there is between one to two births per day at Chilliwack Hospital.
“I understand that it’s difficult (for Fraser Health), but there should have been a plan in place,” he said.
The mayor said he is asking for a meeting with the provincial health minister to discuss the situation. He has also spoken to the mayor of Hope who is worried about the health of women who will have to travel more than an hour — possibly in rush-hour or long-weekend traffic — to reach the hospital in Abbotsford.
“It’s an hour on a good day. What happens if there’s an accident?” asked Popove.
The mayor said he hasn’t been told when Fraser Health plans to reopen the maternity ward. But he has been hearing from families in his community who are worried and anxious.
Former Chilliwack mayor and B.C. Liberal MLA John Les called the closure “a kick in the head” in response to a Chilliwack Progress news story about the closure.
“This is a bloody outrage,” he said in a Facebook post.
“If implemented, this two- to three-month suspension of deliveries will become permanent,” he speculated. “This has been Fraser Health’s dream all along: centralize everything in Abbotsford.”
Wilson said the hospital plans to maintain its maternity ward and is looking for long-term solutions to the staffing problem. It is also working to address transportation concerns from women who may have trouble reaching Abbotsford.
“We have reassurances from Abbotsford … (that) they have the capacity,” she said.
But registered midwife Libby Gregg said the closure is making women “fearful” about their deliveries.
“They are really suffering,” she said, explaining that some women will lose the doctor who has cared for them through their entire pregnancy because the doctor doesn’t have hospital privileges at the Abbotsford hospital.
“These women will be in an unfamiliar situation with people they don’t know,” she said.
Gregg said an increase in stress and anxiety in the late stages of pregnancy and during delivery can have negative impacts on mothers and babies, including a possible increase in inductions and C-sections.
“The implications are huge and far-reaching.”
Gregg said Chilliwack midwives are stepping up to offer their services to women who are scrambling to find a caregiver ahead of the closure, adding “we’re here to support as many families as we can.”
It’s GoByBike week in B.C. But in Mission, most go by car.
A “pop-up” bike lane along 7th Avenue appears to be doing little to change that, as it was almost deserted Thursday afternoon.
“It’s just a pain,” said Michelle Leggett as she walked her six-year-old daughter Madeline Lutz home from school. “I think I’ve seen four bikers all week, and I’m pretty sure they’re regulars.”
To create the lane, city staff closed one side of the street to parking from Monday to Friday. As a result, the side streets around the high school have been overwhelmed with parents dropping off their kids.
“We’re just too far out here,” said Leggett. “People commute to Vancouver or Burnaby, and they need a car.”
But despite public reluctance, bike lanes are being built in some of B.C.’s most car-centric communities. Earlier this week, the provincial government announced $10 million in cycling infrastructure funding across the province. It will be up to municipalities to change public perception — and tackle the challenges that come along with building a cycling network in the suburbs.
Mission’s pop-up bike lane is part of that. Council has already approved a permanent bike lane along 7th Avenue, and the temporary lane is designed to increase public engagement and gauge public reaction to the idea, said Mission Community Cycling Coalition member Rocky Blondin.
“The design work on a permanent bike lane will be informed by what happens this week,” said Blondin, who is president of the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association.
The lane’s usage was “modest” at the start of the week, but seems to be increasing as people realize there is another option to get to school or the recreation centre. It’s the city’s first east-to-west bike lane and its first protected bike lane.
“It takes time for people to start thinking differently,” said Blondin.
There are several challenges to increasing cycling in the Fraser Valley, according to advocates. While the number of bike lanes in cities outside Vancouver is increasing, many communities still lack a comprehensive network that can safely and efficiently take cyclists where they want to go.
“The strength in Vancouver is in a cycling network that’s connected and can get people from Point A to B,” said Erin O’Melinn, executive director of non-profit advocacy group, HUB Cycling. “The Fraser Valley is not yet at that point.”
Unused bike lanes give critics fodder for their fight against more cycling infrastructure during public consultation on the issue, she said.
“But cities need to understand that you can’t build a north-to-south route and expect it to be used. You need east-to-west too. The network is the game-changer.”
Some Fraser Valley cities are also challenged by the fact that their main roads are highways. Many cyclists aren’t comfortable biking on the shoulder of King George Highway or Lougheed Highway. Side roads often end in cul-de-sacs.
In Mission, where up to 70 per cent of residents leave town for work, it’s difficult to increase bicycle commuting when people must travel long distances.
But O’Melinn said progress is being made. With funding contributions from other levels of government, many cities are beginning to create cycling infrastructure, which remains cheap compared to other transportation options.
Surrey, in particular, has made significant strides in connecting its downtown core, she said, although the municipality’s size presents a challenge for linking the entire community.
Abbotsford signalled its intentions to make cycling a priority earlier this year with a new pedestrian and cycling bridge over Highway 1 connecting the University of the Fraser Valley to a main thoroughfare. The bridge is adorned with dozens of recycled aluminum bike wheels.
Elsewhere in the Fraser Valley, progress on bike lanes is “hit and miss,” said University of the Fraser Valley urban geography professor John Belec. “It depends on the interest of each particular council to move forward on it.”
There is also significant backlash from a segment of the population that believes “roads are primarily for cars, and as a public space, cars have priority,” he said.
While councils may not be able to push through a comprehensive bike network all at once, many are beginning to lay the groundwork and put small segments in place.
“It takes courage and energy — and a faith that they will be used,” said Belec.
In Chilliwack, cycling advocates are working to fill in the “gaps on the map,” said David Swankey, co-chair of Cycle Chilliwack. Using a rail corridor that loops through the community, the challenge is to develop clear and safe routes from there. The city is still working to determine what those routes will look like.
Swankey said advocates want to see routes that are accessible and safe for everyone, including seniors and kids on their way to school, which would increase their use.
“It’s an ongoing to process to see how it will roll out in the years to come,” he said.
Earlier this week, the provincial government announced $10 million in funding for cycling infrastructure projects across B.C. Municipalities must apply for the grants, which cover between 50 to 75 per cent of project costs, depending on population.
The BikeBC money helps communities pay for new bikeways, or improve safety and accessibility on existing pathways.
Several cities on the South Coast received funding for 2019-20, including:
• The City of Abbotsford is approved to receive $299,685 for a separated two-way cycle track connecting elementary, middle and high schools to the recreation centre, library and the Discovery Trail.
• The City of Chilliwack is approved to receive $437,263 to extend a separated pathway between Airport Road and Hocking Avenue on the Valley Rail Trail, providing a north-south connection for all ages and abilities.
• The City of North Vancouver is approved to receive $1 million toward the Casano-Loutet cycling and pedestrian bridge over Highway 1.
• The City of Pemberton is approved to receive $7,500 to develop a cycling network plan that addresses active transportation within the community.
• The District of Squamish is approved to receive $210,450 for upgrades to the Dentville section of the Discovery Trail, which will include a separated paved path with lighting.
• The City of Vancouver is approved to receive $150,925 for cycling and pedestrian safety improvements at the 800 Robson Street Permanent Plaza.
• The City of Vancouver is also approved to receive $1 million for upgrades to the downtown bike network.
• The District of West Vancouver is approved to receive $50,700 for separated bike lanes between the districts of West Vancouver and North Vancouver.
The Fraser Health Authority says it is investigating after Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove raised concerns about a 76-year-old woman who was discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and sent by taxi to the Chilliwack Salvation Army shelter, despite mobility and incontinence issues.
On Thursday, the mayor requested a meeting with Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee to discuss “why vulnerable people are being sent to Chilliwack homeless shelters from another community.”
He cited the case of an elderly woman who had no family in Chilliwack, but arrived at the local shelter from the Surrey hospital in early February. Shelter staff were not prepared to care for her medical needs, which included severe incontinence.
“Constantly cleaning up fecal matter … is a serious concern for both staff and shelter clients,” said Popove in a letter to Lee.
Fraser Health spokesman Dixon Tam said Fraser Health makes “every effort” to find homeless patients a place to go when they are clinically stable and ready to leave the hospital, but “finding suitable housing is a challenge across our region.”
Tam said: “We are committed to continue to work closely with B.C. Housing and our municipal partners to develop more options. At the same time, we need to be careful not to use hospital beds as an alternative to stable housing.”
Abbotsford homeless advocate Jesse Wegenast said he wasn’t surprised to read the Chilliwack mayor’s account in the newspaper, “but only because it’s such a common practice.”
Wegenast’s organization, The 5 and 2 Ministries, opened a winter homeless shelter in Abbotsford on Nov. 1. The next day, he received a call from a Vancouver General Hospital administrator asking if he had space for an 81-year-old patient.
Wegenast said he often says no to accepting patients because the shelter is not open 24 hours and people must leave during the day. He’s had requests to take people with severe mobility issues, as well as those who need help with toileting or washing.
“The people who work at shelters are often very compassionate, and if the hospital says, ‘Well, we’re not keeping them,’ they feel obligated to help,” said Wegenast.
The pastor said he’s rarely seen people in shelters receive home care or followup care, and it’s also difficult for them to get prescriptions filled.
Wegenast helped a low-income senior on Friday who recently had half of his foot amputated. The man lives in an apartment and was receiving home care to help with dressing changes, but he’d been unable to get antibiotics for five days since being released from hospital.
“When you have people exiting acute care at the hospital and there’s no one to follow that up, it’s bad for that person’s health, and it’s also bad for public health in general,” he said.
Unlike Wegenast, Warren Macintyre was surprised to read about the Chilliwack woman’s situation because it confirmed that the experience he’d had with Fraser Health was not uncommon.
“I really had no idea this kind of thing was going on,” he said.
Three weeks ago, a close family member was admitted to Surrey Memorial after suffering from alcohol withdrawal, said Macintyre. He was placed on life support in the intensive care unit for about 10 days. When he was stable, he planned to enter a treatment program in Abbotsford, but there weren’t any beds available until March 14.
“We were told the plan was to keep him in hospital until then, but I got a call Wednesday telling me he’d been discharged,” said Macintyre.
Surrey Memorial had sent his relative to the treatment centre, where staff repeated they had no space, so he was returned to the hospital. The man, who had been staying at the Maple Ridge Salvation Army before his hospital admission, took a cab to a friend’s house.
His family is hoping he’ll be able to stay sober until he can get into treatment March 14.
“I told the hospital, if he goes back on the booze, he’ll be right back here,” said Macintyre.
Mac enjoys his cake at his retirement party at the University of the Fraser Valley last week. University of the Fraser Valley
After 13 years, Mac the golden retriever will no longer wear the blue-and-yellow vest that identified him as a working dog.
The canine counsellor — the Pacific Assistance Dog Society’s (PADS) longest-serving member — retired last week after a career that saw him become the first registered therapy dog in the world to work with a counsellor in a non-residential setting.
He was also the first to work full time in a hospice and the first to work as a therapy dog with students at the University of the Fraser Valley.
“He’s a trailblazer — or maybe we should say a tail-blazer,” said his owner Dawn Holt, a clinical counsellor who works in UFV’s counselling department. “I think some of those firsts are due to him doing it for so long.”
In addition to supporting students, Mac has helped dozens of people across B.C. through traumatic events, including some of the province’s biggest disasters. He received an “Above and Beyond” award for selflessness in service after the 2017 wildfires. He’s also supported police, consoling officers during funerals, and calmed victims in crisis.
Mac has always had a “calm, mellow, gentle, sweet nature,” said Holt. From his puppy days, he’s been able to detect stress and sadness. “In a room full of people, he’ll go to the person who needs him the most.”
PADS trainers noticed this trait when Mac was young and began to train him as a therapy dog. A volunteer with PADS at the time, Holt began her career as a clinical counsellor at the same time Mac did. The two have always been partners, working in hospice, at UFV and in private practice.
But while Mac is officially retired, he won’t disappear from campus or from his patients’ lives. He can still be seen at the university, albeit without his recognizable vest. Instead, he now wears a UFV T-shirt.
“He doesn’t have that mantle of responsibility anymore,” said Holt.
Students have been surprised to discover that without his vest, Mac is a little more goofy. He’s now allowed to roll around on the campus lawns and sniff bushes.
“I guess he’s been wanting to sniff those bushes for the last 13 years,” quipped Holt. “He knows the difference between the vest, which he wore when he was working, and the T-shirt. He knows the T-shirt is somewhere between full-on work and relaxing at home.”
Holt explained a therapy dog works in two ways. First, they create a physiological response in patients, offering unconditional friendship, which can slow breathing, calm the body and reduce stress hormones. They also work to “build a bridge” between counsellor and patient, calming fears and building trust so the counsellor can do her work.
Mac doesn’t take his work home with him. A good therapy dog can “shake off” a heavy session, literally shaking his coat like he’s just gotten out of a lake.
“I’m so proud of him and the work he’s done,” said Holt.
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