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Category "Local Health"

23May

‘Corporate medicine’ model is wrong approach for urgent care centres: think-tank

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City Centre Urgent Primary Care Centre at 1290 Hornby St. in Vancouver.


Francis Georgian / PNG

Vancouver Coastal Health is being criticized for waving “profit-motivated” corporate partners through the door to manage an urgent and primary care health clinic in downtown Vancouver funded by taxpayers.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says it welcomes the idea of the clinics established by the province — where doctors, nurses and other health professionals work as a team — but says they should be run on a not-for-profit basis with community oversight or governance.

“Unfortunately, there is an alarming development taking place under the watch of Vancouver Coastal Health,” the CCPA says in a report released today that refers to the City Centre Urgent Primary Care Centre at 1290 Hornby St. in downtown Vancouver and a clinic planned for south Vancouver.

Opening such clinics across the province has been a major priority for Health Minister Adrian Dix but the government has not been open about business models and financing structures, so Postmedia and groups like CCPA have had to submit freedom of information requests to get details.

In a fact-checking exercise, Postmedia showed that in February’s throne speech,  the government inflated the numbers of doctors and nurses being hired to work in such clinics. The government’s primary health strategy includes funding for an additional 200 family doctors, 200 nurse practitioners and 50 pharmacists. But they won’t all be working in such centres.

There are eight urgent and primary care centres in B.C. with a variety of business models. Another two — in as-yet undisclosed locations — are expected to open soon.

Documents released to Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think-tank, show that Coastal Health invited medical corporations to run centres, says Alex Hemingway, a CCPA economist and public policy analyst. The only clinic to open in Vancouver so far was contracted by Coastal Health to an entity called Seymour Health Centre Inc., whose CEO is Sabi Bening

The downtown Vancouver centre operates like other medical offices and walk-in clinics in the sense that services provided to patients are covered by the public health insurance plan. But many family doctors are opting for $250,000 salaries instead of paying overhead and then collecting a medicare fee for each service. The clinics have extended hours, some doctors have emergency training and the model is meant to take the pressure off hospital emergency departments.

It’s also intended that the clinics will assist the many patients who don’t have family doctors to get attached to one. Health outcomes are better when patients have a history and continuity with doctors.

Although the vast majority of doctors’ offices are privately managed by their own corporations, Hemingway said there is plenty of evidence to show that not-for-profit models deliver superior care. Hemingway said doctors’ practices are “small scale” compared to the new models of combined urgent and primary care clinics.

Hemingway said it’s worrying that Seymour Health was contracted by the health authority to run Vancouver’s first urgent care centre. According to the government, the startup costs of the clinic were $1.9 million. City Centre Urgent Primary Care has a taxpayer-funded operating budget of about $3.7 million annually, including salaries, administration and overhead cost. The centre is a partnership of the ministry, Coastal Health, Providence Health Care, the Vancouver Division of Family Practice, Doctors of B.C. and Seymour Health Care.

Hemingway said the health authority is leasing the property from a private owner, “meaning it appears to be using public dollars to enhance a privately owned real estate asset. This is an unwise use of public capital investment dollars, which could be invested in publicly owned assets instead.”

Gavin Wilson, a spokesman for Coastal Health, said the Seymour group has 80 years of experience operating primary health care clinics. The costs and the agreement between Coastal Health and Seymour “are similar to contracts we hold with not-for-profit health service providers.”

Wilson said urgent primary care centres provide same-day care for non-life-threatening problems to people who would otherwise have no other option than to go to an emergency department. They have more services than traditional walk-in clinics since they have diagnostic equipment, such as X-ray and ultrasound machines, and labs and pharmacy services.

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17May

Transcendental Meditation is food for thought in battle against ourselves

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Consciousness & Creativity with David Lynch & Bob Roth

When: May 23, 7 p.m.

Where: SFU Goldcorp theatre

Tickets and info: $27.50-$65 eventbrite.ca

These days it seems you can’t swing a string of Buddha beads without hitting someone who meditates or is about to start to do so with help from their freshly downloaded Headspace meditation app.

Despite some forms of it dating to as far back as 1500 BCE, it seems meditation really is all the rage today. You can tell that is true by how tightly the marketers have embraced the idea of selling inner peace. Everything from juice to moisturizing lotion and bubble bath come with the word mindful attached. If you are in the U.K. you can even order online meals from the Mindful Chef. However, you have to agree to not talk with your mouth open. Actually not talk at all. Kidding.

“Meditation has become so much more mainstream, all the different forms,” said Anne-Mareike Chu, who is one of the 20 registered transcendental meditation, or TM, teachers who work out of the Vancouver TM Centre. “We have lots of people who come to us who have tried different kinds of meditation or apps.”

If you’re the type of consumer that likes a good celebrity stamp-of-approval in these influencer-driven times then TM has you covered. Supermodel Kendall Jenner told Vogue it helped her with anxiety and to clear her mind. Fans of Ellen DeGeneres’s daytime TV show have likely heard her talk about her eight-year TM practice.

“It’s changed my life,” said DeGeneres during a show that aired a year ago.

She was talking about TM on this day because her personal TM teacher Bob Roth was on the show with his new book, The New York Times Bestseller Strength in Stillness — The Power of Transcendental Meditation.

The book is a quick and interesting guide to TM through Roth and other people’s (some famous, some not) experiences. It’s an engaging and unfailingly understandable guide to a meditation practice that was brought to North America 50-plus years ago by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Roth learned the practice from the Maharishi/guru to the Beatles and has been practising it for five decades. For the past four decades he has been instructing it to everyone from PTSD-suffering war veterans to Fortune 500 CEOS to anxious teens to Tom Hanks.

Aside from teaching, Roth runs the non-profit David Lynch Foundation (DLF) that he formed with the famed film director 15 years ago.

As part of the DLF’s international outreach (it has offices in 35 countries) Roth is in Vancouver for the Consciousness & Creativity with David Lynch (via live video link) & Bob Roth event on May 23 (7 p.m.) at the SFU Goldcorp theatre. He will also be travelling to Montreal and Toronto.

The event is a discussion of TM, Roth’s book and a chance for audience members to ask questions of him and Lynch. Lynch is the director behind such wonderfully weird works as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.

“We’re both Eagle Scouts. Which is funny David Lynch as an Eagle Scout,” said Roth over the phone from his office in N.Y. when asked about he and Lynch’s connection.


David Lynch will be joining Strength in Stillness author Bob Roth in Vancouver on May 23 to talk about the power of transcendental meditation. The David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace is a global foundation founded by the film director to fund the teaching of TM in schools.

Josh Telles /

PNG

Currently there is a DLF office in Toronto and Roth says there are plans to expand in Canada.

The non-profit focus of the foundation is to bring free TM to inner-city kids, vets and victims of domestic abuse. Roth reports that the foundation in North America has delivered meditation to about one million of those people. All the proceeds from Strength in Stillness will go back into supporting that work.

Roth’s connection to famous folks began with Lynch. From there word of mouth brought him together with other bold names like Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern and hedge-fund billionaire Ray Dalio.

“Whether they are CEOs or famous people they say: ‘Oh, you need a good cardiologist. I’ve got a good cardiologist for you. Oh, you need a good meditation guy, oh, I’ve got a good meditation guy.’ So that’s how it works,” says Roth about his famous clientele.

While more and more celebs and CEOs are signing up, Roth says there is another growing demographic — politicians.

It’s seems the lawmakers (sometimes) in Washington are a little bit stressed out these days. Hmmm, wonder why? Roth says he has been working with quite a few members of the U.S. Congress — members from both sides of the aisle.

“It can’t hurt,” said the affable Roth when asked about bringing meditation to the partisan gridlock of the beltway.

“There’s a different quality of stress in Washington, D.C. Everyone’s furious with them. The members of Congress go back to their districts and no one is happy with them,” said Roth. “You’re either not Liberal enough. Not Conservative enough. Nobody is happy and it is sort of this thankless task. They’re really stressed.”

A big driver for Roth these days is to help end what he calls the “epidemic of stress.”

“Modern medicine has no antidote to stress and people are eager to minimize the detrimental impact of stress,” said Roth.

“Canadians go to TM centres now: that means, all types of Canadians — students, retired people, doctors, business people, athletes, teachers, clergy, yoga instructors, because stress does not recognize age or religion or profession,” says Roth.

When talking about TM’s benefits Roth points to studies and peer-reviewed papers that support TM”s health-benefit (less anxiety, better sleep) claims. The American Heart Association has gone so far as to say the practice of TM helps to lower blood pressure.

Right now the DLF is in the midst of raising funds to bankroll more third-party research so that TM is considered in the same light as any other medicine or any other medical intervention.

“Right now we are in the process of subjecting TM to the exact type of studies so that we can go to all these insurance companies and employee assistance programs and government agencies and say, Hey this is as good or as if not better at reducing high blood pressure than this antihypertensive medication and there are no side-effects and we’ve got the same research by the same researchers as a drug,’ ” says Roth.

It’s the increase in and access to studies and discussions about meditation that Roth and Chu say have led to an uptick in interest in all forms of meditation.

“Meditation in general used to be seen as so out there, but now it is so widely accepted because people started realizing the power of our mind really lies within and now science is catching up to that finding,” says Chu, who worked in the sustainability field with Bing Thom, the famed Vancouver architect and TM enthusiast. “People are more open to natural treatment to improve their health and well-being.”

TM is easy. You sit down comfortably. And with your eyes closed, repeat a mantra.

“I use the analogy that you are in a little boat and you are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and all of a sudden you get these 30- or 40-foot-high waves around you and you could think the whole ocean is in upheaval, but the word whole ocean is a bit of an exaggeration because if you were able to do a cross-section out there you would realize that the ocean is over a mile deep and while the surface of the ocean may be turbulent, by nature the depths of the ocean by its nature are pretty darn quiet,” said Roth when asked to describe TM. “The analogy is to the mind.”

The official TM course in Vancouver will run you $1,300 (centres do have discounts depending on individual circumstances) for a lifetime membership. The course consists of four consecutive days with 90-minute-to-two-hour sessions.

In Vancouver, the TM Centre says about 35,000 people have picked up the practice since the late-1960s.

“Vancouver is one of the most successful centres,” said Roth, who also hosts a Sirius XM radio show.

While TM is booming there have been detractors over the years. Some people have called it a cult (especially at the higher levels of the practice) and some just poo-poo it as some leftover flower-child, free love thing invented by a tiny hirsute Indian man who thought he could fly (look up yogic flying).

However, if social media and shopping habits are any indication, the times have changed and people no longer think yoga, organic food and meditation are only for the hippies and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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16May

St. Paul’s Hospital receives $1-million gift to buy life-saving equipment

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St. Paul’s Hospital has received a $1-million gift to buy special equipment that saved the life of a clinically dead man in February. From left to right: Dr. Jamil Bashir, patient Chris Dawkins, paramedics Thomas Watson and Benjamin Johnson, dispatcher Anne-Marie Forrest are pictured at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC, April 8, 2019.


Arlen Redekop / PNG

St. Paul’s Hospital has received a $1-million gift to buy special equipment that saved the life of a clinically dead man in February.

The dramatic story of Chris Dawkin’s rescue was a front-page story in a Postmedia paper last month. Among those who read the article was an anonymous donor.

On Feb. 5, Dawkins, a 55-year-old Vancouver physician, had just completed a workout on his rowing machine when he suffered cardiac arrest. His heart had stopped beating at 6:04 p.m. after a piece of plaque broke off a coronary artery and stopped the blood supply – Dawkins was considered clinically dead.

But his wife was present and able to perform chest compressions. The paramedics who arrived – Tom Watson and Ben Johnson – happened to be trained in a special emergency protocol for treating cardiac-arrest patients and were able to use a Lucas machine – one of six on loan to B.C. Ambulance Services by the manufacturer – to continue chest compressions while transporting Dawkins.

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When he arrived at St. Paul’s, a team of 15 specializing in cardiac arrest not treatable by standard therapies had been notified and was waiting. Dr. Jamil Bashir, a cardiovascular surgeon, had already performed two surgeries and was preparing to head home when he was called into emergency.

Dawkins was hooked up to a heart-lung bypass machine while Bashir operated. The machine is one of five at St. Paul’s.

But even after being clinically dead for 52 minutes, Dawkins survived the heart attack and surgery in great health.

The rescue story was written by Postmedia reporter Gord McIntyre and ran on the front page of the paper on a Tuesday morning in early April. After reading the article, an anonymous donor immediately picked up the phone and called St. Paul’s Foundation, said hospital spokeswoman Ann Gibbon.


A heart-lung bypass machine is pictured in the foreground and a Lucas chest compression machine is pictured in the background.

St. Paul’s Hospital / Handout

The gift would be $1 million and must only be used to purchase the machines and equipment that saved Dawkins’ life, the donor instructed.

“The great part of this story is that this protocol, started about four years ago, has come full circle with this donation,” said Dick Vollet, president and CEO of the St. Paul’s Foundation.

“It’s a great example of how innovation and donor support can come together to save lives.”

The $1 million gift will purchase three new heart-lung bypass machines at a cost of $250,000 each, seven Lucas chest compression machines, three TEE probes used to assess airways and one blood gas analyzer.

Paramedics treat about 400 cardiac arrest cases each year. Survival chances are one in 10 if an otherwise healthy individual suffers the arrest outside of a hospital.

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15May

More than 100 people fall sick in suspected norovirus outbreak in Richmond hotels

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Close up of a nurse hand using a smart phone


Over 100 people have fallen sick following a suspected norovirus outbreak at two Richmond hotels over the weekend.

Claudia Kurzac, Vancouver Coastal Health’s manager for environmental health, says the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel and the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel were affected although a confirmation of norovirus won’t come until test results are back next week.

Steve Veinot, general manager of the Sheraton at the airport, says it is sanitizing all hard surfaces, kitchens, public spaces and guest rooms.

He says the hotel will not open until they are confident it is safe and the health authority gives them the go ahead.

Veinot says the source of the virus hasn’t been identified.

The Hilton hotel could not be reached for comment.

Vancouver Coastal Health says noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause severe gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as the stomach flu.


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15May

Richmond Hospital leads the way as birth tourism continues to rise

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The number of pregnant foreigners coming to B.C. hospitals so their newborns can get automatic Canadian citizenship continues to rise.

Births by non-residents of B.C. increased 24 per cent from the 2016-17 fiscal year to 2017-18, from 676 babies to 837 the following year, according to records obtained through freedom of information requests.

About two per cent of all births in B.C. hospitals are now by non-residents, just as the birthrate among B.C. residents is dropping.

Richmond hospital continues to be at the forefront of the phenomenon, with the total number of babies born to non-residents of B.C. at the hospital rising from 337 in the 2014-15 fiscal year to 474 by 2017-18. Four years ago babies born to non-residents accounted for 15.4 per cent of all births at Richmond Hospital, compared to 22.1 per cent in the last fiscal year.

By comparison, St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount Saint Joseph Hospital — both operated by Providence Health Care — had a combined 132 babies born to non-residents of B.C. in the 2017/18 fiscal year.

While non-resident births account for about two per cent of all babies delivered in B.C., at Richmond Hospital, that proportion is 10 times higher. Indeed, as a New York Times article reported, the hospital is now perceived around the world as a coveted destination for so-called anchor babies, a term to describe children born here to non-residents to gain citizenship.

Health minister Adrian Dix is concerned by the numbers.

“The immigration issues are in federal jurisdiction. This is where concerns must be addressed, not by turning health professionals and skilled health care workers into immigration officers. That is not their role,” said Dix.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie agreed with Dix that birth tourism is a federal issue but said there are significant local impacts as well.

“As a city council, we haven’t discussed this but there are individuals who have concerns about the impacts on our already crowded hospital resources,” said Brodie, referring to the aging facilities and to situations when local women are diverted to other hospitals when Richmond Hospital is full.

Brodie said he supports a change to federal laws because he doesn’t believe anchor babies should get automatic citizenship.

“The practice of birth tourism should be curtailed,” he said.


Richmond Hospital continues to be at the forefront of birth tourism, with 474 babies born to non-residents of B.C. at the hospital for the fiscal year of 2017/18. Photo: Francis Georgian

Francis Georgian /

PNG

Birth tourism is not illegal and a report by the Institute for Research and Public Policy showed that the numbers are climbing year after year. In 2017, there were at least 3,628 births, mainly in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario, by mothers who live outside Canada.

In 2016, Postmedia reported 295 of the 1,938 babies born at Richmond Hospital for the year ended March 31 were delivered, largely to foreign Chinese mothers. And dozens of birth houses were cropping up across the municipality, catering to women who need housing, meals, transportation and help with documents like birth certificates and passports.

As Dix has said, the provincial government has taken the approach that it doesn’t endorse the marketing and provision of birth tourism services but at the same time, patients needing urgent care can’t be turned away. 

While hospital staff cannot refuse care when women in labour arrive at the front door, Dix said measures have been put in place to help ensure taxpayers aren’t subsidizing the costs of non-resident hospital care.

For instance, late last year the ministry and Vancouver Coastal Health decided to raise fees charged to non-residents when they go to the Richmond Hospital. The cost for a vaginal birth increased to $8,200 from $7,200 and the cost of a caesarean section rose by $300 to $13,300. If their medical care becomes more complicated patients are assessed higher fees.

In 2017, Vancouver Coastal Health billed non-residents of B.C. about $6.22 million for maternity services at Richmond Hospital.

For maternity cases at Richmond Hospital … the majority of non-residents pay their bills in full,” said Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Carrie Stefanson. Approximately 80 per cent of billing to non-residents is recovered, she added.

But sometimes, as in the case of Yan Xia, a birth tourist from China, patients leave Canada after giving birth and leave behind a healthy bill.

Vancouver Coast Health has filed a lawsuit against Xia, who gave birth at Richmond Hospital in 2012. The bill for an extended stay in hospital due to complications totalled $313,000.

The case remains in legal limbo as Xia’s exact whereabouts are unknown and the bill may eventually have to be written off by Vancouver Coast Health.

Stefanson said the Xia case is believed to be VCH’s only maternity debt lawsuit over $100,000.

Richmond Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido has sponsored a petition calling on the federal government to end birth tourism. The petition garnered 11,000 signatures and denounces the practice as “abusive and exploitative” for “debasing” the value of Canadian citizenship. The Peschisolido petition was presented to Parliament last fall.

“The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the public from fraud and unethical consulting practices and protecting the integrity of Canada’s immigration and citizenship programs,” said Ahmed Hussen, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship in response to the Peschisolido petition.

“To this end, (we) are currently undertaking a comprehensive review, with a view to developing additional information and strengthened measures to address the practices of unscrupulous consultants and exploitation of our programs through misrepresentation.”

Birth tourism will likely be an issue in the upcoming federal election as the Conservatives have vowed to withhold citizenship unless one parent is a Canadian or a permanent resident.

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14May

B.C. research study evaluates safety of take-home drug checking kits

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A fentanyl check in progress. One red line on top is a positive result for the presence of fentanyl or one of its analogs. Two red lines is a negative result.


Handout

Vancouver Coastal Health and B.C. Centre for Disease Control are collaborating on a pilot project that will provide substance users with take-home drug checking kits to determine if people can safely use them on their own.

Clients will receive five free test strips, with instructions, to take home so they can determine whether their drugs contain fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid being cut into the illicit drug supply.

“We know that most people dying from overdoses die while using alone,” said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health. .“We’re hoping that giving people the opportunity to check their drugs for fentanyl on their own could help them make safer choices and save lives.”

The VCH says fentanyl was responsible for approximately 87 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. last year.

A record 1,489 British Columbians died of suspected drug overdoses in 2018.

Currently substance users voluntarily check their drugs at overdose prevention sites, supervised consumption sites and other community health sites an average of 500 times each month. But since many fatal illicit drug overdoses occur in private residences, and when the user is alone, health authorities believe take-home drug checking kits could help more people.

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announces the opening of a new Overdose Emergency Response Centre at a news conference at Vancouver General Hospital on Dec. 1, 2017.


B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy.

DARRYL DYCK /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

“We know using drugs alone presents a significant risk amidst a toxic, unpredictable and illegal drug supply that is taking three to four lives every single day,” said Judy Darcy, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions. “Drug checking is an important tool in our toolbox and through this research project we can learn more about how to keep people safer and help them find a pathway to hope.”

The test strips were originally developed to check urine for the presence of fentanyl but in July 2016 in light of the overdose crisis, VCH pioneered the use of the strips to check the drugs themselves for fentanyl. A small amount of a drug is mixed with a few drops of water, the test strip is inserted into the solution, and a positive or negative for fentanyl is revealed within seconds.

The research study will evaluate the fentanyl positivity rates from the take-home checks compared with rates that trained technicians get at VCH sites during the same time frame. The study will help determine whether take-home drug checking kits can be effectively used outside of a healthcare facility without staff oversight.


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11May

Town Talk: Gallery gala benefits Lions Gate Hospital just up the road

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Farah Sayani chaired and Lions Gate Hospital Foundation chair Pierre Lebel aided a gala at the North Vancouver waterfront Polygon Gallery that reportedly netted $1.2 million for new-technology services.


Malcolm Parry / PNG

HOSPITAL AID: It’s hard to beat the cross-harbour view from the Polygon Gallery at the foot of North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Avenue.

But those who gathered there recently were figuratively looking the other way and 15 blocks up the hill to Lions Gate Hospital. Chaired by Farah Sayani, a 19th-annual event reportedly netted close to $1.2 million to support new-technology services at a hospital that recently completed a $100-million medical-and-surgical campaign. Ian Telfer and wife Nancy Burke represented the event’s published title sponsor, Goldcorp Inc., which was acquired by Newmont Mining Corp. recently to become Newmont Goldcorp. Perhaps relieved by events, Goldcorp chair Telfer looked a decade younger, as Burke always does.


Nancy Burke and long-time Goldcorp chair Ian Telfer represented the previously sold firm as the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation gala’s title sponsor.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

TOASTING SISTERS: It takes chutzpah to stage alcohol-themed events in high-performance-car showrooms. But Cheryl Nakamoto and Cam and Sarah McNeill’s Grape Juice wine tasting and auction in Asgar Verji’s Weissach Porsche showroom reportedly added $84,000 to a 12-year total nearing $900,000. This recent sum will elevate 42 girls from Big Sisters of Lower Mainland’s 137 wait-list, said executive director Hanne Madsen. She’s also pleased to launch Big Sisters’ Career Camp program for 36 girls in Grades 10 to 12 to spend a two-overnight July weekend readying for university at her Simon Fraser alma mater. Madsen, meanwhile, fancied a 1963 Porsche 356 coupe that would have cost her $100,000-plus.


Cam McNeill, Cheryl Nakamoto and Sarah McNeill’s Grape Juice event reportedly benefitted Big Sisters of Lower Mainland to the tune of $84,000.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG


Big Sisters of Lower Mainland’s Hanne Madsen figured a $100,000-range 1963 Porsche 356 coupe would be an engaging alternative to her Honda Odyssey.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

TOUGH TIMES REVISITED: Williams Lake sisters Jeeti, Kira and Salakshan Poonin’s childhood years of sexual abuse are a quarter century behind them. Now residing in Vancouver, they had the courage to recount youthful anguish, along with challenges to the legal system and non-protecting parents, in director Baljit Sangra’s 85-minute movie Because We are Girls. Encouraging other women to not stay silent about abuse, it opened the recent DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver as part of the Justice Forum series.


Jeeti, Salakshana and Kira Poonin backed Baljit Sangra whose Because We Are Girls documentary revealed their quarter-century-past sexual abuse.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

CHOCS AWAY: Caren McSherry’s Hastings-off-Clark Gourmet Warehouse filled up recently with folks munching on chocolate in order to help children who seldom get that chance. That was when Firefighter of The Year Justin Mulcahy and Vancouver Firefighter Charities executive director James Docherty staged a contest between seven chocolatiers ranging from Christopher Bonzon to Thomas Haas. Mentored by Daniel Capadouca, Okanagan College’s Jalayne Jones won, and the event reportedly raised $21,000 for Snacks For Kids, Project Chef and the Strathcona Community Centre Backpack Program.


Dotty Kanke and Caren McSherry tempted firefighter Justin Mulcahy when the Chocolate Challenge event benefited children deprived of foodstuffs.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

LIONS’ PRIDE: The Vancouver Chinatown Lions Club celebrated its 65th anniversary at Keefer Street’s Floata restaurant recently. Close to 700 banqueters, including club president David Mao and event committee and three-time Lion of the Year chair Syrus Lee, saw non-member Richard K. Wong receive the organization’s Medal of Merit. Hong Kong-born former banker Wong was cited for “promoting intrinsic Canadian ideals of diversity, harmony and inclusion.” He continues to be involved in dozens of community and charitable endeavours. Wife Grace is feted for public service, too, not least as the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. community-service agency’s former chair. The Wongs also attended the club’s flag-raising ceremony on a newly installed pole in the adjacent Memorial Square. Possibly more delighted was 97-year-old former Master Warrant Officer George Chow, who fought with Canadian troops at the June 6, 1944 Normandy landing and the liberation of Holland. His many medals include that of the French Legion of Honour. Still, Victoria-born Chow’s long ambition was to see the Canadian flag fly over Vancouver’s Chinatown. Objective realized.


Former S.U.C.C.E.S.S. service agency chair Grace Wong saw the Chinatown Lions Club honor husband George’s countless community works.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG


Consul General of China Tong Xiaoling congratulated George Chow, 97, who fought at the 1944 Normandy landings and then for the liberation of Holland.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

TRUTH TO TELL: Chinatown Lions Club board member and accounting firm principal Hebron Shyng expressed an amusing but pertinent opinion of the Canadian Revenue Agency: “I’d like to thank the CRA, without whose incomprehensible regulations I wouldn’t have a job.”

SLOW SPEEDSTERS: Most of the 250 police-escorted cars nose-to-tailing to Whistler in the recent Diamond Rally would have cost well over $100,000. Still, along with Luxury and Supercar Weekend and other related events, the rally has been money in the bank for Craig Stowe and Nadia Iadisernia. With collector-enthusiast Robbie Dixon, they have enjoined owners of cars that can exceed posted speeds three times over to putter along rural blacktop and benefit various charities as an option to startling pedestrians by razzing around downtown streets.


Diamond Rally organizers Craig Stowe and Nadia Iadisernia saw this Mercedes-Benz AMG GTR and 250 other exotics prepare for a Whistler roundtrip.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

CHERRY CHEERY: Linda Poole celebrated another Cherry Blossom Festival by staging Sakura Night in the Stanley Park Pavilion. Seven restaurants, from Benkei Ramen to Zen, served Japanese-themed cuisine, and five beer and wine purveyors helped attendees wash it down. Among the latter, Stanley Park Brewing general manager Doug Devlin said that the firm’s long-gestating restaurant-brew pub should open in the park’s 2016-closed Fish House premises by mid-June. Ten location-only beers will be served alongside the firm’s six existing one, Devlin said. The 260-seat restaurant will be managed by Andre Bourque and Ryan Moreno’s Surrey-based Joseph Richard Group as the first Vancouver operation in their Richmond-to-Chilliwack chain.


Linda Poole, who stages the Cherry Blossom Festival’s Sakura Night, always counts on be-gowned friend Daphne Crocetti to fly in from Switzerland.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG


Plying beer at a Cherry Blossom Festival event, Neesha Hothi and Doug Devlin said Stanley Park Brewing’s brew-pub reopening of the Fish House is nigh.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: While Queen Victoria might finally be amused to have a great-great-great-great-great-grandson named Archie, his great-grandma, Queen Elizabeth, would doubtless welcome a Betty.

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8May

MRI wait times fall sharply after government boosts scans

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B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says MRI wait times have dropped significantly since the number of scans was ramped up.


Francis Georgian / Postmedia News Files

VICTORIA — Wait times for MRIs across the province have fallen sharply during the past year after government boosted the number of scans, according to provincial data.

The median wait time for an MRI scan in the Northern Health Authority fell 66 per cent between April 2018 and March 2019, with a patient waiting roughly 24 days compared to the prior 71 days.

Vancouver Coastal Health saw wait times drop from 36 to 21 days, a 42-per-cent reduction, and Fraser Health saw a reduction to 48 days from 89 days, a 46-per-cent cut.

“I’m happy with the direction,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “This is what we intended to do.”

The data reflects elective or scheduled MRIs. Emergency scans are done immediately.

MRI scan reduction times released May 8, 2019


B.C.’s wait times for elective or scheduled MRIs fell after government expanded exams, according to data released by the Ministry of Health on May 8, 2019.

Ministry of Health/submitted

Last year, B.C. began running 10 of the province’s 33 MRI machines 24 hours a day, seven days a week and bought two privately owned MRI clinics  in the Fraser Valley to expand capacity, at a cost of $11 million (plus an undisclosed amount for the clinics).

Dix announced last week a further expansion of MRI scans in the coming year, but did not have the data to prove wait times had reduced. He said the ministry was compiling the final figures and provided the data publicly Wednesday.

The longest wait times for certain patients — known as the 90th percentile measure — also dropped. Some MRI scans in Fraser Health had taken 346 days last year, but fell to 224 days once government expanded capacity, a reduction of 35 per cent, said Dix.

But that is still not good enough, he said.

“I obviously like the direction, I think we’re getting there,” he said. “We wanted to see everything under 26 weeks, and everything is under 26 weeks, except this.”

The longest wait times in Vancouver Coastal Health fell from 114 days to 99 days, a reduction of 13 per cent, and in Northern Health from 257 days to 55 days, a reduction of 79 per cent.

“The huge difference in the north is obviously significant,” said Dix.

Government is adding another $5.25 million to the MRI budget next year, which Dix said will fund 15,000 additional MRI scans. Dix said the wait times should drop even further.

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6May

New B.C. study links chronic disease, health care costs to where you live

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People who live in walkable neighbourhoods and have access to parks in Metro Vancouver save the health-care system tens of millions of dollars each year, and have lower rates of chronic illness than those who don’t, according to a new study.

The report, called Where Matters, used data from two existing studies — the My Health, My Community Survey, and the B.C. Generations Project — and clearly shows the correlation between health and neighbourhood design, said study lead Lawrence Frank.

“That’s unusual. Then, we monetized all those results and showed wildly reduced health-care costs, relatively speaking, across the continuum of place types — from the most sprawling, exurban, car-dependent to the most walkable urban. That’s never been shown before, no one’s ever had that,” said Frank, who is a professor in sustainable transport and the director of the Health and Community Design Lab at the University of B.C.

Direct health-care costs — such as medication and hospital visits — for diabetes are 52-per-cent less for those living in walkable areas than in car-dependent areas. The cost for hypertension is 47-per-cent less, and for heart disease is 31-per-cent less.

Walkability is a measure of the physical characteristics of neighbourhoods that support walking, such as a higher concentration of housing units, a mix of land uses and smaller block sizes.

The direct health-care costs for those living near parks are also significantly lower. The spending on diabetes is 75-per-cent lower for people who live near six or more parks than those who live near zero to one park. The costs are 69-per-cent lower for hypertension and heart disease.

Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said at the report’s unveiling on Monday that containing costs is important in the health-care system, but it shouldn’t be the only reason to create healthy environments and improve the health of the population.

“We need to do this because our citizens value this. They value their good health, the good health of their family, their friends and their loved ones,” Daly said. “When municipal, provincial governments and other decision makers are thinking about what work needs to be done, they should be keeping this in mind.”

Daly said she hopes the report will give those decision makers good data to make healthy decisions.

The report also shows, unsurprisingly, that people who live in walkable areas and near parks get more exercise and are healthier.

Those living in a somewhat walkable area or a walkable area are 20- and 45-per-cent more likely, respectively, to walk for transportation than those living in car-dependent areas. They are also more likely to meet the weekly recommended level of physical activity.

People in walkable areas are 42-per-cent less likely to be obese and 39-per-cent less likely to have diabetes than car-dependent people. Those in moderately walkable areas are 17-per- cent less likely to have heart disease.

Living in a walkable area means people are 23-per-cent less likely to have stressful days. They are also 47-per-cent more likely to have a strong sense of community.

People living in an area with six or more parks are 20-per-cent more likely to walk for leisure or recreation, and 33-per-cent more likely to meet the weekly recommended level of physical activity than those living in an area with no parks.

They are 43-per-cent less likely to be obese, 37-per-cent less likely to have diabetes, 39-per-cent less likely to have heart disease and 19-per-cent less likely to have stressful days. Those living near six or more parks are also 23-per-cent more likely to have a strong sense of community belonging.

Frank said he hopes that the study will make those in power more comfortable acting on making investments in active transportation and developing policies around growth and development that support physical activity and active living.

Andrew Devlin, manager of policy development for TransLink, called the work “cutting edge” and said the onus will be on governments and agencies like TransLink to take the information and use it to create policy.

“I think what’s really unique to this piece of work, besides being a local data set for us to draw from to make decisions, is really the monetization element of it,” he said.

James Stiver, manager of growth management and transportation for Metro Vancouver, said the information will help with the future development of regional plans.

“This work is critically important to the work we do at Metro Vancouver and ties really nicely into the theme of the work we do connecting transportation to infrastructure to build complete communities,” said Stiver.

The project was a collaboration between Metro Vancouver, the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., the City of Vancouver, and TransLink, which contributed a total of $320,000 to the project, and the University of B.C.

“What makes it really cool is that all of these agencies are working together, and that’s what could make this region a better place,” said Frank.

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2May

B.C. study finds no mental health benefits to eating human placenta

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New research debunks the supposed mental health benefits of eating your own placenta.

UBC and the B.C. Mental Health and Substance Use Services’ Research Institute says their study found no difference in the mental health of mothers who had eaten their placenta versus those who had not.

The data came from a 10-year genetic study involving 138 women with a history of mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder. Lead investigator Jehannine Austin says the comparison took into account a mother’s psychiatric diagnosis, medication use, age and income.


A woman grinds dehydrated human placenta.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

She says moms who had consumed their placenta did not have more energy, had no increase in their vitamin B12 levels, and required no less help breastfeeding than those who had not consumed their placentas. She adds that eating one’s placenta also did not appear to worsen mental health.

Nevertheless, Austin discourages the practice in light of Health Canada’s warning late last year that it could lead to bacterial or viral infections in mothers or their babies.

Austin’s study was published online Thursday in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.

Proponents of human placenta preparations believe it helps prevent postpartum depression, overcome anemia, increase energy levels and boost breast milk production.


In this file photo taken on November 3, 2018, Kim Kardashian-West arrives for the 2018 LACMA Art+Film Gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California.

CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images

Celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Alicia Silverstone and Hilary Duff are among the famous moms who have popularized the trend, in which the organ is sometimes dehydrated and put into capsules, but it has drawn increasing scrutiny in the medical community.

“People are taking them because they see celebrities in the news doing it and they talk about their experience with doing it and so other women think, ‘Oh that sounds like a good idea,”‘ said Austin, executive director of the research institute and a professor in medicine at UBC.

“But the point that we’re trying to really make, having analyzed our data, is that there’s no evidence from our study to suggest that this actually helps in any way.

“It doesn’t help with mood, it doesn’t help with energy, it doesn’t help with nutrition levels and it doesn’t help with breastfeeding.”


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