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Category "Local News"

24May

Congress 2019: UBC throws open its doors to academics, and the public

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UBC will throw open its doors for the 88th Annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences for seven days of meetings, presentations and panels for more than 10,000 academics and you too, if you want.

If that sounds about as dry as a mouth full of saltines, you might want to look again. More than 300 events are free to the public, including theatre and musical productions, art and literary exhibitions, lectures and poetry readings. You just have to register for a community pass.

“The public programming is incredibly rich,” said Laura Moss, the academic convener for the congress. “Anybody can come and have extraordinary access to contemporary research and a whole bunch of events, plays and films, along with the people that produce them.”

Congress 2019 (https://www.congress2019.ca/) is the biggest academic conference in Canada. Thousands of scheduled events will take place on the main campus of the University of B.C. starting June 1.

“We expect thousands of members of the public to come and there’s really a lot to see and do,” she said.

The keynote Big Thinking lecture series is stocked with artists and storytellers appearing daily at the Frederic Wood Theatre, including the multi-talented Indigenous performer Margo Kane, documentarist and scientist David Suzuki, artist Stan Douglas and novelist Esi Edugyan.

“Art can be a way to tease out important contemporary issues,” said Moss, a professor of Canadian literature at UBC. “I personally work at the intersection of art and politics and I really wanted to bring that out in the programming.”

The speakers will address issues of free speech, censorship and access built around three broad questions: Who speaks for whom? Who listens? And who benefits?

“We will explore who gets to talk, who is in the circle and who hears the messages and we should talk about who profits from that, someone or the community?” she said.

Moss designed the program to highlight the value of the arts and humanities in every facet of society and life.

Governments and universities have a near obsession with promoting STEM, for reasons of commerce and gender equity. And while there’s a lot of value in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the humanities and social sciences have not enjoyed the same level of public enthusiasm lately.

“I really wanted to shift the emphasis back to the humanities, the arts, the social sciences,” she said. “These are the social, political and cultural aspects of everyday life and they can be very grounded in public policy, but (we) approach it with the human impact in mind.”

Look back to look forward

The Galatea Project is a theatrical collaboration between UBC’s English department and Bard on the Beach to mount a production of John Lyly’s 1588 play Galatea about two girls disguised as boys who fall in love. The play is set in a low valley in 16th century Lincolnshire threatened by climate change.

I am not kidding.

“It’s incredible and one of the most relevant plays out there and it was written before Shakespeare,” she said.

Literary scholars shared years of their research into the play with the actors and directors. They in turn brought the characters’ struggles with gender issues, sexuality and an impending climate crisis to life more than four centuries after it was first performed for Queen Elizabeth I. Galatea will be performed June 2.

“People have been thinking and talking about these issues for centuries and there is a great deal we can learn by looking back at those conversations,” Moss said.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale imagined a dystopian future in the ’80s that seems to become more relevant than ever in the age of Trump, she noted.

“There are 5,000 events happening over the course of the week, so it’s almost beyond imagining,” said Moss. “There is so much cool stuff, I want people to come and enjoy it.”

Dozens of literary and academic publishers are booked for the Congress Expo, including Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press, Harper Collins Canada and publishing houses from Yale, MIT, Georgetown and University of Toronto. Some of the publishers are also holding scheduled events exploring themes of reconciliation, gender equity and politics among others.

Picture Perfect: Blind Ambitions is an exhibition of highly textured art by visually impaired artists and daily “meditative mash-ups” with artists and internationally renowned disability scholars, presented by UBC’s Wingspan and Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture.

Join the conversation

More than 70 academic associations will hold their annual meetings through the run of the conference between June 1 and 7 and thousands of the attending academics plan to present studies and papers to their peers.

“It’s hugely important for people to interact face-to-face,” said Moss. “Congress has 73 associations coming together ranging in size from more than a thousand members to just over a dozen in some disciplines like Hungarian studies.”

“Some universities have just one or two specialists in a particular area so this is the one time they have to come together and have really dynamic conversations among people who might be working most of the time in virtual isolation,” she said.

Parallel to those interactions between people in similar fields of study is a whole range of multidisciplinary events under the theme Circles of Conversation to encourage scholars, students, political leaders, citizens and activists to share, debate and dissent on topics such as sustainability, health, education and especially Indigenous issues.

“It’s an opportunity to problem solve in a social way that goes beyond disciplinary boundaries and those kinds of conversations need to happen in person,” she said.

It is often said that the real value of a conference is not in the presentations on the schedule, but in the freewheeling conversations that happen over drinks afterward. Circles of Conversation aims to create that kind of atmosphere among people who may approach problems from very different perspectives.

But if you prefer a more traditional after-conference convo, the Congress does have its own beer — Dialager by Howe Sound Brewing — brewed to promote dialogue and wash down snacks in the Social Zone.

Big ideas


SFU lecturer Stewart Prest will present a paper on emerging issues in civic politics.

Jason Payne /

PNG

SFU political science lecturer Stewart Prest is working feverishly on a paper he expects and even hopes will be gently critiqued and challenged by his colleagues at Congress 2019.

In The New Urbanism — which he has developed with political podcaster Ian Bushfield — Prest says that Vancouver’s traditional right-left political split has essentially disintegrated in favour of a more complex dynamic built along issues of urban life, housing, transportation and affordability.

Vancouver’s old two-channel political universe has exploded into a whole multi-channel cable-TV-style array of six-plus niche offerings, not based on traditional left-right divisions about social equity and fiscal responsibility, but on how the city will grow and house its citizens.

The right-leaning NPA failed to capture a majority in the last civic election after the party’s constituency split in three, with Hector Bremner founding Yes Vancouver and Wai Young heading the populist Coalition Vancouver.

The left has similarly fragmented into COPE, OneCity Vancouver and the spent brand that is Vision Vancouver.

“You can usually stick with an economic left-right spectrum as one axis, but depending on the issues of the day you can put any number of issues on the second axis,” said Prest. “We have a spectrum now in Vancouver that we hadn’t really thought about before.”

Prest and Bushfield sort the parties based on their support for “urbanist” fast-paced high density development or “conservationist” slow growth.

“When you plot them on urbanism, it makes how the parties and candidates were positioning themselves make a lot more sense,” said Prest.

Other levels of government may not be immune to the proliferation of parties with single-issue appeal. Canada already has six parties represented in Parliament, while the U.K. has nine.

An ethical dilemma


Ryan M. Katz-Rosene will present a paper on the environmental impacts of air travel.

Jean Levac /

PNG

To fly, or not to fly. That is the question Ryan Katz-Rosene had to confront when deciding to attend Congress 2019.

The University of Ottawa assistant professor and vice-president of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada will be thinking about the carbon footprint of that flight. That’s because when he lands, Katz-Rosene will present a paper examining the aviation industry’s impact on Earth’s climate and the so-far fruitless efforts to curb its impact.

Air pollution caused by international flights has doubled over the past 20 years and is expected to double again in the next 20.

Already a brutally inefficient mode of transport, efficiency gains in commercial aviation are being outstripped by the growth of the industry by a worrying margin.

So, is it ethical to fly? The answers are tricky.

“It’s an unsolvable policy challenge,” said Katz-Rosene. “Aviation offers tremendous benefits to our society, whether it’s the value it contributes to the economy, the number of jobs that it contributes, but more importantly the connectivity,” he said. “We can see other parts of the world, visit family and friends.”

But those benefits really accrue only to the richest people on the planet. Before you protest about your impoverishment, 80 per cent of the world’s population has never set foot on a plane. If you fly — ever — you are an elite.

“Canada is a rich country and access to aviation is part of the norm for us and demand is growing tremendously,” he said.

But the environmental impacts of aviation as so severe that there is a growing movement of caring citizens who have decided it is not ethical to fly. Ever.

Katz-Rosene may join them, but not before leading a discussion of the industry’s plans to cap and then reduce the carbon footprint of international air travel through an agreement called CORSIA, Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.

Will it work? Not so far.

Because most offsetting projects fail to reduce emissions, they amount to little more than a “carbon laundering scheme,” he said. “This will probably be my last work-related flight for the foreseeable future.”

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23May

Dan Fumano: Nighttime economy — Vancouver looks at ‘the other 9 to 5’

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Does “No Fun City” need a “night mayor”?

Should some liquor-serving venues be allowed to limit entrance to only patrons over the age of 25?

What can the city do to promote family-friendly nighttime events for those under age 19?

And, crucially, what would it take for Vancouver to finally get late-night SkyTrain service?

Such questions, and many others, could come in for review if Vancouver council decides next week to proceed with what the city is calling a nighttime economy strategy.

“Despite the city’s support for many aspects of the nighttime economy, Vancouver has gained a reputation for being a ‘No Fun’ City in the minds of many,” states the motion on next week’s council agenda, put forward by NPA Coun. Lisa Dominato.

If approved, Dominato’s motion would direct city staff to work with the Vancouver Economic Commission to develop recommendations for a comprehensive citywide strategy, with the aim of “realizing the economic and other potentials of Vancouver’s nighttime economy.”

Vancouver is already developing other strategies involving the cultural sector, such the Vancouver Music Strategy, for which the city is seeking public input over the coming weeks, and the Creative City Strategy. Recommendations for both of those strategies will be presented to council in September.


Vancouver city councillor Lisa Dominato is behind an initiative looking at maximizing Vancouver’s nighttime economy, including expanded transit services.

Jason Payne /

PNG files

But Dominato wants the city to create a broad, more comprehensive look at promoting the city’s economic and cultural potential after dark, for tourists, locals young and old, and those who work night shifts.

“I think we have some untapped potential here … both in economic terms, with jobs and tax base, but also in terms of the vibrancy of the city, in terms of culture, arts, music, outdoor activations, retail, tourism,” Dominato said. “But if you really want to realize that potential, you have to have a strategy.”

This comes as a growing number of city governments around the world have started to take nightlife and nighttime economies more seriously. A City of Toronto report last month described nighttime as the “new competitive edge for post-industrial cities,” and asked: “What is the City of Toronto doing to advance the other 9 to 5?”

The City of Victoria is already looking for someone, seeking to conduct a “late night economy assessment.”

This month, council in Sydney, Australia, endorsed a plan for its nighttime economy, described by the city as “some of the biggest changes to city planning in a decade.”

Other global cities, including London and Paris, have appointed people to oversee nightlife, positions often colloquially called a “night mayor” or “night liaison.”


Mirik Milan is the ‘night mayor’ of Amsterdam and an expert on the importance of the nighttime economy to a city.

Gerry Kahrmann /

PNG files

Amsterdam’s “night mayor” Mirik Milan visited Vancouver city hall last May. The nighttime economy has its own needs and requirements, he said, and his job is to make sure it isn’t merely an afterthought to what happens during the day. Amsterdam, for example, has allowed some businesses to operate any hours they want, including art galleries and live music venues as well as some nightclubs.

Following Milan’s appearance in Vancouver last May, council voted to support a series of nightlife actions, including directing staff to establish a “nightlife council” combining safety, transportation, economic development and “vibrant street life.”

Since then, the city has participated in a research report, conducted by masters of public policy students at Simon Fraser University, to assess the city’s nightlife economy, explore the city’s needs and help inform the work of a future “nightlife council,” said Lara Honrado, Vancouver’s assistant director of cultural services.

That city-commissioned report from the SFU grad students raises the possibility of a “nighttime liaison,” as someone who could “grasp the workings of nightlife spaces, identify trusted providers, and help provide information to the next generation of cultural operators.”


Granville Entertainment District in downtown Vancouver.

STEPHANIE IP /

PNG

Among the SFU report’s ideas is spreading out closing times in the Granville Entertainment District to more gradually dissipate patrons by letting some businesses, with and without liquor service, to stay open later.

The loss of cultural spaces is a constant challenge for Vancouver’s nightlife scene, which is exacerbated by the pace of development, said Yousif Samarrai, one of five SFU grad students who co-authored the report.

Today, many of Vancouver’s “most culturally interesting” nightlife events are in underground, do-it-yourself venues, Samarrai said, “but the only way they actually set up places is in spaces that are set to be demolished.”

That means, of course, that those underground cultural spaces have a very limited lifespan.

Vancouver is more of a nightlife town today than it was a decade ago, said Nate Sabine, a director of the Hospitality Vancouver Association, which advocates for businesses in the Granville Entertainment District and Davie Village.

“I don’t believe the ‘No Fun City’ tag applies to us anymore. I feel like if you’re bored in this city, then you want to be bored, you’re not looking at all,” Sabine said. “But we need to do better, we need to do more.”

“Our belief is a strong culture drives a strong economy,” Sabine said, citing the Hospitality Vancouver Association’s recent report that the Granville Entertainment District 14 liquor-primary businesses alone generate $43 million in annual revenue and 900 jobs.

The SFU report highlights one particularly long-running complaint of Vancouver’s night owls: “The first and most common transportation barrier identified was a lack of public transit service during late hours.”

The absence of SkyTrain service after venues close was identified as “particularly problematic,” the report notes, especially considering the “unreliability” of local taxis, and Vancouver’s status as North America’s largest city without ride-hailing services.

TransLink has been conducting a feasibility study over the last year, looking at different late-night transit options, including SkyTrain service, said TransLink spokeswoman Jill Drew. That report is expected this summer.

Dominato also hopes to develop the nighttime economy beyond bars and nightclubs. She previously lived in France, where she regularly saw kids out in plazas and parks with their parents late at night. Similarly, she would like to see what else the city can do to promote family-friendly, all-ages nighttime events that aren’t centred around alcohol.

The motion, if approved as written, would direct staff to being work on the nighttime economic strategy in 2020, and present a draft to council by June 2021.

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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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21May

Gridlock, frayed tempers common as people flock to Deep Cove’s popular Quarry Rock trail

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District of North Vancouver rangers are limiting hikers on the overcrowded Quarry Rock trail to 70 at a time. Photo: Francis Georgian/Postmedia


Francis Georgian / PNG

Strict parking and hiking restrictions introduced last year in Deep Cove brought a measure of relief to the village’s traffic-weary locals, but the recreational hot spot is far from the only one in Metro Vancouver under severe pressure from an increased numbers of visitors.

Planners and politicians like John McEwen, the mayor of Anmore and the head of Metro Vancouver regional parks, say the region is in need of more parks to serve residents and tourists — and more transit buses to haul them there — if there is any hope to smoothly satisfy demand for access to the outdoors.

“Careful what you wish for, but these parks are so amazing and the population growth has been so crazy,” McEwen said. “People want to get out into our parks and it’s really causing some challenges.”

McEwen said recreational areas around his village, like Belcarra Regional Park, “are at capacity at 9:30 a.m. on a beautiful day. … We now have signs alerting people several miles back on connecting roads saying the park is closed, don’t even come up here.”

McEwen wants the region to buy more land for parks, particularly in areas with rapidly increasing densities. And Metro Vancouver must continue talks with TransLink about expanding its service into recreational areas, he added.

“We don’t want to discourage people (from) coming out to the parks. The key thing we need to work on is accessibility through transit.”


Hikers are silhouetted against a foggy backdrop as they look over Deep Cove from Quarry Rock in North Vancouver.

JONATHAN HAYWARD /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

In the case of Deep Cove’s popular Quarry Rock trail, district staff say it was never intended to be more than a local community resource. But traffic to reach the path is causing gridlock, frayed tempers, and bad driving.

Last year’s rule changes limited parking in a dedicated village lot to just three hours — not a lot of time for those intending to hike the popular trail then enjoy a bite to eat. This summer, longer duration parking is available in an overflow lot from July 8 to Aug. 25, and it was also available last weekend. Street parking is for short stops and it’s in high demand. Meanwhile, large tour buses that flout a stopping or parking ban on neighbourhood streets in Deep Cove risk a $500 fine, according to the district.

Those who do find a parking spot may also find they need to wait at the trailhead for a chance to start their hike. The district has limited the number of people at the Quarry Rock viewpoint to 70 at a time, and park rangers have taken to counting heads to limit access to the area on busy days, according to the district.

Steve Ono, the district’s acting general manager of engineering, parks and facilities, attributed some of the village’s rapid rise in popularity with tourists to actress Kate Winslet’s apparent love for Cove eatery Honey Doughnuts. Winslet has in the past tweeted her affection for the doughnuts and has been spotted in a shirt from the shop. That star support, coupled with the crushing popularity of the Quarry Rock viewpoint as background scenery for dating profile pics and Instagram posts, caused traffic in the area to skyrocket the last few years.


District of North Vancouver rangers are limiting hikers on the overcrowded Quarry Rock trail to 70 at a time. Photo: Francis Georgian/Postmedia

Francis Georgian /

PNG

Local residents seem to be largely appreciative of the efforts the district has made, Ono said. “I think probably a lot of residents would rather see us be more restrictive rather than less,” he said.

District staff have acknowledged that parking in Deep Cove can be time consuming and frustrating and, despite the changes, they advised people against driving to the area on several days last year.

Lynn Canyon Park, another popular district recreation area in the district, had similar restrictions go into effect last year.

Through the summer staff asked visitors to consider going somewhere else to give the park and its neighbours a break. In August, staff advised in a tweet: “Don’t waste half your visit viewing the park through your windshield while you wait for parking. Consider coming by bike or public transit.”

Other areas overrun by visitors include spots like Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, Mount Seymour and “probably the whole Sea to Sky corridor,” Ono said.

He said the idea of introducing pay parking for parks — like that in effect at the base of the Grouse Grind — has come up in the past “and it will probably come up again. It’s another tool in the tool box.”

Alistair Knox, the owner of Arms Reach Bistro in Deep Cove, said he was against the parking restrictions when they were first proposed, but he found business to be about the same after the rules went in. He figured it may take a few seasons to determine whether the restrictions had any effect. The weather seemed to be the biggest determinant of visits to his restaurant, he said.

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16May

Summerland lifeguard faces multiple sex charges involving children

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Summerland lifeguard guard Edward Casavant, 54, has been charged with multiple sex crimes involving children.


RCMP handout

The long-time lifeguard at the public pool in Summerland has been arrested and charged with multiple sex offences involving children.

Penticton RCMP arrested Edward Casavant, 54, on outstanding warrant on Wednesday.

The Penticton resident has been charged with 10 counts relating to incidents that allegedly occurred between 2008 and 2014, including:

• 2 counts of making or publishing child pornography;
• 1 count of importing or distributing child pornography;
• 1 count of possession of child pornography;
• 1 count of accessing child pornography;
• 1 count of secretly observe/record nudity in private place;
• 1 count of sexual exploitation of a person with a disability;
• 1 count of sexual assault;
• 1 count of sexual interference of person under 16;
• 1 count of Invitation to sexual touching under 16.

The RCMP say Casavant, also known as Eddie Spaghetti, was employed as a lifeguard at the Summerland Aquatic & Fitness Centre for more than 30 years, beginning in the late 1980s.

Police, who began investigating Casavant last November after receiving a tip from the public, believe he used his position to gain access to school-aged children.

Casavant also volunteered as a lifeguard at various local summer camps and other community events.

“While we have identified at least two victims, we strongly believe there are additional victims who may not have already reported, or may not be aware they are a victim,” said RCMP spokesman Cpl. Chris Manseau.

Manseau is asking other potential victims to contact the Penticton RCMP tip line at 250-276-2177.


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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

Rapid transit under Burrard Inlet rejected two years ago as impractical

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The provincial government’s announcement this week of a $500,000 feasibility study into a fixed-link rapid transit connection across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore has rekindled interest in a popular idea that one former mayor says had been briskly discarded not long ago as being too difficult and too costly.

In 2017, Darrell Mussatto, the former mayor of the City of North Vancouver, told Postmedia he had spoken to TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond about doing a “high-level feasibility” study on replacing the SeaBus with a fixed-link crossing between Waterfront Station and Lonsdale Quay.

On Wednesday, Mussatto said that while the idea had some support at the time, nothing much came of it. As he recalled, it was set aside after a “quick and dirty look” due to cost considerations and perceived engineering difficulties due to the depth of the inlet in that area. He could not recall any report having come out on the issue.

TransLink was unable to meet a request for comment Wednesday.

Mussatto said he was “very happy” to hear that the province planned to study the idea more closely.

“When you’re the mayor of a small city and you’ve got Vancouver and Surrey there, their priorities tend to trump ours. So that’s why I’m really happy to see that they’re now moving ahead with looking at whether it’s feasible or not,” he said.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will put up $250,000 toward the study, with the District of North Vancouver and the cities of North Vancouver, West Vancouver and Vancouver contributing the remainder. The study is slated to conclude early next year.

To date, “no comprehensive feasibility study has been completed to fully assess what viable options there may be for a potential rapid-transit crossing across the Burrard Inlet to the North Shore,” according to the ministry, although there was preliminary geotechnical work completed in the 1960s that looked at a Brockton Point connection.

The study will examine the technical feasibility of various alignment and connection options, according to the ministry.

West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy, the transportation critic for the B.C. Liberal party, said he believed there was a great business case for rapid transit to the North Shore.

“We feel that in any assessment, all options, all possibilities, need to be explored to some degree,” he said.

A working group for the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project released a report last summer that considered, as part of a broader analysis, the idea of rapid transit between the North Shore and Burrard Peninsula, in the vicinity of either the Second Narrows or the SeaBus route. The analysis found “ridership would be low” on such an eastern link “because of the dispersed development it would serve.” But it found a western link connecting Lonsdale City Centre with the SkyTrain in Downtown Vancouver would attract strong ridership.

“Some of the new transit ridership would come from a shift from automobile use, but most of the increase would be from new trip patterns. For example, a North Shore resident who shopped locally might shift their activity to downtown because of improved transit accessibility and vice versa,” the report found.

The group found a rapid transit connection would have “little impact” on bridge congestion, but that it may lead to increased transit use by existing commuters.

Further study on the idea would be made as TransLink fleshes out a new regional transportation strategy it has dubbed Transport 2050, according to the report. That strategy is slated to be a roadmap for transit projects over the next three-plus decades.

Erik Eberhardt, a geological engineer and professor at the University of B.C., said there are many examples in places like Norway of tunnels akin to one that would cross the Burrard Inlet.

“It always comes down to cost-benefit ratio and technical challenges,” he said of the project’s feasibility.

On the question of costs, Eberhardt threw out the figure of up to $2 billion, given the increased risks of tunnelling under water, among other considerations.

Looking at the geometry from Downtown Vancouver to the North Shore, “you’ve got a steep decline to stay in good rock and you’ve got a sharp incline,” but something like a SkyTrain may be able to handle that profile, he said. The Canada Line under False Creek was a relatively small-scale project, but effectively used the same technology and skill sets as would be needed for a Burrard Inlet crossing, he said.

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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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Twitter: @MedicineMatters




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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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