LOADING...

Category "Staff Blogs"

3Aug

REAL SCOOP: Murdered sailors linked to botched cocaine load

by admin

UCLUELET, B.C. — The small craft harbour here in this stunning spot on Vancouver Island’s west coast is a hub of activity.

Tourists from all over the world board sport-fishing charters and whale-watching boats to check out the rugged coastline. Commercial fishermen tend to their vessels. And visitors sail in for a day or two on boats based in Vancouver, Victoria or farther away.

But all is quiet on the Astral Blue — a 14-metre sailboat whose last two crewmen mysteriously disappeared in the mid-afternoon of May 16, 2018.

The bodies of Squamish resident Dan Archbald and his close friend Ryan Daley, of Jordan River, were found less than a month later on a rutted decommissioned logging road about 12 kilometres from the harbour.

Fifteen months have passed and no one has been charged with their murders.

But a Postmedia investigation has found that the two men were likely casualties of a botched cocaine-smuggling job that they were recruited to do by a Lower Mainland biker.

The bodies of Daniel Archbald, 37, and Ryan Daley, 43, were found 15 months ago, near Ucluelet. RCMP / PNG

RCMP Supt. Sanjaya Wijayakoon, who oversees the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit, told Postmedia that the police investigation is still extremely active.

“They are absolutely continuing to investigate both of these deaths. Right now, they are in the process of analyzing physical and digital evidence. They are still speaking to potential witnesses and they are trying to figure out a timeline leading up to both Daley and Archbald’s deaths,” Wijayakoon said in a recent interview.

Key to that timeline is figuring out what the two men did between their landing here on Sunday, May 13 — Mother’s Day — and when they made a final eerie appearance on the harbour security camera three days later, lugging heavy duffel bags out through the parking lot.

Wijayakoon said investigators still need the public’s help to put together all the pieces of the puzzle.

“I know my guys are still hoping that people in the public are able to come forward and that something triggers their memory and they come and talk to us. We are still hoping for that,” he said.

The 14-metre Astral Blue has been moored at Ucluelet’s small craft harbour since May 13, 2018, when its two crewmen arrived from Panama. Boat owner Dan Archbald and his friend Ryan Daley disappeared three days later and were found murdered in mid-June of 2018. KIM BOLAN / PNG

The Astral Blue looks much as it did when it arrived here. The deck is strewn with yellow, red and blue plastic containers. There’s a small rusted-out barbecue tipped over near the stern. A rubber dinghy is upside down over the cabin.

Some fibreglass on the starboard side is damaged. There is no indication of anything untoward.

The white and blue sailboat, built in Taiwan in 1979, was registered with Transport Canada on July 25, 2016, listing its home port as Vancouver, despite then never having landed in Canada.

The boat’s owner remains a B.C. company called Astral Ocean Expeditions Inc.

Corporate records obtained by Postmedia show Archbald and a friend registered the company in B.C. on May 10, 2016. Its address is listed as a Richmond lawyer’s office.

The friend, who asked not to be identified, told Postmedia that he owned only a one-per-cent share of the company and had no direct involvement with the purchase of the Astral Blue.

“Technically, I suppose I’m an owner,” he said, adding that the boat is really owned by Archbald’s widow, who is trying to sell it.

He said he and Archbald had talked for years about running a charter business on the west coast.

“I am also a sailor and if I had the opportunity to do some trips, it would have been great,” he said. “But it wasn’t meant to be a business I was running.”

He confirmed that as he understood it, the boat was purchased in Ecuador, then moved to Panama, where it was moored until Archbald and Daley began their fateful eight-week journey last year.

“I wasn’t even tracking it,” the friend said.

He would have been surprised if Archbald had got mixed up in a drug-smuggling operation, he said, though he admitted that is now the rumour circulating around Squamish and here in Ucluelet.

“I have talked to the police a few times. I didn’t have much to offer them,” he said. “Dan was one of my better friends and I miss him a lot.”

Archbald, a 37-year-old father of two, sometimes worked in construction. And sometimes he worked in the film industry.

Sometimes he was “tight for money,” the friend said, adding that he did not know Daley, a 43-year-old former Squamish resident.

Messages left for several relatives and friends of each man asking for comment for this story were not returned.

The remains of Dan Archbald and Ryan Daley were found in mid-June on E Road, a rutted decommissioned logging road off of the Pacific Rim Highway that is barely more than a trail. KIM BOLAN / PNG

Postmedia has learned that the pair agreed to sail from Panama to Canada with a load of cocaine, believed to total several hundred kilograms. The person behind the smuggling operation is a full-patch Hells Angel, the sources said.

As the men got closer to the B.C. coast, they encountered a U.S. government vessel and panicked. They dumped most of their illicit cargo overboard.

The problem is that they kept some of the cocaine for themselves without telling the person who hired them. Their plan was to dump it at the last minute if they saw anything suspicious as they approached Ucluelet, the sources said.

While authorities didn’t intercept Archbald and Daley, and the remaining cocaine, when they arrived in Ucluelet, associates of the Hells Angel did.

Postmedia has learned that Hells Angel Chad Wilson — a friend of the person behind the cocaine shipment — was tasked with taking care of “the problem” in Ucluelet. Wilson, who was murdered last November, was on Vancouver Island at the time that Archbald and Daley went missing, sources confirmed.

Wijayakoon, the RCMP superintendent overseeing the investigative team, wouldn’t comment specifically on the information obtained by Postmedia.

“My guys are looking at all avenues and it is very, very active still,” he said.

Retired Mountie Pat Convey is all too familiar with the situation in which Archbald and Daley likely found themselves.

When he was a senior member of the RCMP’s Vancouver Island drug squad, he investigated similar cases along the coast here where drugs were smuggled aboard sailboats and fishing vessels. Organized crime “absolutely” sees marine transportation as a tried and true method to move drugs, Convey said.

The largest bust came in February 2001 when U.S. agents intercepted the Western Wind in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off southern Vancouver Island. The fish boat carried more than two tonnes of cocaine destined for Canada.

Boat owner John “Phil” Stirling and three crewmen were arrested and turned over to the RCMP. But they were never charged despite the record drug haul.

“As far as contraband, it was the biggest,” Convey said of the Western Wind.

Stirling continued to sail in troubled waters for years afterwards.

“He is a pretty infamous old bandit as far as bringing stuff in,” Convey said.

In May 2006, Stirling and four others were arrested again — this time here in Ucluelet — after police found $6.5-million worth of marijuana aboard a 47-metre fish boat registered to Stirling. The men were all charged with drug-related offences, but all counts were later stayed.

The Americans captured the notorious B.C. skipper off the coast of Colombia in 2011. His sailboat carried 381 kilos of cocaine. He pleaded guilty in 2013 in Florida and was sentenced to seven years. Less than a year after his 2018 release, Stirling, now 65, was found alone on another vessel off the coast of Oregon this past April. The boat carried 28 seven-gallon jugs containing liquid methamphetamine. He goes to trial in Portland later this month on drug smuggling charges.

Convey said that once someone agrees to sail a shipment of drugs for organized crime, they are responsible for any loads lost — meaning they usually have to continue transporting the criminal contraband to pay off the debt.

“You will be told that whether you like this or whether you don’t like this, you are going to go do this,” Convey said. “If you don’t comply, your chances of survival are not good.”

Like Archbald, Stirling would register a company in B.C., then purchase a vessel in the company’s name. He once told a Province reporter that the record Western Wind shipment was done for the benefit of some B.C. Hells Angels.

Convey said even people without criminal records are willing to take the risk, hoping for a big payoff. Maybe they think they can get away with it just once.

“There is a lot of money involved,” he said. “Just the investment put into it for purchasing the drugs is a large amount of money. So it is not something where one individual would just go down there and pick up a load and come up here and distribute it. It is all taken care of a long time before they set sail from here as to what they are going to do, what their plan is. And also who is going to be involved along the way.”

Sometimes a relatively small vessel carrying cocaine will sail right into a harbour in a place like Ucluelet, which doesn’t have a Canada Border Services Agency post.

And sometimes it will be a “mother ship” operation “where they will come up and they will be met offshore, right out in the international waters, by offload boats that will come right up and meet them and then distribute (the drugs) to several different places or one place depending on what they contracted,” Convey said.

“I have been out of the game for awhile, but I don’t see anything changing significantly. I got involved in it as far back as the ’70s and it didn’t change a lot even in the 2000s when I finally retired.”

Stirling is not the only “bandit” using the open seas to smuggle narcotics into Canada.

In March 2010, Vancouver Island commercial diver Scott Pederson and Mexican citizen Vincente Serrano-Hernandez transported 1,001 one-kilogram bricks of cocaine from Panama to Port Hardy via Ecuador aboard the sailing vessel Huntress. Both were convicted and sentenced to 16 years.

Both have since been released. Parole documents obtained by Postmedia say Pederson now owns two food carts, which prompted some concern from the parole board in July 2017.

“While there may be some concerns with respect to the idea of a convicted drug importer operating a business that is based primarily in cash and therefore would be a good front for drug trafficking or money laundering, there is no reliable and persuasive information indicating you are involved in any illegal activity,” the board’s written decision said.

As for Hernandez, he continued to deny knowledge of the tonne of cocaine he sailed into B.C. waters, claiming he was “to be paid $2,000 to accompany the lone captain to Canada and that once in Canada you would be offered a job,” the parole board noted in 2016. “In Mexico, you lived in the Sinaloa region which is well known for drug cartel activities. You have denied any involvement with gangs or Mexican cartels.”

He has since been deported.

The drive from the small craft harbour through the Ucluelet-Tofino junction then east along the Pacific Rim Highway to the entrance to E Road takes less than 15 minutes at the posted speed limit.

The killer or killers would have driven through the dense coastal forest, past Lost Shoe #1 Creek, then Lost Shoe #2 Creek before turning right on the gravel road where Archbald and Daley were dumped.

After about 300 metres, the unmarked logging road is barely more than a trail, suggesting the suspects would have had to turn around in the only small clearing to escape back to the highway. A woman walking her dogs found the remains of Archbald and Daley four weeks later.

The double murder — an extremely rare occurrence in this part of B.C. — has not really set the locals on edge. They don’t feel a strong connection to the case. They didn’t know the victims. They don’t believe that any suspects are in their midst.

The last person slain here was Shirley Ann Taylor-Seydel, who was bludgeoned to death on the docks on July 6, 1991, by fisherman Steven Hillairet, a stranger with mental health issues. There is a small picnic area in her memory overlooking the harbour.

The Astral Blue remains moored here for now. A brokerage company has been contacted and the boat, estimated to be worth about $100,000, will soon be sold.

At the Cap’n Hook, a unique shop selling fishing tackle and cappuccino, patrons sip their coffee, look out over the harbour and speculate about whether the boat will go for a bargain price.

Caleb Cameron, who was born and raised in Ucluelet, owns Cameron Ocean Adventures – a whale watching and sports fishing company.He says locals assume that the Astral Blue was smuggling drugs at the time the two crewmen disappeared and were later killed. KIM BOLAN / PNG

Caleb Cameron, who was born and raised in Ucluelet, is down on the docks every day operating his whale-watching and sports-fishing company — Cameron Ocean Adventures.

“When the murders happened, it seemed like a very isolated incident. There have been drug busts here in the past but not anything like this,” he said. “It seemed like a major case — a larger case than we usually see — because of all the police resources that were brought here.”

He didn’t see the two men at all between May 13 and 16, though he noticed the Astral Blue after it docked as a boat he wasn’t familiar with.

“It was fairly shocking. From the rumours that had been circulating that it was a drug boat that came up from Panama, it made sense,” he said. “I do have some people come down and ask about it. It is known on the dock as ‘the drug boat.’ ”

Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noël said the murders have had “zero impact” on the community of 1,800.

“There is nobody up in arms, racing to the RCMP detachment saying that there’s a problem. It is something very isolated and local to that event,” Noël said this week. “It is just isolated to those certain groups and those individuals. No one in the community is feeling threatened in any way.”

Ucluelet residents still “are just curious to know what happened,” the mayor said.

“Everyone has got their own theory, so it will be interesting to see what actually comes out of it.”

[email protected]

Blog: vancouversun.com/tag/real-scoop

twitter.com/kbolan


22Jul

Surgeons in B.C. get fee increase for operations on obese patients

by admin


Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of Doctors of B.C.


Custom Photography / PNG

Some B.C. surgeons who operate on extremely obese patients are being paid a 25 per cent surcharge because surgeries on such patients often take longer and are riskier.

The change came into effect a few months ago for some physicians and will soon kick in for more medical specialists.

It came about after a survey three years ago showed that obese patients were falling through cracks. All but a handful of the B.C. surgeons who responded said they had delayed or declined to perform elective surgery on patients with a body mass index, or BMI, higher than 38. Four in five surgeons said they had delayed or declined to perform surgery over concerns about complications in patients with a BMI of 30 to 34.

Some patients have accused physicians of being biased against them.

Doctors of B.C. and the Ministry of Health have been working to solve the problem. General surgeons and anesthesiologists were the first to negotiate surcharges meant to compensate for added risks and time involved in treating obese patients. Gynecologists/obstetricians are also expected to get a surcharge soon.

Dr. Kathleen Ross, the new president of Doctors of B.C., said the government didn’t come up with extra money. Instead, money was reallocated from what’s called the available amount given to sections of physicians. Within sections like anesthesiology, fees shrunk for some procedures to allow for the surcharge which is referred to as a “BMI modifier.”

Although obesity is typically defined as a BMI over 30, the premium only applies for operations on patients with a BMI over 35. Several other provinces offer surgeons a premium.

BMI is calculated based on a person’s height and weight. For example, a woman who is five-foot-eight and weighs 270 pounds would have a BMI of 41.0.


Body Mass Index Primer; Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

“This is in recognition of the fact that in obese patients, there may be more complications and areas of the body are more difficult to access,” Ross said. “Operations are more technically complex.”

Dr. Stephen Kaye, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said obesity affects all of patient treatment, making the initial evaluation, the surgery and post-operative care more complex.

Obese patients can have higher rates of infections, require longer hospital stays and more hospital readmissions. It takes longer to prepare obese patients for surgery, including getting them in position on larger operating room tables. Getting them sedated takes longer, said Kaye, who is co-president of the Doctors of B.C. section of obstetrics and gynecologists.

“Specialized equipment and retractors are required in order to visualize and reach the surgical site,” he said. “When operating on the abdomen and pelvis, for example, the distance between the skin surface and the abdominal contents is increased by the thickness of the fat of the abdominal wall.

“These are high-risk patients and increasingly, the care of these patients is being concentrated in the hands of a fewer number of physicians who are willing to accept the patients and have the expertise or who work in hospitals that have greater resources to provide such care,” Kaye said.

In the case of a hysterectomy, for example, the $654 fee paid to a gynecologist/obstetrician would rise by $72 for every 15 minutes beyond the standard two hours. For anesthesiologists sedating hysterectomy patients, the fee would be billed at $38 minutes for every 15 minutes but the BMI modifier would add an extra $20 for every 15 minutes beyond the two-hour typical surgery time.

Some anesthesiologists and other surgical specialists are paid through contracts so their compensation would be structured differently.

Dr. Curtis Smecher, an anesthesiologist at Abbotsford Hospital and president of the B.C. Anesthesiologists Society, said that in the last round of negotiations, each section of physicians was given a pot of money to distribute for pressing needs and the BMI bonus was a high priority for doctors in his area.

“It’s a bit like shuffling deck chairs,” he said about the reallocation, adding that he won’t be surprised if orthopedic surgeons are next to seek the premium since surgeries like joint replacements are far more difficult in obese patients.

Anesthesiologists say their management of obese patients is more complex because of thicker necks, chests, and abdomens in such patients who often have sleep apnea and reduced lung and heart function, which can affect airway management and ventilation during anesthesia.

Physician services cost taxpayers almost $5 billion a year. Ross would not disclose how funds are being shuffled around to pay the premiums, but in the latest Physician Master Agreement with the government, there was also some shifting of funds to address disparities between physician groups. For example, cataract fees to ophthalmologists were reduced about 18 per cent, from $425 a year to $350.

[email protected]

Twitter; @MedicineMatters




Source link

23May

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

by admin


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.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedicineMatters




Source link

15May

Richmond Hospital leads the way as birth tourism continues to rise

by admin

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.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedicineMatters




Source link

17Apr

Doctors approve new fee agreement with B.C. government

by admin


The Doctors of B.C. president, Dr. Eric Cadesky.


Doctors of B.C. / PNG

B.C.’s physicians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new agreement with the B.C. government in a deal that will cost taxpayers at least $331 million over the three-year deal.

Last year, the government paid out $4.516 billion for physician services. By the end of the three-year deal that took effect on April 1, that will rise to $4.85 billion.

One of the elements of the deal is a signing bonus-like payment of $7,500 to each physician who earned over $75,000 in income in 2018, or in any of the past few years, to help offset rising overhead and other costs of running their offices.

Dr. Eric Cadesky, president of Doctors of B.C., said the sum is a one-time payment. But the help with overhead costs like lease payments doesn’t end there. In 2020, the government will give physicians — in Vancouver, Victoria and other urban areas — premiums to help offset inflationary costs like higher rents.

Doctors who have offices in Vancouver, for example, will get a five per cent increase that will be capped at a daily maximum of $60; Victoria doctors with private practices will get four per cent more with a maximum of $48 a day. And in Kelowna, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton, doctors will get three per cent more up to a daily maximum of $36.

There is no cap on this weekly “business cost premium”, so doctors who keep their offices open seven days a week could earn $420 more each week.

“A reasonably active physician in the city of Vancouver could earn an additional $13,200 annually when the BCP is implemented in 2020,” Cadesky said.

For several years, doctors in private practice have been complaining about rising costs of running offices. Cadesky said it was important to have a premium in the contract that would offer some relief. Alberta has a similar program but the premium is applied as a flat rate of 1.1 per cent across the province while in B.C., the premiums rise in communities where overhead costs are higher.

Clauses like this one clearly appealed to physicians even though only about 4,000 of the 12,000 doctors in the province voted during the ratification process. Only three per cent voted against the new deal. Doctors had sought a five year deal like the term they got under the Liberals but this government wanted to keep the deal at three years, consistent with other public service contracts.

 

Doctors will also get an additional half of one per cent more in fees in each of the three years and an assortment of other compensation payments to help with retirement plans, malpractice insurance premiums, and pay for work previously not compensated, like adding information to patient charts, writing reports, following up on lab and diagnostic tests, and maintaining electronic medical files.

The new contract is outlined in nearly 400 pages and is called the Physician Master Agreement. Cadesky said it will go a long way toward helping support family physicians who want to deliver a full spectrum of care — often referred to as cradle-to-grave patient care.

Patients should benefit because the new contract includes a commitment from the government to hire more doctors to “address growth in the workload of existing physicians (such as) emergency room physicians and medical oncologists.”

The contract also addresses some fee disparities between various medical specialists. There’s a sum of $42.73 million to shrink gaps between lower and higher paid physicians — highly paid ophthalmologists, for example, compared to geriatricians, pediatricians and psychiatrists.

The government has made good on its pledge to reduce the amount of money ophthalmologists earn doing cataract removal surgery. When negotiations began last year, the government’s starting point was a fee cut of 80 per cent, provoking a near revolt on the part of such surgeons. After many months of negotiations, the parties settled on a fee of $350, down from $425, about 18 per cent lower.

The savings — $4.7 million — are to be used to raise fees of other surgeons and specialists who are considered relatively underpaid. 

The contract also boosts government funding for things like continuing medical education, disability insurance  and rural physician funding. There are pledges by the government to consult more with doctors, including on violence prevention in health facilities, electronic medical records, and new payment models.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedicineMatters




Source link

16Apr

Investigations continue after teen’s suicide in Lions Gate Hospital ER

by admin


A boy died by suicide while in care at the emergency department in Lion’s Gate Hospital.


NICK PROCAYLO / PNG

Parallel investigations into the suicide last month of a teenager at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver are continuing by the B.C. Coroner’s Service and Vancouver Coastal Health.

The death happened in the emergency department.

Andy Watson, the spokesman for the coroners service, said all sudden, unexpected and/or unnatural deaths are investigated. A report will be written with the coroner’s findings and recommendations made to prevent future deaths by similar means.

An inquest may also be scheduled if a potentially dangerous practice or circumstance has been identified or if the death raises issues that are in the public interest and need more awareness. An inquest is conducted before a jury of five to seven individuals.

Vancouver Coastal Health is also doing a critical incident review, said spokeswoman Carrie Stefanson.

“The investigation is ongoing and we are restricted in comments we can make at this time. … The critical incident review will examine the circumstances surrounding the case and our processes in the care of this patient.”

The date of the suicide was March 23. According to an individual with knowledge of the event, a 17-year-old man on a “suicide watch” was alone in a dimly lit room when he used a piece of medical equipment in the room to asphyxiate himself. The hospital would not confirm the means by which the teen took his life.

Patients on suicide watch are generally monitored by guards or others and checked on frequently. It is believed there was someone sitting outside the room in which the teen was placed.

Watson said over 5,000 deaths each year are investigated by the coroner’s service. There are between 500 and 600 suicides annually in B.C., with 20 to 30 of them among individuals under the age of 19.

Meanwhile, the coroners service has announced a June 17 inquest into the death by drug overdose of another teenager, 16-year old Elliot Cleveland Eurchuk. Eurchuk died in April, 2018, after being found in an unresponsive state in his bed in his Oak Bay family’s home. His parents say that he became addicted to painkillers prescribed before and after surgery for athletic injuries. And then he became addicted to illicit drugs.

At one point, Eurchuk was discharged from the hospital even though he had overdosed in his hospital bed just days earlier. That inquest could last for two weeks as it will explore relevant issues around addictions and mental health, the education, health and justice systems.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedicineMatters




Source link

29Jan

Overbilling Vancouver physician faces discipline hearing

by admin


The medical office of Dr. Viem Chung Nguyen at 1209 Kingsway in Vancouver.


PNG

A Vancouver doctor who was ordered to repay $2 million related to medical service over-billings now faces a disciplinary hearing for refusing to answer questions from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

Nguyen has been summoned to the college discipline committee meeting Feb. 12. The purpose of the hearing is to inquire into his “conduct or fitness to practise medicine in B.C.”

He is charged with failing to respond to multiple communications and correspondence from the college. But when there are serious findings by the Medical Services Commission about irregular, or even fraudulent, billing by doctors, as there was in 2017, the case often ends up back at the college for an investigation into the doctor’s ethical and professional conduct.

Nguyen graduated from the University of Montreal medical school in 2002. He specializes in physical and rehabilitation medicine, otherwise known as physiatry. Such doctors — there are three dozen in B.C. — have a broad range of knowledge about the musculoskeletal, neurological, rheumatological and cardiovascular systems.

Outpatient physiatrists (those working in communities as opposed to in hospitals) would see patients with orthopedic injuries, spine-related pain and dysfunction, occupational injuries and overuse syndromes, and chronic pain, for example.

Kristy Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said Nguyen can’t bill the Medical Services Plan until he is eligible to re-enroll after May 31 of this year. Strangely, Nguyen’s medical receptionist told a reporter over the phone that an appointment could be booked after a doctor’s referral and that he doesn’t charge patients directly; a B.C. Services Card (formerly known as the CareCard) can be used, she said.

Although the government insists that doctors should never bill patients directly for medically necessary services, Nguyen can do so during the temporary de-enrolment.

“During this time, Dr. Nguyen can practise medicine; it is only the college of physicians and surgeons that can remove that right. But he cannot bill to the Medical Services Plan,” Anderson said.

Susan Prins, spokeswoman for the college, said that as a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, “it is reasonable that a major part of his work might be privately funded, independent medical exams, but I can’t confirm that’s the case.”

Neither of the officials could answer why the receptionist told a reporter posing as a prospective patient that a visit would be publicly funded.

It’s unclear if Nguyen has paid back the $2 million he agreed to repay after an audit found a large number of billing irregularities. The government refuses to divulge such information. 

“Due to privacy restrictions under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the ministry is unable to release any third-party financial information or personal details,” said Anderson. 

“If an individual fails to pay an amount assessed by the audit, they are referred to the Ministry of Finance to pursue collection action as outlined in the Financial Administration Act or the governing statutes,” she added. 

Last year, the commission issued a report that said an onsite audit found poor documentation of Nguyen’s patient records and “for several patients, there was no evidence that Dr. Nguyen ever provided any care to that patient.” 

According to the latest commission report, the government body was able to recover about $8 million in 2017-18 from 18 audited doctors who were deemed to have over-billed in recent years.

There are about 11,000 doctors in B.C.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedicineMatters

Appeal court rejects bid by first doctor ever thrown out of B.C. Medical Services Plan

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected].</p




Source link

23Jan

Fake ‘Dr. Lip Job’ gets suspended sentence for posing as a physician

by admin


Justice Nitya Iyer.


Vancouver Sun

A woman who forged a medical licence so she could buy pharmaceuticals like Botox to then inject into duped customers has been given a 30-day suspended sentence and two years’ probation in B.C. Supreme Court.

Rajdeep Kaur Khakh’s digressions included contempt of court and passing herself off as a doctor so she could inject Botox into facial wrinkles and filler material into lips or other facial areas. Only licensed and trained doctors, dentists, registered nurses (or nurse practitioners) under the supervision of doctors, and naturopaths are allowed to perform such procedures under Health Professions Act regulations and Ministry of Health scopes of practice.

Khakh, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was cited for contempt in March 2018; she signed a consent order at the time prohibiting her from “practising medicine.” But last July, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. learned Khakh was up to her old tricks administering dermal fillers “numerous times at a location in Vancouver.”

The college has been trying to stop Khakh from posing as a doctor for more than three years but each time the college got promises from her to stop, she would continue to do it. For a time, she marketed her services under the Instagram handle “DrLipJob.” She also marketed herself as Dr. Rajii or Dr. R.K., when she injected customers in their homes, cars and other locations.

Although Khakh avoided jail, college spokeswoman Susan Prins expressed satisfaction with the sentence.

“The college … believes that the judge’s reasons will accomplish the task of getting Ms. Khakh to obey and respect court orders in future, and deter other unlicensed practitioners from engaging in unlawful practice. In her comments, Madame Justice (Nitya) Iyer sent a very serious message to Ms. Khakh about breaching consent orders and emphasized the critical public-protection role that regulators fulfil.”

Last November, the college filed a petition with the court in which it sought to have Khakh fined for contempt and/or jailed. Under the current sentence by Iyer, she will have to serve a 30-day jail term if she breaches any of the terms. Khakh must report to a probation supervisor once a week and must also pay a $5,000 fine. Of that amount, $300 is going to go to a former customer who was a witness for the college.

The college first learned of Khakh in 2015 when pharmaceutical companies informed it that she owed $164,000 for products that were advanced on credit. At the time, Khakh was providing services at a spa in Surrey and using a forged medical licence.

“It is certainly the only instance of forging medical credentials to further one’s unlawful practice that I know of,” said the college’s chief legal counsel, Graeme Keirstead.

According to an affidavit filed in court by the college, the forged licence was found on a photocopier at the Clearbrook public library by an employee who notified the college. The name “Dr. Rajdeep Kaur Khakh” was substituted for the original name on the certificate and the expiry date of the licence had been altered.

“Upon review, the document appeared to be a copy of a genuine, but expired, (licence),” Keirstead said, adding that the identification number on the certificate belonged to a practising physician who was registered with the college.

Khakh had previously told a reporter that she went to medical school at the University of Punjab but failed licensing exams.

The college went to great lengths to investigate Khakh, using a security company multiple times for undercover investigations and also going to the spa with a cease-and-desist letter.

The college pursued another similar case, but in that situation a patient got a serious infection after having surgery with a fake doctor in her home-based clinic. A public health warning was issued.

Patients of Khakh’s have complained about their results, but there don’t appear to be any serious adverse events reported.

The college said this in a statement: “Receiving a medical service such as injections from an unlicensed practitioner is risky and has the potential for complications, including reaction to agents, infections or greater harm due to human error. There is no assurance that the practitioner is competent or qualified to provide treatment or that the material and equipment used are safe.”

Prins said unlicensed individuals aren’t accountable to any regulatory body, “which means the public has nowhere to turn if the service or treatment they receive results in complications. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for patients to check the credentials of the health practitioner they are planning to see to ensure they are licensed and registered with a health regulatory authority (college), and that they have the necessary credentials to perform the procedure.”

Physician credentials can be verified by looking at the directory on the college’s website at cpsbc.ca.

[email protected]

Follow me on Twitter

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected].</p

RELATED STORY:

Clients of unlicensed B.C. cosmetic ‘surgeon’ showed up in fancy cars




Source link

16Jan

Bolt drilled through a skull is rescuing patients with brain injuries

by admin


Dr. Mypinder Sekhon demonstrates catheters and the new brain bolt that were used in a life-saving procedure at VGH in Vancouver, BC, Jan. 16, 2019.


Arlen Redekop / PNG

Brad Baylis doesn’t remember anything about the day last summer when he hit a moose while driving in northern B.C.

Indeed, everything the Prince George man knows about his close brush with death — not to mention the entire month afterward — he’s pieced together from friends, family and medical professionals who saved his life after the moose crashed through his windshield, sending Baylis careening into a ditch and trapped in his vehicle.

Baylis, 39, and the moose would be extricated from the vehicle and he would be airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital on life support. While he was in the intensive-care unit for a month, plastic surgeons would spend 10 hours perfectly reconstructing his shattered face and intensive-care specialists would make Baylis the first patient to get a new procedure called brain microdialysis.


Undated handout photo of Bradley Baylis and girlfriend Carla Lewis. Bradley Baylis of Prince George hit a moose near Fraser lake in 2018.

Nikola Bennett /

PNG

With Baylis on the verge of dying from his traumatic brain injury, Dr. Mypinder Sekhon and colleagues deployed newly acquired tools that allowed them to frequently monitor Baylis’s brain-tissue chemistry so they could tailor the amount of glucose and other metabolic supplements he needed intravenously. They were also able to do real-time monitoring of oxygen and blood-pressure levels in his brain to deliver medications with doses tailored to his condition rather than giving standardized doses.

“The impact with the moose caused major hemorrhaging in his brain and he was suffocating from a lack of oxygen while emergency crews were extricating him from the vehicle,” said Sekhon. “It was a horrible, horrible injury with diffuse swelling throughout his brain. Often with this kind of swelling, brain death will ensue. We had no option other than to try the bolt.”

The lumen (hollowed-out) bolt and accompanying disposable instruments are medical devices developed and manufactured by a Swedish company and, until recently, used mainly in research settings at Cambridge University in the U.K.

Neurologists drill a one-centimetre hole into the skull to place the bolt, which then allows doctors to pass a catheter through it so they can collect and analyze biochemical markers of brain activity (glucose, lactate and glutamate, among them).


Undated handout photo of Bradley Baylis in VGH.

Nikola Bennett /

PNG

The data is fed into an analyzer that gives a digital reading and then medical teams can adjust the amount of oxygen, glucose and nutrients that comatose and other brain-injured patients need to not only recover, but also to avoid permanent disabilities.

“It’s changed the way we prognosticate,” said Sekhon. “We can get a better idea of the disease process inside a patient’s brain. Before this, we would fly blind, essentially. You can give too much glucose and other supplements or not enough. Using this technique, we are now able to optimize the brain’s metabolism and personalize the care of the patient.”

Drilling holes into patients’ skulls is an admittedly invasive procedure that carries a small (0.5-per-cent) risk of infection or bleeding, but at VGH, microdialysis has been used so far on five patients, including Baylis (in the past five months), and four of them have recovered. (The fifth succumbed to the brain injury.)

After being in the ICU for a month, Baylis was then transferred to G.F. Strong for rehabilitation. He is overcome with emotion when he talks about the physical therapists there who helped him walk again, his girlfriend Carla Lewis, family members and doctors like Sekhon — all of whom “never gave up on me.”

While he hasn’t yet been cleared to return to his job as a welder, the father of three is incredulous that he’s been able to almost completely recover from a brain injury as severe as the one he had.


Dr. Mypinder Sekhon demonstrates catheters and the new brain bolt that were used in a life-saving procedure at VGH in Vancouver, BC, Jan. 16, 2019.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

He hasn’t yet resumed driving and he’s in no rush to get back behind the wheel. When he got out of G.F. Strong a few months ago, he took the Northern Health bus back to Prince George and it was a trip that could have been terrifying and traumatizing but Baylis managed to take it in stride:

“During the latter part of the trip, the bus driver had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a moose. When you live in this area, you know this sort of thing is going to happen at some point. I don’t know if this last incident was luck or fate, but you have to respect moose, they are amazing animals.”

Sekhon says that when Baylis was airlifted to VGH he thought Baylis had only a 10-per-cent chance of surviving. But after a week, he came out of the coma and credits the new microdialysis tools for making the difference with his recovery. While the microdialysis tools are insanely expensive — startup costs of up to $500,000, then costs of up to $10,000 each time the suite of tools are used on patients — they would appear to be true lifesavers.

VGH is the only hospital in Canada using the microdialysis protocol and one of only a handful of hospitals around the world using it. A hospital in Calgary tried it for a while, but Sekhon said it became too expensive so it was abandoned. At VGH, donors to the hospital’s foundation covered initial acquisition fees, but now the costs are absorbed into the hospital’s annual operating budget.

Only in the last few years have specialists like Sekhon had access to tools that allow them to individualize treatment plans for patients. In 2016, Sekhon and colleagues were recognized for using brain-monitoring technology that helped salvage the neurological functions of a world-renowned freestyle skier after she crashed during an international competition. In that case, doctors drilled a hole into the skull of the 22-year old patient — Jamie Crane-Mauzy — so they could take real-time measurements of oxygen and blood-pressure levels in her brain, which enabled them to tailor medications and other interventions to her condition.

Sekhon estimates VGH will receive 20-30 patients each year who will benefit from microdialysis and other brain-monitoring. The hospital has developed a specialized neurocritical-care program consisting of neurosurgeons and intensive-care specialists so that patients with severe brain injuries can get such advanced brain-monitoring, increasing their chances of recovery.

A study published last year that tracked 113 patients with severe brain injuries showed that those who got care from the specialized team were 2.5 times more likely to have a full neurological recovery after six months.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedicineMatters

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected].</p




Source link

23Dec

A festive day to just be your elf adds final memory for Fun On The Run

by admin

Dear Santa:

My work as your “special tanned elf” — and my memorable time as a Vancouver fun run blogger — is done. Let me just say I’m not doing fist-pumps today about either.

Whether it was mugging for fun photos in my elf-fit with smiling strangers in humid downtown Bangkok and all the wonderful women at Kalavin Thai Massage in toasty Phuket, Thailand earlier this month, or standing with 525-plus costumed characters Saturday afternoon in chilly Stanley Park at the fourth annual Big Elf Run, it struck me that being surrounded by happy people in a sometimes troubled world should never be seen as a bad thing.

Esteemed Elf BaxterBayer, the brains and thin wallet behind the Vancouver-based Running Tours Inc. that never fails to put smiles on faces, was at his very best Saturday pumping up the kids and later the adults with his enthusiastic (and very original) warmups, hospitality and festive ambience at Lumberman’s Arch. You’d never know that seven days earlier, after the City of Vancouver revoked his event permit at the 11th hour, he was reeling and worried sick this superb show might not go on.


Baxter Bayer leads a hearty warmup on Saturday at the fourth annual Big Elf Run in Stanley Park. More than 500 people laced up for the 5K and 10K events. (Francis Georgian photo)

And while the turnout took a bit of a hit by the one-week delay, there was a lot to be said Saturday afternoon about quality over quantity. To those who couldn’t make it, for whatever reason, you missed a sweet upbeat Christmas party that included dogs and strollers — and lots of colour and imagination. If I had to pick one event to say goodbye, this was the perfect one to drop the microphone at.

One little girl told me she was going to kick her brother’s butt in the 1K Wee Elf kids’ race, and did just that. One teenaged girl told me she was going to kick my butt in the 5K, and then did (showoff!). One much older gal (smile) said my wedgie-tight elf suit wouldn’t last the 5K without a “wardrobe malfunction.” Thank gawd she was wrong!

The Big Elf Run, which checks all the boxes for having a good time, also raised awareness and funds for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, a place where courage really lives. For the serious runners, and there were some real Dashers, Startline Timing ensured those “racing” in the 5K and 10K had accurate times to send to the North Pole, or wherever Garmin’s elves hang out!  To check out all the finishing times, click HERE.

“Was a bit bummed out we had to delay this run a week,” admitted Bayer moments before the entertaining kids’ race wrapped up. “You try to avoid holding events this time of year what with last-minute shopping, vacations, the weather and traffic, but the schedule change was totally out of our control. My objective today was to put the best show on for those who could still make it, and hope everyone liked it!”

Well, mission more than accomplished. Judging by comments at the event, and later on social media, Bayer’s crew crushed another one out of the park. There were several who took advantage of the virtual run component, too.


Shelley Hatfield, right, and her Over The Top Fitness crew of Aldergrove “sleighed” the Big Elf Run on Saturday afternoon. (Margaret Buttner photo)

This year Bayer’s small company launched a Big Fun Run Series that included the spanking-new La Gran Fiesta Run (Burnaby) and Big Superhero Run (Richmond), along with the established Big Easter Run (Jericho Beach). And if you took part in all four events, which my family did, you received a sweet Big Fun Run Series Go Big medal. And speaking of medals, this series had must-have bling that far exceeded expectations.

Tricia Barker, a new commissioner for the Vancouver Park Board and participant in Saturday’s run, said she had a ton of fun taking part in the fourth annual event, which American Express ranks in the top 14 worldwide as “seasonal events with a twist.”

“Great crowd, lots of spirit, great costumes and love the big medal,” she said, while joking out after inspecting my way too tight elf-fit that she’s also a personal trainer for getting people in shape. No problem, I get that a lot Santa!


The women at Kalavin Thai Massage in Phuket, Thailand stopped working earlier this month to get their photos taken with Uncle Elfie. They also treated his sunburn! (Lisa Kurenoff photo)

One of my final official duties for the Big Elf Run was naming a new Mr. or Mrs. Santa Claus, having won the prestigious ambassador title at this event last year. This year’s winner is Shelley Hatfield of Aldergrove, the brains and beauty behind the Over The Top Fitness crew that dressed up as reindeer (along with Santa’s musical sleigh) on Saturday. Hatfield and her motley crew, who take the fun to every run, also raises funds throughout the year for a cat shelter in Richmond.

A couple of the Sole Girls leaders in Saturday’s run, who said they loved my pirate outfit at the Moustache Miler last month, made me promise that I won’t stop running or wearing new costumes in the new year. Told them my budget-wise wife now has full say on the wardrobe expense account after discovering additional hidden gems in my man cave! But I promised to keep running and surrounding myself with positive people.

Here are some other festive gems from Saturday’s Big Elf Run:


Linda and Dennis Hill, right, said one year ago they didn’t understand the whole costume thing with runners. They’ve really changed their tune! (Gord Kurenoff photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folks do the festive thing, again!

My work colleagues gasped out loud after mentioning I just spent 2½ weeks in toasty Thailand with the in-laws.

“Did you lose a bet?” was the most common reaction, followed closely by “was it your choice?” and “wife forced you to play along?” (No, yes and no are the politically correct answers to those questions, by the way! And I refuse to take a lie detector test.)

Linda and Dennis Hill, great people to call family, really got into Bayer’s Big Fun Run Series. Initially it was because my father-in-law wanted a La Gran Fiesta Run bottle opener medal, and then it was to try out new costumes, a thing most in the family found shocking.

“You’ll never ever catch me wearing a run costume,” said Deadpool Dennis one short year ago. “Who does that stupid stuff?”

Not sure what changed his mind, but he dressed up for the La Gran Fiesta Run, then the Superhero Run, then the Big Elf Run, plus the Moustache Miler and a few other events along the way. In fact, he began calling from costume shops asking if I or his daughter needed anything for upcoming runs!

Yep, welcome to the “who does that stupid stuff” club big guy. And sincere thanks to you and mom for being some of the biggest run/walk boosters out there.


Dora Velazquez of Surrey, who wore the bib Thinny feet Dory, won the Female Elf 10K event Saturday in a blazing 42:18, poses with Postmedia News blogger Gord Kurenoff in Stanley Park before her victory.

Dora the Explorer was a Blitzen

This year I took part in 45 weekend races, some so serious I actually wore real running clothes!

Along the way you meet people who become familiar faces, people who make race day brighter, better and memorable. One such lady is Dora Velazquez of Surrey who continues to improve, and amaze, and inspire.

She was worried Saturday that some of her speedy friends wouldn’t be at the seawall to push her efforts to crush the 10K. This friendly elf offered to be her pace bunny but when she mentioned shooting for the low 40s, I backed out, citing a need to make sure everyone at the back of the 5K race was safe!

Dora, who said her outfit “became super hot” as she burned up the course, finished in 42:18 — the first female elf across the finish line.

She gave me a quick lesson on proper warmup stretching, then asked what my running plans are for January and February, 2019.

Well, I’m doing the PEN Run Resolution Run 4K trail race on New Year’s Day at Crescent Park in Surrey, the Steveston Icebreaker 8K on Jan. 20, Try Events’ Chilly Chase 10K on Jan. 27 and then my first half-marathon in 25-plus years — the sold-out RUNVAN’s First Half Half in Vancouver on Sunday, Feb. 10.

“Which ones will you be wearing costumes for,” laughed Dora, who rolled her eyes when I told her I’d likely be the Chafing Cowboy for the half marathon!


Francis Georgian of The Vancouver Sun/Province shoots photos on Saturday of the Big Elf Run. (Gord Kurenoff photo)

Francis focuses on running elves

Francis Georgian, a photographer and video guru with my employer —The Vancouver Sun/Province newspapers — spent some time hanging out at at Stanley Park on Saturday.

Besides doing a full-page colourful photo spread in Sunday’s Province about the run, Georgian filed this fun video, too, which features Bayer and a lot of people you might know:

 

 


Gord Kurenoff finishes the Big Elf Run in 33 minutes on Saturday, despite a three-minute “detour” to find a washroom! Baxter Bayer, right, cheers on his ambassador elf. (iPOLPOPHOTOS photo)

‘Potty animal’ gets ‘er done — with a smile

The good folks at iPOLPOPHOTOS, who were the official photographers at Saturday’s Big Elf Run, have been very supportive of this blogger, and this blog over the years.

Katia Reinhardt of Fort Langley, who I met while taking her photo four years ago before an MEC Vancouver race on the seawall, had this dream to expand the company and its app and has made major gains since. The co-founder and chief marketing officer of the company has been a regular race fixture on the Lower Mainland in the past couple of years.

“You have such an awesome happy and supportive spirit,” Katia said Sunday, before sharing a photo of me finishing the 5K. “The smile says it all about you and running. I don’t think I have ever taken a photo of you not smiling!”

Katia is way too kind. On Saturday, at the 2.5K mark, she missed a non-smiling moment as I had to find a washroom to get rid of the coffee, juice, water and tea intake! Eventually found one, wasted three precious minutes getting in and out of the elf onesie, and then ran like made to make up lost time.

Finished the 5K in 33 minutes, which is not bad given the detour. In fact, my Garmin says I ran 5.10 Ks and actually shows the zig-zags when I began the potty hunt mid-race!

Check out more on iPOLPOHOTOS great service and Apple/Android app by clicking HERE.


Gord Kurenoff drops the microphone at Saturday’s Big Elf Run finish line to signal the end of his blogging days. Baxter Bayer looks on. (Scott Williams photo)

End of the blogging road for Uncle Elfie

So, as mentioned, this is the end of the road as a run blogger for yours truly.

Like all fat, out of shape people who work at The Vancouver Sun, you’re approached to be a Sun Run “guinea pig” and blog about your couch-to-starting line experience, which happened to this scribe four years ago.

After crawling through that Sun Run, I was pointed toward the first Big Elf Run as a starting point for this Fun On The Run hobby blog. And some 200-plus events later, and pumping the tires of many a runner, run company, elite and novice athletes and community events on my “spare time and own dime,” I’m back wearing green and calling it a day.

Baxter Bayer has been, without a doubt, my biggest supporter. He totally understood the concept of this fun blog’s intent — trying to push couch potatoes or weekend warriors to races to improve their physical and mental health, to socialize, to have fun, to improve, to appreciate the sport and race-day vibe no matter your skill level, to put down social media devices for a morning, to embrace the West Coast lifestyle and just do it. He also said thanks, which was pure money in my world.


Dennis Hill, Linda Hill, Gord Kurenoff and Lisa Kurenoff, back from Thailand with tans, jet lag and memories, took part in all four of the Big Fun Run Series events in 2018. (Francis Georgian photo)

Truth be told, I really suck as an adult runner most days. My feet are sore, my “strict” diet is iffy, my training routines leave plenty to be desired. But I have fun and never, ever have I regretted being at a race, or catching up with people, or hearing their success stories or future plans.

Bayer let me inside the so-called ropes at several of his and other neat events, shared valuable information that helped me do a better job, and always kept a positive attitude that rubbed off.

As mentioned last month, he also stepped up big time when my younger brother died unexpectedly last year and he made sure this writer and my family didn’t curl up and get lost in grief.

Some people asked why I bother to cover “non serious runs” and some mocked me for wearing costumes at “dumb events” or for not running faster. Isn’t social media grand? Good thing I have thick, well-padded skin as some critics pointed out! I wouldn’t have missed this awesome experience, and adventures, for the world.

With love from “Uncle Elfie,” and my forever grateful family, have a great Christmas holiday and super New Year. Keep smiling, keep embracing life and see you all down the road at a race day near you.

And for Star Wars nut Baxter and the lovely Jana, may the force always be with you and thanks for making a huge difference in this crazy world.

Gotta run …

[email protected]

Twitter.com/Ohgord


Uncle Elfie soaked up the sun at the Movenpick Phuket Beach Resort in Thailand earlier this month, and posed for photos with staff and tourists while spreading the good word about the Big Elf Run. (Dennis Hill photo)




Source link

This website uses cookies and asks your personal data to enhance your browsing experience.