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Posts Tagged "minister"

30Sep

B.C. teen vaping plan coming within the month, says minister

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https://vancouversun.com/


B.C. will get an action plan to curb teen vape use within a month, says Health Minister Adrian Dix.


VICTORIA — B.C.’s plan to tackle the alarming increase in teen vaping and e-cigarette use will come within a month and likely include a new licensing system similar to tobacco sales, says the province’s health minister.

Adrian Dix said he is concerned by the rising number of cases across North America of youth who have suffered lung damage and other health problems after using e-cigarettes.

“We’re going to act soon,” Dix said Monday. “I think it’s a serious situation. We’re disappointed, despite our considerable efforts, that the federal government didn’t act before the election. But we remain optimistic they will (act). People expect us to act very soon and we will lay out our plan certainly within the next month.”

Although B.C.’s fall legislative session begins next week, the government does not necessarily need a new law, said Dix.

Instead, cabinet could change regulations under a 2015 law that made it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 19, he said. That could be accompanied by public health advertising campaign.

“We need to restrict certain kinds of vaping products, that’s pretty clear,” he said. “We need to raise the standard of vaping products, we need to address issues collectively, the federal and provincial government around advertising, because we need to ensure people understand the risks of vaping — that harm reduction may still mean harm, and if you aren’t a smoker, you shouldn’t vaping.”

There are roughly 90,000 businesses in B.C. currently selling e-cigarettes and vape products, including local corner stores, convenience stores and gas stations. They do not require a license, and health inspectors are stretched thin to catch anyone selling illegally to minors.

A government licensing program would bring the number of retailers down closer to the 6,000 B.C. stores licensed to sell tobacco, with the addition of extra licenses available for dedicated legal vaping stores and cannabis outlets, said Dix.

Governments across Canada and the U.S. are wrestling with the rise of teen vaping, as well as the wide variety of flavoured vape juices that appear designed to appeal to young children.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that usually contain nicotine-infused liquid, which is combined with vapour when the user inhales. They have been marketed as a way to reduce cigarette addiction, but an increase in lung problems recently has caused some states, like Michigan and most recently Washington State, to ban flavoured vape juice.

Dix said the federal government has draft regulations on e-cigarette standards and flavours, and he hopes Ottawa will enact a national standard quickly.

Opposition Liberal critic Todd Stone, who brought in a private member’s bill earlier this year on flavoured e-cigarettes, said he is frustrated that B.C. is taking so long.

“The strongest action we could take is to ban that flavoured juice,” he said. Stone suggested limiting sales to vape shops, tobacco stores and pharmacies.

“This is a public health crisis that has really only emerged in the last 18 to 24 months,” he said. “It’s really come on fast and it’s getting worse by the day. I don’t take much comfort at all in waiting for Ottawa to act.”

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23Aug

Daphne Bramham: B.C. addictions minister targets province’s ‘wild, wild West’ recovery houses

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B.C. Addictions Minister Judy Darcy has no illusions about the current state of British Columbia’s recovery houses and the risk that the bad ones pose to anyone seeking safe, quality care.

Nor is she alone when she calls it “the wild, wild West.”

Anyone able to build a website and rent a house can operate a so-called recovery house. Like a game of whack-a-mole, even when inspectors try to shut down the worst ones, they spring up somewhere else.

That said, the regulations they’re supposed to enforce are so vaguely worded that it’s easier for bylaw inspectors to shut places down for garbage infractions than for failure to provide the most basic of services like food and a clean bed to people desperate for help.

Even the most deplorable ones have never been taken to court by the province, let alone fined or convicted which makes the penalties of up to $10,000 moot.

It’s taken two years, but this week Darcy — along with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Social Development Minister Shane Simpson — took the first steps toward bringing some order to the chaos and overturning years of neglect.

In two separate announcements, what they’re offering is both the stick of tighter regulations and enforcement as well as the carrot of more money for operations and training staff.

The carrots announced Friday include $4,000 grants available immediately to registered and licensed recovery home operators to offset the costs of training for staff before tougher regulations come into force on Dec. 1.

On Oct. 1, the per-diem rate paid for the treatment of people on social assistance will be raised after more than a decade without an increase. Recovery houses on the provincial registry will get a 17-per-cent increase to $35.90, while recovery houses licensed by the regional health authorities will jump to $45 from $40.

The sticks are new regulations that for the first time require things like qualified staff, which common sense should have dictated years ago as essential. Recovery houses will have to provide detailed information about what programs and services they offer. Again, this seems a no-brainer, as does requiring operators to develop personal service plans for each resident and support them as they transition out of residential care.

As for enforcement, the “incremental, remedial approach” to complaints has been scrapped and replaced with the power to take immediate action rather than waiting for a month and giving written notice to the operators.

Darcy is also among the first to admit that much, much more needs to be done to rein in bad operators whose purported treatment houses are flophouses and to provide addicts and their families with the resources they need to discern the good from the bad.

More than most, the minister knows the toll that poor funding and lack of regulation is taking both on addicts who seek help and on their loved ones. She’s haunted by meetings she’s had with the loved ones of those who have died in care and those who couldn’t get the services they needed.

“It’s the most difficult thing that I have to do and, of course, it moves me to my core,” she said in an interview following the announcement. “People say, ‘Do you ever get used to it?’ Of course I don’t. If you ever get used to it, you’re doing the wrong job.

“But I try and take that to drive me and to drive our government to do more and to move quickly and act on all fronts and having said that, there’s a lot to do. There’s really, really a lot to do.”

Among those she’s met are the two mothers of men who died within days of each other in December under deplorable conditions in two provincially registered recovery houses run by Step By Step.


B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy shares a laugh with Scott Kolodychuk, operations manager of Surrey’s Trilogy House One recovery home where Friday’s news conference was held.

Mike Bell /

PNG

It was four to six hours before 22-year-old Zach Plett’s body was found after he overdosed and died. On Christmas Eve, a 35-year-old man died at a different Step by Step house. It was two days before his body was found by other residents.

Two years before those men died, the provincial registrar had received dozens of complaints and issued dozens of non-compliances orders. Both houses remained on the registry until this summer when owner/operator Debbie Johnson voluntarily closed them.

After years of relentless advocacy Susan Sanderson, executive director of Realistic Recovery Society, was happy to host the ministers’ Friday announcement at one of its houses. She wants to believe Darcy that these are just first steps since the per-diem rate is still short of the $40 she and others lobbied for and remains a small fraction of what people who aren’t on welfare are charged — charges that can run up to $350 a day.

Having taken these long overdue and much-needed initial steps, maybe Darcy and her colleagues can take another logical next step to support working people getting access recovery who — without access to employee benefit plans — can’t afford the cost of treatment.

They shouldn’t have to wait until they’re destitute to get care, any more than someone on welfare should be deprived of help.

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25Jul

Global measles cases mean B.C. push for vaccination to continue: health minister

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s health minister says the number of children fully immunized against measles rose by 37,525 between April and June as part of a catch-up program.

Adrian Dix says a requirement for parents to report students’ immunization records in September is expected to further increase vaccination rates in a province that has seen 29 cases of the infectious disease this year.

Dix says up to 50,000 children begin kindergarten every year so the push for vaccination will continue as measles remains a public health issue, especially given that Washington state declared an emergency in January over a rising number of cases and rates of infection increased around the world.


B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix

Nick Procaylo /

PNG

Dix says the number of vaccinations at doctors’ offices and pharmacists has also increased, with 1,220 people getting immunized by pharmacists between April and June, up from 21 during the same period last year.

He says more public education about measles led to a large number of students in Grades 10, 11 and 12 getting themselves immunized at over 1,000 clinics set up at schools.

Health authorities in B.C. also held over 3,500 public health clinics during the three-month catch-up period so people could get immunized.

“The big challenge is that there’s a tendency to respond to these things when they’re seen as crises and after the crisis ends you sort of take the foot off the gas and we don’t intend to do that,” Dix says. “By changing the way that we engage with people on immunization that’s going to continue.”

Two separate doses of the measles mumps and rubella vaccine are needed to provide immunity against the highly contagious airborne disease, the first dose at 12 months of age and the second usually between the ages of four and six.

Symptoms of the disease that was eradicated in Canada in 1998 include fever, cough, runny nose and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest.


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29May

New probe into patient’s death ordered by B.C. health minister

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Health Minister Adrian Dix.


Francis Georgian / PNG

Health minister Adrian Dix said he’s taking the rare step of ordering an independent review into a patient’s death because of the family’s continuing concerns after the initial investigation conducted by two health agencies.

The Vancouver individual, whose identity is being withheld, died in November 2018 and the only detail Dix would disclose is that paramedics had difficulty “accessing” the patient.

Dix conceded it is rare for health ministers to intervene in such cases and this is the first time he has done so since he became health minister two years ago. But he felt it was important for family members who told him  that they wanted “fresh” eyes on the circumstances leading to the death.

“I just felt we needed to do more,” he said, referring to the patient safety review that B.C. Emergency Health Services and Provincial Health Services Authority carried out right after the death.

The new review  will delve into the medical care in the weeks before the death and the emergency response “in the hours surrounding the death.”

The previous investigation was conducted with so-called Section 51 protection, which means there is no public disclosure. Section 51 safety reviews are conducted to see if anything can be learned from a death and suggest steps to prevent reoccurences.

Dix said the new study will have more transparency and will give family members more access to information and findings; the report will also be made although some information may be redacted “for the sake of privacy.”

Dix said he could have referred the case to the Patient Care Quality Review Board but in this case, there was a “technical glitch” that would have meant passing a new regulation. So, he said he decided to refer the case to Dr. Jim Christensen, an emergency physician at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver and head of the academic department of medicine at the University of British Columbia. He will be assisted by Dr. Michael Feldman, the paramedic services medical director and provincial dispatch medical director at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Centre for Prehospital Medicine.

In a purposely vague media release, the ministry of health said the review panel will have the “co-operation” of four agencies — Providence Health Care, VCH, BCEHS and PHSA.

“British Columbians can and do rely on our emergency responders when they are at their most vulnerable,” Dix said in the announcement. “Whenever we are faced with a case that may warrant a review, we look to independent experts who can look for learnings and suggest improvements that will benefit patients, first responders and the system as a whole.”

The government will receive the report by July.

Officials with PHSA would not comment on the internal review process that has already taken place. On its website, PHSA states: “When a patient safety event occurs, the goal is immediate management, disclosure and analysis of the event through a structured process, focused on system improvement, that aims to identify what happened, how and why it happened, whether there are any ways to reduce the risk of recurrence and make care safer. PHSA conducts patient safety event reviews in accordance with Section 51 of the B.C. Evidence Act.”

The review is meant to enable “full, open and candid discussions amongst health care professionals” with the goal of improving care for future patients. Further education or policy changes may be recommended.

“Patient safety event reviews do not preclude health-care professionals from cooperating in other reviews by outside investigative bodies, such as the police or regulators, nor do they shield health care professionals or PHSA from potential civil suits.”

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16Apr

 Microsoft deal means more access for all Canadian public servants with disabilities, minister says

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The federal government has renewed a contract with Microsoft Canada that includes more digital communication tools for public servants with disabilities.

Minister of Accessibility Carla Qualtrough made the announcement at Microsoft’s offices in Vancouver, saying the modern tools will allow for more information sharing, productivity and collaboration.

Qualtrough, who is legally blind, says the seven-year agreement is part of the government’s procurement of software and services for all public servants and that about five per cent of the workforce of 410,000 people has a disability.

The inclusive design of the $940-million deal includes features such as artificial intelligence technology that allows an image on a screen to be described to someone who can’t see and provide transcription for dozens of languages.

Qualtrough says all public servants will now have access to Office 365 and the agreement will enable software to run in data centres or in the cloud.

She says all Canadians will benefit as a result of a strong platform for the delivery of programs and services.


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3Apr

National chronic pain task force a first step: federal health minister

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‘People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,’ says Andrew Koster.


‘People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,’ says Andrew Koster.


CHAD HIPOLITO / CANADIAN PRESS files

The federal health minister is forming a national task force to provide input on how to better prevent, treat and manage chronic pain, which affects one in five Canadians and is often addressed with opioids.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in an interview Wednesday the task force will provide information on barriers that may prevent people suffering with persistent pain from receiving the treatment they need.

“This is the first step in addressing the issue of chronic pain in this country,” she said, adding the eight members will consult with governments and advocacy groups around the country and provide an initial report in June, followed by two more over the next couple of years.

Petitpas Taylor made the announcement in Toronto at the 40th annual scientific meeting of the Canadian Pain Society, which has long called for a national pain strategy, especially as the opioid crisis has exacerbated the stigma around prescribing and use of the pain killers.

She said she committed to exploring the creation of a national pain task force after a discussion with patients, clinicians and researchers at a symposium in Toronto last year, when she heard people living with pain often feel their condition is misunderstood and services are inconsistent.

“We have to recognize that Canada’s a big country and we certainly know there’s inconsistent services in provinces and territories so I have to really have a good understanding of what’s available and what’s happening out there,” Petitpas Taylor said.


Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, stands during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick /

The Canadian Press

Advocates for pain patients presented the former Conservative government with a plan in 2012, but Petitpas Taylor said it’s too early to say whether such a plan will be introduced.

Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, said he’s concerned the task force’s work will go nowhere if there’s a change in government in October.

“I’m looking for signs from the government that they’re taking this seriously and it’s not just something to state during an election campaign,” he said. “There has to be definite action.”

Koster, who will have surgery on his left knee next month following an operation on the other one last year, said he can no longer afford to pay $100 a week for acupuncture to deal with daily pain after he voluntarily reduced his opioids over concerns about any long-term consequences.

“People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,” he said from Victoria.

He said it’s crucial for the task force to identify non-drug costs for patients and provinces for services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and acupuncture as part of any strategy it may come up with in its final report.

Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, pictured at his home in Victoria in 2018.


Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, pictured at his home in Victoria in 2018.

CHAD HIPOLITO /

CANADIAN PRESS files

Serena Patterson, a 60-year-old psychologist in Comox, has lived with pain associated with fibromyalgia for over half her life and also developed migraines that prevented her from continuing her teaching job at a college.

She said a three-year task force seems excessive, especially because advocacy groups have enough information on health-care gaps and patients wait too long to see specialists.

“I think we know that people are dying in an opioid epidemic and chronic pain patients are high on that list,” Patterson said.

“I would hope that this three years would be building, not more research. What needs to be built is a network of multidisciplinary team programs that are accessible, that are in rural areas as well as urban areas, that provide not only medical support but psychological as well as social support to help people be full participants in their life and in their community.”

Dr. Norman Buckley, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care at McMaster University in Hamilton, said hundreds of organizations, patients, clinicians and researchers came together in providing the federal government with the strategy in 2012. There was no action at the time but he said the opioid epidemic has now made that unavoidable.

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18Mar

B.C.’s poverty reduction plan seeks solutions from across government: minister

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The British Columbia government has released guidelines it says will lead it toward the goal of reducing the province’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within the next five years.

Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says the province’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy called TogetherBC takes an approach that involves all of the government to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty.

He says TogetherBC’s programs, policies and initiatives tie together investments launched in the fall of 2017 and are being implemented over three budgets.

He says they include a focus on safe and affordable housing, cutting child-care costs for low-income families and raising income and disability assistance rates.

Simpson says his ministry alone will offer more than $800 million in support to people by 2022 and while those programs and other plans won’t end poverty, the NDP government is confident the strategy will help some of B.C.’s poorest.

Simpson made the comments Monday flanked by several anti-poverty and social service experts at a child care resource centre in Surrey. 


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18Mar

B.C.’s poverty reduction plan seeks solutions from across government, says minister

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The British Columbia government has released guidelines it says will lead it toward the goal of reducing the province’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within the next five years.

Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says the province’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy called TogetherBC takes an approach that involves all of the government to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty.

He says TogetherBC’s programs, policies and initiatives tie together investments launched in the fall of 2017 and are being implemented over three budgets.

He says they include a focus on safe and affordable housing, cutting child-care costs for low-income families and raising income and disability assistance rates.

Simpson says his ministry alone will offer more than $800 million in support to people by 2022 and while those programs and other plans won’t end poverty, the NDP government is confident the strategy will help some of B.C.’s poorest.

Simpson made the comments Monday flanked by several anti-poverty and social service experts at a child care resource centre in Surrey. 


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20Feb

B.C. poverty reduction plan a mix of new and old programs, says minister

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Minister of Social Development Shane Simpson says a new poverty reduction plan, coming within two weeks, will be a mixture of new programs and items government has already announced.


CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VICTORIA — B.C.’s new poverty reduction plan will include a mixture of fresh government programs as well as services that have already been announced, says the social development minister.

Shane Simpson said Wednesday that while no specific money was highlighted in Tuesday’s budget for poverty reduction, there are nonetheless several programs already in place and funded by other ministries that will count toward the plan when it is released in “a couple of weeks.”

The poverty reduction plan calls for a 25 per cent reduction in poverty, and a 50 per cent reduction in child poverty, within five years.

“There are a whole array of issues that will play into achieving those objectives,” said Simpson. “It’s child care, it’s minimum wage, it’s housing, it’s pieces that have gone before, it’s pieces that will come afterwards, it’s pieces that we’re not even sure of where they land like the basic income initiative that we’ll see in 2020.”

Tuesday’s budget did announce a $380-million annual new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit program to give families up to $1,600 a year in financial support for a child — though the benefit doesn’t begin until October 2020. The budget added only $9 million for child care, though that was on top of $1 billion over three years announced last year that funds a mixture of subsidies (including virtually free care for a family with an income under $45,000) and 53 pilot sites for $10-a-day child care.

Simpson said it’s difficult to put a dollar figure on his plan because spending for the child benefit and child care programs are budgeted elsewhere. But he said the plan will incorporate the $100 in increases to the disability and social assistance rates dating back to 2017, as well as the $50 additional rate increase announced in Tuesday’s budget.

Social advocacy groups criticized the government for not providing more assistance for the poor in the budget, including the deeply poor. Simpson said he appreciated the work of the advocacy groups and “I’m looking forward to working with these groups and for them to continue to push us. That’s healthy.”

The poverty plan will also include new funding for rent banks, which Finance Minister Carole James has said will help prevent people from being evicted if they run into financial trouble due to illness, their job or life events. James’s ministry said Wednesday the government will be providing money to existing rent backs in communities across B.C. rather than creating and operating its own.

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18Nov

Stepson of British Columbia’s agriculture minister dies of overdose

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Lana Popham


Vancouver Sun

British Columbia’s agriculture minister says her stepson has died of an accidental drug overdose.

Lana Popham posted about Dan Sealey’s death on Facebook.

She says her partner’s 23-year-old son was caring and smart, and some who knew him may not have realized he struggled with addiction and mental health issues.

Popham encouraged people to donate to an online fundraiser in Sealey’s honour instead of sending flowers.

As of Sunday morning, the fundraiser intended to help people with addictions had raised more than $6,000.


Dan Sealey

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