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Posts Tagged "quality"

20Jun

Reschedule Vancouver fireworks if air quality poor? Not so fast

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Team U.K. puts on a show at the 2017 Honda Celebration of Light in Vancouver.


Francis Georgian / PNG files

When wildfire smoke settles over English Bay this summer, as experts predict it will, there’s not much Vancouver can do about it.

But the city shouldn’t be adding any more ingredients to the “toxic soup,” says Kitsilano resident Judith Maxie, who wants council to reschedule fireworks events if the air quality is poor.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to see that tossing all those fireworks into the soup isn’t a good thing,” she said Thursday. “This is something we can actually change.”

Maxie doesn’t want to ban fireworks altogether — “over the years we’ve loved attending them,” she said — but wants the city to hold events like the Honda Celebration of Light at a different time of year, or put a contingency plan in place in case it’s smoky during the annual Canada Day fireworks.

Dr. Christopher Carlsten said he considers fireworks pollution “a significant issue,” particularly for people who are sensitive to poor air quality. A number of case reports have shown an increase in asthma attacks and irritation in people with lung disease during fireworks events.

“There’s not a lot of good defences for them in a health sense,” said the Vancouver physician. “If we’re just talking about health, I’d say don’t do it.” But the University of B.C. professor and head of respiratory medicine admitted that argument doesn’t factor in the “cultural equation” or the enjoyment derived from the spectacle.

Carlsten, who holds the Canada research chair in occupational and environmental lung disease, said much of the research on fireworks pollution has been done in countries where festivals last for days and fine particulate pollution accumulates at ground level.

“It’s quite clear that fireworks do affect air quality, but in Canada the events do tend to be short,” he said.


Vancouver’s Honda Celebration of Light show. ‘It’s quite clear that fireworks do affect air quality, but in Canada the events do tend to be short,’ says Dr. Christopher Carlsten, a UBC professor and head of respiratory medicine.

Francis Georgian /

PNG files

University of B.C. public health professor Dr. Michael Brauer said Vancouver’s fireworks shows happen high above the ground, which can help the particulate dissipate sooner, especially if wind conditions are favourable.

“It’s a transient increase,” he said of the rise in fine particulate pollutants associated with fireworks. “For most people, it shouldn’t be a concern, but for those with asthma or heart and lung concerns, it would be best to minimize exposure.”

Metro Vancouver air quality advisor Geoff Doerksen said pollution from fireworks is “short-lived and dissipates quickly,” and most years it doesn’t reach the ground. Any localized impacts to air quality tend to return to normal levels within a few hours.

Doerksen advised people who are concerned to avoid viewing areas and close their windows if they live in the area.

In a statement, the City of Vancouver said it did not receive any complaints about air quality during last year’s fireworks events and “is not considering cancelling or rescheduling fireworks that occur on Canada Day or at the Celebration of Lights.”

The summers of 2017 and 2018 were the worst on record for smoky skies across B.C.


Dr. Christopher Carlsten.

In Metro Vancouver, there were 22 days last July and August under air-quality advisories, three more than in the summer of 2017.

The last two summers have far exceeded the number of advisories issued in any other year since 1996, the first year for which data is available. Several years, including 2016, had zero air-quality advisories.

In 2015, a U.S. study published in Atmospheric Environment found that levels of fine particulate matter are elevated in urban areas by an average of 42 per cent during the 24-hour period starting with a fireworks event.

“That was a national average across 315 monitoring sites; it actually varies from place to place and year to year,” lead author Dian Seidel, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Postmedia at the time.

One monitoring station located near the site of a display registered a 370-per-cent increase in fine particles.

Meanwhile, a study led by researchers from the University of Montreal took recorded PM2.5 concentrations as much as 1,000 times normal on single readings within the smoke plume.

Readings from monitoring stations set up at “breathing level” near the ground showed PM2.5 concentrations about 50 times normal levels during the display. Elevated concentrations of fine particles were detected as far away as 14 kilometres, suggesting the particles remain in the atmosphere for “a long period of time,” probably days.

With Postmedia files

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18Jun

Will this be another summer of wildfire smoke and poor air quality in B.C.?

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Shell Road in Richmond was hit by a wildfire on July 27, 2018.


Francis Georgian / PNG

All indications suggest British Columbians should prepare for another smoky summer this year, experts warned today.

B.C. Wildfire information shows the province has so far this year seen increased drought and higher-than-average temperatures, which are expected to continue. Experts are predicting a greater risk of wildfires and smoke in the province this summer, particularly in the southwest, which includes Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver air quality engineer Francis Reis said more studies are making a strong link between climate change and the exacerbation of wildfire seasons.

“As we continue to see further warming, we can expect the patterns we are seeing now to continue or even get more extreme,” he said.

Residents are reminded to try to stay indoors when air quality bulletins are issued.

The summers of 2017 and 2018 were the worst on record for smoky skies in B.C., caused by wildfires. This led to warnings that people take caution when outside, especially those with asthma, lung conditions, the elderly and pregnant women.

The hot, dry spring has many worried that 2019 could also bring hazy skies that are bad for residents’ health.

More to come…

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12Jun

9,500 patient complaints lodged with B.C. health authorities over treatment quality

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A record number of complaints were filed with health authorities last year over patient care, more than 9,500 according to the Patient Care Quality Review Boards report for 2017/18.


Gerry Kahrmann / PROVINCE

A record number of complaints were filed with health authorities last year over patient care – about 9,500 according to the Patient Care Quality Review Boards report for 2017/18.

That’s up from 8,900 the year before and about 9,000 the year before that.

Patient Care Quality Offices and review boards were formed 10 years ago to give health system users and their families an outlet to voice their frustration. The boards in each health region accept complaints from patients and others only if their concerns about their experiences are not resolved to their satisfaction by Patient Care Quality Offices in each health region.

Less than two per cent of complaints are escalated to the review boards which suggests patients are largely satisfied with how their local health authorities are handling their concerns, said Richard Swift, chair of the Island Health Patient Care Quality Review Board.

Given the fact there are tens of millions of health care interactions, the number of complaints is relatively small, said Swift.

The latest annual report gives scarce information about the nature of complaints and recommended changes but a few of them include:

Island Health

• A complaint pertained to various issues including extraordinarily long wait time for care in a hospital emergency room for which Island Health acknowledged and apologized. The complaint also involved an allegation that a patient was assaulted by a staff member in the ER. The health authority agreed to develop a policy detailing what actions must be taken when such complaints are made, including when police or regulatory bodies for health professionals should be contacted.

• The Island review board recommended a hospital conduct exit interviews with patients to ask about their satisfaction levels with the quality of care and communication. Currently, the health ministry sends out surveys on a random basis which are then reported to health authorities on a quarterly basis. But Swift says more can be done to ensure patients are given opportunities to comment on their care.

Fraser Health

• A care aide escorted a frail patient to the bathroom but then left the patient alone to attend to another matter. The low cognition patient fell in the bathroom. There are more than a dozen policies regarding the prevention of falls, some of which were not followed in this case.

Vancouver Coastal Health

• A complaint was lodged about a vulnerable patient who went to a hospital emergency department. The board said the case was an example of how not to “prejudge patients who appear to be homeless, suffering from mental health, addiction issues and/or other challenges.” In response, hospital staff said there were departmental meetings where staff was reminded about the need to “provide care for the patients as a whole, the importance of listening to patients and their family, and the need to not prejudge patients on any aspect of their presentation.”

• In a case not highlighted in the annual report, a patient bled to death after paramedics could not get access to the individual’s Downtown Eastside building because of multiple security locks on doors and elevators. Health minister Adrian Dix said family members were not satisfied with the way complaints were handled so he has taken the rare step of ordering an independent review. 

The case pertains to Tracey Gundersen who bled to death last November after it reportedly took paramedics over half an hour to get to her sixth-floor suite. Firefighters who have master keys to such buildings were eventually dispatched to get paramedics inside. But a few years ago, B.C. Emergency Health Services changed policies and procedures to cut down on multiple crews attending each call so firefighters are no longer sent as first responders to many cases.

Gundersen’s daughter told CBC her mother was dying while on a phone line with a dispatcher and she’s angry that her mother’s case was not treated as life-threatening and that paramedics didn’t call for firefighters’ help sooner, especially since a firehall was just a block away.

Interior Health

• An incapacitated patient’s valuables and personal effects went missing at a hospital and were never recovered so the health region offered $500 in compensation. The board ordered the health region to have designated staff members whose job entails the safekeeping and documentation of patients’ belongings.

Northern Health

• A long-standing complaint going back to 2015 when Northern Health officials were alerted by a staff member to lapses in medical device disinfection and sterilization procedures related to instruments called endoscopes. Thousands of patients had procedures like colonoscopies that relied on the scopes but a consultation with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control did not show any “increase in specific infection types” during the two year period when the errors took place.

Although patients were sent letters to inform them of the breeches, the review board recommended a more fulsome public communication plan including direct meetings with patients or even town hall meetings to broadcast the errors, risks, actions, and any mitigating steps. As well, the region has to ensure that when such things happen, all affected patients should have a doctor who can address any concerns and ongoing needs.

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8500 patient complaints




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