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Expert: Comatose woman may not have shown signs of pregnancy

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PHOENIX — A doctor examined an Arizona woman in a vegetative state nearly nine months before she gave birth but did not find that she was pregnant, and medical experts said Thursday that it’s possible she displayed no outward signs that workers who cared for her every day would have noticed either.

Police are looking for her rapist and say it appears none of the staff members at a Phoenix long-term care facility knew about the pregnancy until the baby was born Dec. 29, a notion that has drawn skepticism. But the 29-year-old woman, who is described in a medical report as having tubes to feed her and help her breathe, may not have had a swollen belly, according to a doctor of fetal medicine.

While factors remain unknown, such as how far along she was, someone who is fed the same amount from a tube every day might not show any dramatic changes that would be noticed, especially by staffers who don’t work with pregnant patients, said Dr. C. Kevin Huls, a clinical assistant professor and maternal-fetal medicine fellowship director at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.

The mother could actually lose weight in other places like her face or arms if a fetus is consuming nutrients, Huls added.

“A good way to understand it is that really, the baby’s going to continue to grow even at the expense of the mom’s nutrition,” Huls said. “So, her weight may not change because she’s not taking in additional calories. There may be changes to her body that are going to go undetected in a chronic care condition or at a facility like this.”

The revelation that an incapacitated woman was sexually assaulted inside a care facility has horrified advocates for people with disabilities and the community at large. The provider’s CEO resigned this week, and the state said the centre has made safety changes.

A doctor examined the woman on April 16 and found “no change” in her health, writing that the exam was external only, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents. Her mother submitted the results of the physical as part of an annual report that state law requires of legal guardians.

Phoenix police learned of the situation when they received a call on Dec. 29 about a newborn in distress at the Hacienda HealthCare facility. Officers launched a sex crime investigation when it was determined the mother was in a vegetative state, police spokesman Tommy Thompson said.

“She was not in a position to give consent to any of this,” Thompson said.

The baby and the woman are recovering at an area hospital, and their conditions were not released.

It’s possible the woman won’t have any additional long-term complications from giving birth. Women in a vegetative state after accidents or strokes have successfully delivered babies, Huls said.

Her family, who are members of the San Carlos Apache tribe in southeastern Arizona, said in a statement through their attorney that they will care for the baby boy.

Phoenix police, meanwhile, have not ruled out any suspects in the sexual assault. They are gathering DNA samples from the facility’s male staffers and have appealed to the public for any information.

It remains unclear to investigators if the woman was raped more than once.

“I know at least once she was sexually assaulted, which is way too many times,” Thompson said.

The Hacienda intermediate care facility specializes in providing around-the-clock care for infants, children and young adults with developmental disabilities or who are “medically fragile.”

Since the birth came to light, Hacienda HealthCare has implemented increased safety measures, including more than one staff member being present during patient interactions and more scrutiny of visitors.

The company has said it welcomes DNA testing of its male staffers and is co-operating in the investigation.

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Follow Terry Tang on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ttangAP .

Terry Tang, The Associated Press

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Photos surface of Andrew Scheer failing to wear mask while travelling

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OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was spotted Tuesday in a Toronto airport lounge not wearing a mandatory mask.

Two separate photos of the bare-faced party leader sitting comfortably in a waiting area circulated online but his office says he was wearing a mask for his trip.

A spokesperson said the photos must have been taken after he doffed the covering to take a call but before he put it back on.

Toronto’s Pearson airport currently has a policy that masks must be worn at all times to curb the spread of COVID-19, with limited exceptions that include being at a food or beverage service location.

The photos shows Scheer in the lounge with several others, and while they are seated spaced apart, none is wearing a mask.

In April, Scheer was criticized for bringing his family on a government flight back to Ottawa for a House of Commons sitting, reducing the ability for the other two MPs on board to keep a distance from the Scheers.

He and other party leaders have been wearing masks around Parliament Hill. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also wears them during photo ops.

Scheer is the waning days of his leadership. The ballots to select his replacement go in the mail in the coming days and a new leader will be elected in late August.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Shuttered Service Canada centres to slowly reopen with new COVID-19 measures

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OTTAWA — The federal government says it plans to slowly reopen Service Canada centres it shuttered in late March over public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Up to 90 centres across the country will gradually reopen in July, starting with 14 on Wednesday. Further openings are to be guided by public health advice as well as how many Canadians each centre serves.

The government has spent the past few weeks upgrading the centres to put up clear barriers at counters, signs to encourage physical distancing and reduce seating in waiting areas.

Personal protective equipment will also be provided to staff at centres that reopen.

Face masks will be offered to people visiting centres in provinces or municipalities that have mandated their use in indoor public spaces.

Anyone going to a centre that doesn’t fall under any such provincial or municipal requirement will be encouraged to wear a masks and use hand-sanitizer.

While the newly reopened centres will handle queries for social insurance numbers, employment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan among others, the government says passport and biometrics services won’t be available at first.

Days after public health authorities closed businesses and ordered workers to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Liberals closed the sprawling network of Service Canada centres.

Some of the offices, such as one tucked inside Ottawa’s city hall, had already started to close before the official announcement in March as confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased and workers were needed elsewhere, or resisted going in.

The government says an online Service Canada portal opened in response to the closures has seen more than 700,000 requests. That’s about half the number of in-person visits Service Canada locations would see in the same period in normal times.

In a release, the government is still urging Canadians to use online services wherever possible, including to book appointments online for in-person help.

The network of 318 Service Canada centres, along with almost 250 more outreach centres, received about 8.4 million visits during the 12-month period between April 2018 and March 2019. The figure, noted in a recently posted evaluation of federal services, included over 1.9 million people walking in to use a self-service kiosk.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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july, 2020

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