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Health

More than 6,700 veterans from Afghan war receiving federal assistance for PTSD

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OTTAWA — Canada’s war in Afghanistan ended five years ago but the price of that effort continues to grow.

Newly revealed figures show the number of veterans from the war in Afghanistan receiving federal support for mental-health conditions nearly doubled between March 2014 and March 2018.

The figures are in a report obtained from Veterans Affairs Canada through access-to-information legislation and underscore the enduring toll the war has taken on the mental health of many military members who served there. They also highlight the importance of adequate mental-health services for veterans, which successive federal governments have sought to address over the years with mixed results.

The report was provided to former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in January upon her appointment as veterans-affairs minister, a post she held for only a few weeks before resigning amid the SNC-Lavalin affair.

According to the document, more than 6,700 military members who served in Afghanistan received disability benefits for mental-health conditions in March 2018 — an increase of nearly 3,200 from the same month in 2014.

In both cases, the vast majority of those receiving benefits for mental conditions were struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder “directly related to their service in Afghanistan,” according to the report.

In fact, PTSD was found to have been the top medical diagnosis for Afghan war veterans applying for assistance, as compared to hearing loss and ringing in the ears for service members who had not deployed to Afghanistan.

More than 40,000 Canadians served in the 13-year Afghanistan mission, which began with fighting the Taliban after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and progressed to trying to stabilize and rebuild the war-torn country.

That means nearly 17 per cent of all Canadian military personnel who deployed to Afghanistan have received federal assistance for psychological trauma sustained during the war.

Successive federal governments have been criticized for years over the support provided to such veterans, with concerns raised about financial assistance and long wait times for mental-health services.

Veterans Affairs Canada recently revealed nearly 40,000 veterans were waiting at the end of November to hear if their applications for financial assistance would be approved, 11,000 more than the previous year.

And more than one-third of them had been in the queue longer than 16 weeks, which was also an increase and a sign that veterans were waiting ever longer to find out whether they were entitled to assistance.

While Veterans Affairs did not say how many of those applications related to psychological injuries, an internal report obtained by The Canadian Press last year found demand for mental-health services routinely outstripped available resources.

The federal auditor general has also reported on long wait times for such services.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s spokesman Alex Wellstead said there has been an overall increase in the number of former service members who have “put trust in their government and come forward to get help.”

And while he acknowledged that “there is more work to do,” Wellstead said the government is spending billions of dollars on new supports and services as well as additional staff to ensure veterans get the help they need.

The newly released report shows the officials approved 96 per cent of the 2,453 applications for assistance from veterans with PTSD in 2017-18, whereas the approval rates for many other medical conditions were between 75 and 85 per cent.

At the same time, Wellstead noted the department recently established a partnership with the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre to research psychological trauma and provide better advice and support to health-care professionals.

“When it comes to mental-health supports, we work with over 4,000 mental health professionals across the country to ensure veterans get the help that they need,” he said in an email.

“As well, we have hired over 700 new staff to replace the ones the previous government fired, which is helping the processing times. … There is more work to do, but we’re going to continue to do the important work that Canadians expect.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


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Canada’s First Female Astronaut coming to Red Deer for Health Fundraiser

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From the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation

The world’s first neurologist in space is coming to Red Deer

The Red Deer Hospital fundraiser also features comedians from CBC Radio’s “The Debaters”

Red Deer Regional Health Foundation is pleased to announce a new event, The Lunch Box Experience, featuring three of Canada’s brightest stars, all coming together over lunch to raise funds for critical equipment for Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and first neurologist in space, will be the keynote speaker on Monday, September 23, 2019 at Cambridge Red Deer Hotel & Conference Centre.  To motivate and inspire audiences, Dr. Bondar draws on her remarkable depth of expertise as an astronaut, physician, scientific researcher, author, and leader.

This is Dr. Bondar’s first visit to Central Alberta, and may be your only chance to experience this extraordinary woman in person.

 

Also performing are Erica Sigurdson and Dave Hemstad, comedians both regularly featured on CBC Radio’s smash hit The Debaters.  After lunch you’ll enjoy hysterical standup from both Erica and Dave, plus an episode of witty debater-style banter that will have you in stitches!

Tickets are $125 per person or table of 6 for $700; includes a unique lunch and are available now.

The Lunch Box Experience, formally part of the Red Deer Festival of Trees event line-up (Festival Business Lunch) is a fresh, new business networking opportunity.

Proceeds from this event will go towards ceiling-mounted patient lifts at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

For more information, tickets, or sponsorship opportunities, please visit

The Lunch Box Experience:  A Red Deer Hospital Fundraiser

WHEN:     Monday, September 23, 2019

11:00am – 1:30pm

Cambridge Red Deer Hotel & Conference Centre

 

 

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Health

Health Canada announces changes aimed at dropping prices of patented drugs

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patented drugs

OTTAWA — The federal government is overhauling the way it regulates the cost of patented medicines, including ending comparisons to the United States — changes that Canada’s health minister is billing as the biggest step towards lower drug prices in a generation.

Health Canada’s long-awaited amendments to patented medicine regulations, unveiled Friday, include allowing the arm’s-length Patented Medicine Prices Review Board to consider whether the price of a drug reflects the value it has for patients. 

The list of countries that the quasi-judicial board uses to compare prices and gauge its own levels will no longer include the U.S. and Switzerland, both of which are home to some of the highest drug prices in the world.

That’s a category that has also long included Canada, something Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said she’s determined to change.

“If we look at their health care system, and we also look at the economies … it is really hard to compare their health care system to what we have here in Canada,” Petitpas Taylor said in an interview.

“When we changed the basket of countries, we changed them because we wanted to make sure could compare ourselves to similar jurisdictions that have similar health care systems and also similar populations.”

Jane Philpott, Petitpas Taylor’s predecessor in the portfolio, announced in May 2017 the government was embarking on a series of consultations on a suite of proposed regulatory changes related to the drug prices board.

Philpott said the prices review board — first created 30 years ago to ensure companies do not use monopolies to charge excessive costs — was limited in its ability to protect consumers from high drug prices.  The government expressed at the time it hoped to have the new regulations in place no later than the end of 2018.

It has taken a long time for the final changes to be put in place, Petitpas Taylor acknowledged, but she said that’s only because the government wanted to ensure it consulted with all industry stakeholders, patient groups, and people who worked in the field.

Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge was brought on as a third-party reviewer to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, said Petitpas Taylor, who anticipates the amendments announced Friday will save Canadians approximately $13 billion over 10 years on patented drug costs.

“We took our time, we did our due diligence,” she said. “At the end of the day, as Canada’s health minister, my number 1 priority is making sure that medication is available for all Canadians and when we say that Canada’s among the top three countries that pay the highest drug prices in the world, that’s just not acceptable.”

The review board now has the tools and information it needs to meaningfully protect Canadian consumers from excessive prices, board chair Dr. Mitchell Levine said in a statement.

The board hopes to have constructive talks with partners and stakeholders in coming months to make the necessary changes to its guidelines and put the regulatory amendments into effect, he added.

Petitpas Taylor called the changes a “huge step” towards a national pharmacare plan — the public, single-payer system of drug coverage Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to pursue.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party appears poised to make its own proposal for a national plan a central component of its election campaign, dismissed Friday’s announcement as little more than a stall tactic.

“The best way Canada can lower the price of drugs is well documented: buying them in bulk using the negotiating power of a 37-million-person single-payer pharmacare plan,” Singh said in a statement.

“But big pharmaceutical and insurance companies don’t want that, so after meeting with them more than 700 times since 2015, Trudeau’s Liberals are stalling pharmacare, and therefore making life easier for big pharma.”

Innovative Medicines Canada, which represents the pharmaceutical industry, warned in a statement that the regulatory amendments would limit the access of Canadian patients to new, cutting-edge treatments, and would also discourage investment in Canada’s life science sector.

“Our fear is that patients will be worse off,” said IMC president Pamela Fralick.

John Adams, the volunteer chairman of the Best Medicines Coalition, a non-profit organization representing 28 national patient organizations, said Friday that he shares the concerns that patients will be adversely affected.

“If one drug developer decides not to come to Canada or to withdraw from Canada, Canadian patients will suffer and possibly die prematurely,” he said in an interview.

Adams accused Ottawa of ignoring input from patient groups, and said one of the key issues is that the government hasn’t examined drug access in the countries in the new basket over the past 15 years compared to Canada.

The list now includes Germany, Japan, Sweden, the U.K., Italy, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, France and Norway. The former list included the U.S., Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, the U.K., Italy and France.

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press


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august, 2019

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sat24aug10:00 am12:00 pmRed Deer River Naturalists Bird Focus Group Walk10:00 am - 12:00 pm MST Three Mile Bend Recreation Area

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