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Nearly 1,500 died of illicit overdoses last year in B.C.: coroner

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  • VICTORIA — More people fatally overdosed in British Columbia last year compared with 2017 despite efforts to combat the province’s public health emergency, the coroner says.

    Illicit overdose deaths increased to 1,489 in 2018, slightly higher than the 1,486 deaths recorded in 2017, the BC Coroners Service said Thursday. But it said last year’s total is likely to go higher as death investigations conclude.

    Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said the province must be ready to do things differently to save lives, adding that the drug supply is unpredictable and the opioid fentanyl was detected in 86 per cent of the overdose deaths. 

    “Substance use disorder is a health issue and forcing those attempting to manage their health issue to buy unpredictable and often toxic substances from unscrupulous profit-motivated traffickers is unacceptable,” she told a news conference.

    Fentanyl is a highly potent and addictive opioid that is estimated to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is commonly mixed into opioids sold on the street, meaning users don’t know the potency of the drugs they take.

    Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy acknowledged the overdose crisis is continuing to take a toll on families throughout B.C. despite the province using “every available tool” to deal with it.

    “By the end of this day, four people will die from an overdose in British Columbia,” she said in a news release. “Most of these people will die alone, with no one beside them, no one to call for help.”

    The provincial health officer declared a public health emergency almost three years ago in B.C. as the number of drug overdoses and deaths rose.

    The figures for 2018 show middle-aged men are over-represented in the death toll, with 80 per cent of the suspected fatalities involving males. People aged 30 to 59 accounted for 71 per cent of the deaths.

    Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said people who use drugs need treatment options, rather than sending them to the criminal justice system.

    She said people at risk of overdose should also have fewer barriers to a regulated supply of opioids.

    “If we’re going to turn the corner on this complex crisis, we need to find the ways to provide safer alternatives to the unregulated and highly toxic drug supply and to end the stigma associated with criminalization of people who use drugs,” she said.

    Dr. Evan Wood, executive director with the BC Centre on Substance Use, said there’s an urgent need to end the harms caused by prohibition.

    “Its incumbent for all of us to keep the pressure on and not get complacent,” he said at a news conference. “Fentanyl, unfortunately, is something that’s not going away.”

    Leslie McBain, whose son died of a drug overdose five years ago, agreed that a stronger response is needed.

    “Work has been done, but the numbers, almost 1,500 people dying last year, is not good.”

    A task force involving mayors from 13 cities including Vancouver pushed in 2017 for prescription heroin to be made available to people who have not responded to other forms of intervention. Vancouver has the only clinic in Canada providing prescription heroin but it accepts a limited number of patients.

    Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in December that creating a safer opioid supply was being reviewed and discussed with provinces and territories.

    Officials in cities including Vancouver and Toronto have also called for decriminalization as the number of overdose deaths increases across the country.

    Canadian health-care experts have encouraged Ottawa to adopt Portugal’s approach to drug policy, which decriminalizes limited amounts of drugs for personal use, while offering education and social supports.

    Data from a federal task force on opioid deaths said nearly 4,000 Canadians died as a result of overdoses in 2017, a 34 per cent increase from the previous year.

     

    Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press



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    Alberta

    As Hair Massacure Returns for Another Year, Here’s A Moving Look at How it Began

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  • On February 22, 2019, thousands of heads will be shaved in honour of the journey of sick children losing their hair due to chemotherapy.

    People will gather once again at the Toyota Mayfield Ice Palace at West Edmonton Mall to collectively shave their heads, raising money in support of Albertans facing cancer.

    The Hair Massacure is founded, supported and organized by The MacDonald Family, in honour of their daughter Kali, a childhood cancer survivor.

    The MacDonald family partners once again with the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada and supports Terry Fox Profyle, a Pediatric cancer research project.

    With the support of their partners, the family plans to scale Hair Massacure to the national level with the support of the Children’s Wish Foundation, continuing to raise funding for pediatric cancer research and for children with life threatening illnesses.

    Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada

    Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada is a 100% Canadian charity that grants the single-most heartfelt wishes of Canadian children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Every wish is as unique as the child making it.  In Alberta and the NWT, we grant a Wish every three days and approve around 180 new Wishes each year. Wish referrals can be made by anyone who has a child in their lives between the ages of 3-17 and meets the medical criteria. Become a supporter of the largest Wish granting organization in Canada today!

    Terry Fox Profyle

    For the first time in Canadian history, more than 30 pediatric cancer research and funding organizations have joined forces through Terry Fox PROFYLE, a pan-Canadian project to give children, adolescents and young adults who are out of conventional treatment options another chance to beat their cancer. Short for PRecision Oncology For Young peopLE, the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) and these research and funding partners are working and fundraising together under a unique partnership that to date is providing a total of $16.4 million to molecularly profile the tumours of these patients, no matter where they live in Canada. For example, if Terry Fox had been diagnosed with cancer today, he would have been eligible for PROFYLE when the tumour returned and spread to his lungs. A $5-million investment by TFRI is the catalyst bringing together top scientists and clinicians, research centres, cancer charities and foundations at children’s hospitals across the country to create new hope for young people who need it the most.

    Video produced by Storyteller Productions .


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    Health

    Health agency hunts for Canadians who had surgery at Tijuana clinic

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  • OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada says at least 30 Canadians who had surgery at a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico are at risk of potentially deadly infection.

    But the agency isn’t sure, because of the difficulty in responding to health alerts in other countries.

    An investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control last month found Canadians underwent weight-loss surgeries at the Grand View Hospital in Tijuana, just like American patients who became infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria. Tijuana is right next to the U.S. border, close to San Diego.

    “It may be that we never know the exact number of Canadians involved,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public-health officer. “We’re trying to ensure that all patients … should be having communications from the treating facility to inform them of their potential risk so that they can do medical follow-ups.”

    The federal public-health agency issued a notice Wednesday recommending patients who went to the Grand View Hospital, or other Tijuana facilities, starting last August, seek medical help immediately if they’re experiencing signs of infection, including fever, redness, or pus or swelling at the surgical site.

    The bacteria involved is called pseudomonas aeruginosa, and it’s a known hazard in medical settings, especially for patients who have had surgery.

    The health agency also warns of risk of blood-borne infections including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C due to poor equipment sterilization at Grand View. Other patients are advised to avoid the hospital until Mexican authorities give the all-clear.

    Medical tourism presents a challenge to health authorities because Canadians are under no obligation to report when they’ve had treatments abroad, Njoo said.

    “We can’t demand or track any Canadian who decides to go overseas,” said Njoo. “Anyone could be going abroad for tourism and if that includes going for an elective procedure in a medical facility that’s not something that we would necessarily be aware of.”

    A 2017 survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found Canadians were the third-biggest market for plastic surgery outside their home country, behind only Americans and Spaniards.

    According to Statistics Canada, overseas health-related spending by Canadians rose from $447 million in 2013 to $690 million in 2017.

    Stephen Cook, The Canadian Press


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    february, 2019

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