Canada’s minister of mental health and addictions says more doctors across the country should be willing to prescribe a safer supply of drugs to reduce overdoses instead of fearing they will face barriers from their regulatory colleges.
Carolyn Bennett said a guidance document by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia could be very helpful in other provinces and territories.
“We are, I think, a bit limited at the moment, frankly, because of some of the approaches of the colleges of physicians and surgeons across the country,” Bennett told a news conference Wednesday.
“Physicians have felt that they would not be able to do this without being investigated by [their] college, unfortunately.”
The B.C. college has said physicians who prescribe pharmaceutical-grade alternatives to street drugs as part of a comprehensive treatment plan or a stand-alone harm reduction strategy could better support patients and reduce their risk of overdose and death.
The practice is based on a policy directive developed last July by the B.C. ministries of health and mental health and addictions as part of an urgent response to the overdose crisis.
Bennett made the comments while announcing harm-reduction initiatives across Canada, including seven safer supply programs in B.C. and Ontario, involving $40 million in funding that’s already been budgeted for various programs.
More than 7,500 people across the country fatally overdosed last year, she said, and it’s time Canadians understand the role they could play in dealing with stigma related to drug use.
“From Cape Spear to Haida Gwaii, from Carcross to Windsor in southern Ontario, people are dying,” said Bennett.
She said pandemic restrictions such as gathering limits made it more difficult for people to access services, while systemic discrimination and racism in the health-care system mean people don’t seek help.
“There’s an emerging consensus that we have to do more to reverse this devastating trend, save lives and bridge the gaps that exist in our health-care systems so that more people can get the care they need,” she said.
Even in B.C., however, doctors face challenges in prescribing safer opioids.
Of 7,229 practising family physicians, 1,607 self-reported on their 2022 annual licence renewal form that they prescribe safer supply, the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons said.
The college said in a written response that some of its concerns include a shortage of qualified family physicians across the province, as well as limited clinical guidelines for support and training.
It also said limited clinical research in prescribed safer supply, something that’s noted in the province’s policy directive, which says an evaluation is expected to gather evidence to determine the feasibility of developing provincewide clinical guidance to support broader uptake across B.C.
“Safer supply prescribing is challenging and also very resource intensive,” the college said, noting that access is needed to health-care teams that can provide additional social supports like counselling, safe housing and social workers.
“These services are not readily available in all communities. Also, the current fee-for-service payment model does not support family physicians to do this difficult work.”
In May, Bennett joined Sheila Malcolmson, her counterpart in B.C., to announce that drug users in the province will not be charged for possessing up to 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine or MDMA, also known as ecstasy, for three years. The plan is slated to start on Jan. 31, 2023, the first such move in North America.
Half of the $40 million in funding Bennett announced Wednesday is for services in Ontario, while the rest has been divided among all other provinces and Yukon.
Michael Vonn, CEO of the PHS Community Services Society, which provides harm-reduction and housing services in Vancouver and Victoria, said a new grant will allow for the installation of a technological system that alerts emergency responders if someone is at risk of overdose.
The Lifeguard Digital Health app sends an alert if a resident using drugs alone does not respond to an alert that triggers them to turn it off, something they wouldn’t be able to do if they’re unconscious. That would prompt staff to check on that person before the system calls paramedics if help does not arrive.
The society documented 2,047 overdoses in 2021, with 309 of them occurring in private units, Vonn said.
The system builds on a successful pilot and would benefit residents of about 1,500 units of supportive housing and 200 shelter spaces, Vonn said.
The Holocaust strikes our very being
To be a Jew is not something special,
being a human being is normal.
Dealing with prejudice, hatred, and oppressive action,
now that’s something special for the Jewish Nation.
Oppression, hatred, and genocide besides,
is not just a Jewish person’s situation.
Armenian, Cambodian and Jewish Peoples deal,
with a national eradication event.
People of the world unit,
genocide is an international delight.
Oppress your people, crush opposition too.
The elites of the world are making exceptions for you.
Don’t be weak, allowing excuses to be made,
but lift your hands in justice’s cruel wave.
Hatred knows no reasonability, it knows no mercy.
Hatred, oppression, and prejudice need no exception.
Long ago Jews were murdered by the millions,
Cambodians died at the hands of their neighbors.
Palestine still walks within the borders of other nations,
and peace is nowhere to be found, my friend.
If your arms are in righteous ways demand justice for all,
for the people who hate will not see our peaceful ways.
A gun, a bayonet, and a saber be brought,
for the right to justice begins today,
and ends with blood if the opposition has any say.
Gandhi spoke of peaceful ways,
while Martin Luther Jr surrendered his life. to the cause.
Young blacks die each and every day,
while the power of prejudice wins the day.
My first lifts in anger that is for sure,
while the average person just shrugs this day.
But the goose-stepping troops may one day march on,
and the ignorance that prevails will let them carry on.
Open our eyes to the wrongs before us,
clear our minds and accept what bothers us.
Injustice is a prevailing horrid thing,
and ONLY YOU CAN BRING IT TO AN END.
Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care
The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.
Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.
The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.
During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.
But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.
Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.
The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.
But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.
Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.
Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
Singh meeting with Trudeau about private health care ahead of sit-down with premiers
Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.
“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.
The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.
Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.
While health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, Singh believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.
“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health-care,” Singh said.
“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”
The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.
On Saturday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said his Liberal government will ensure people don’t use their credit cards for health-care services and health care will remain universally public.
Singh is also expected to request an emergency House of Commons debate on the privatization of health care Monday afternoon.
If the request is granted, the debate could go ahead as early as Monday evening.
Health care is a top priority for the leader as members of Parliament return to the House Monday following a holiday break.
Singh spent some of that time away holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
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