Ontario is reporting 119 new laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and three related deaths Monday.
New Brunswick has missed the opportunity to screen more than 1,800 potential tissue or ocular donors because no one was available to screen them, according to new figures obtained by CBC News through access to information.
The numbers, which capture the period April 2017 to September 2019, show the province has widespread gaps in its tissue and ocular donation program.
The figures don’t capture organ donation, which is separate and runs 24 hours a day, according to Horizon Health Network, which operates the New Brunswick Organ and Tissue Program.
Horizon estimates about four per cent of potential donor “referrals” will become tissue or ocular donors.
That would mean the 1,851 missed potential donors could have translated into about 74 actual donors, giving life-altering tissue or ocular donations such as corneas, tendons and bones.
The numbers were “shocking” and “disappointing” for Michelle Astle, whose 16-year-old son, Avery, was one of the 1,851 missed potential donors.
“I think people in general have a trust that our system is not failing their citizens, their customers,” Astle said.
“However, with those stats, it’s proving that we are failing.”
Avery and three of his friends — Emma Connick, Logan Matchett and Cassie Lloyd — died following a devastating car crash in Miramichi last Easter weekend.
The Astles remember their son as someone who always did the right thing and always wanted to help others. While they don’t believe Avery could have donated his organs, they were at least hoping he could provide a tissue or ocular donation that could help improve someone else’s quality of life.
But when the Astles asked staff at the Moncton Hospital about donating Avery’s organs and tissues, they say they were told no one was available to facilitate the donation.
Earlier this year, provincial Health Minister Ted Flemming noted in the legislature that the crash happened “late at night on a Saturday between a Good Friday holiday and an Easter Sunday holiday.”
“Sometimes, things like this unfortunately and regrettably happen,” Flemming said in the legislature on May 9, adding that he would “work hard to try to see that it is improved.”
But Astle said the statistics show it isn’t just a problem on holiday weekends.
“That obviously wasn’t the case, because you’re going month to month to month, and that many people not getting assessed,” she said.
In addition to Avery, 62 other potential donors weren’t screened in April because the program was closed or there was no technician on call, the figures show.
The month with the highest number of missed screenings was December 2018, with 112.
According to the data provided by Horizon, the program could be closed for a variety of reasons, including that the retrieval team is already working on a recovery for another donation. A technician might not be on call because of a “staff shortage and planned or unplanned absences.”
No one from the health authority was made available for an interview.
Horizon sent along more recent statistics, which show “far fewer gaps in service” so far this fiscal year.
In August and September, the most recent months for which numbers are available, the program missed screening 31 and 27 potential donors, respectively.
“While Horizon acknowledges there is still work to be done in terms of addressing the gaps that continue to exist in our ocular and tissue programs, it is clear we are making progress,” Nadya Savoie, director of the New Brunswick Organ and Tissue Program, wrote in an emailed statement.
Savoie said the program has been able to hire and train new staff members, which has increased on-call service.
In comparison, the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Regional Tissue Bank is “always operating” with a full staff complement, according to an emailed statement from Harold Taylor, health services manager of the tissue bank.
Nova Scotia’s program has missed only five donations since April of this year.
“We have recently developed a service delivery model for tissue donation to be efficient and sustainable in the face of new legislation, and have developed a more effective referral process,” Taylor wrote.
In comparison, New Brunswick missed 204 potential donors between April and the end of September, Horizon’s figures show.
A spokesperson for Eastern Health in Newfoundland and Labrador said that province “does not have an ocular or tissue donation program.” Instead, the province imports tissue, including ocular tissue, for transplants.
Prince Edward Island doesn’t do tissue and ocular donation, according to a spokesperson for Health PEI. Potential donors are referred to the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Regional Tissue Bank.
In New Brunswick, in cases where a family wants to donate but no one is available to screen the potential donor, a new policy means there will always be a program member available to answer family members’ questions, Savoie wrote.
“We have already witnessed some successes as a direct result of this measure and are optimistic that will continue to be the case moving forward.”
But Astle said the new policy isn’t good enough because it still relies on family members to ask about donation.
“I can see why many wouldn’t [ask] because you’re in such grief and shock,” Astle said.
“It shouldn’t be up to the family to ask. They should be coming to the family and explaining it and saying, ‘Are you willing?'”
In the eight months since she said goodbye to Avery, Astle has had many dark days. But she’s also seen some light.
The Astles have started a campaign called Let’s Act 4 Avery to spread the word about donation, and she believes his story has already had an impact.
On her Christmas tree, she’s hung several ornaments made in Avery’s memory.
“It is always the right time to do the right thing,” one says.
“There’s been a lot of really good things to come out of it,” Astle said.
But she believes there’s more to be done to make things better.
Horizon’s statement doesn’t mention what prompted a new policy and changes in the tissue donation program. That doesn’t sit well with Astle.
“The only reason those changes have happened is because we stood up and we spoke up. It’s because of Avery,” she said.
“So to me, at least own that and say, ‘Thank you, and because of your son these changes have been made to help others.'”
Asked what Avery would think about the number of missed potential donations, Astle said her son always found a way to see the good in everything. She doesn’t think he would have wanted to dwell on the negative.
“It would be, ‘Well there’s a chance there to help save others and they’re doing the best they can,’ would be what Avery would say,” Astle said.
“But mother bear kicks in and says, we need to do better.”
Ontario is reporting 119 new laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and three related deaths Monday.
The province has now seen 549,447 total cases since the beginning of the pandemic and 9,316 people have died.
There are currently 96 patients in Ontario hospitals, with an additional 131 in intensive care units, and of those, 79 require a ventilator. (Ontario Public Health statistics of ICU hospitalizations and ventilator cases contain some patients who no longer test positive for COVID-19 but who are being treated for conditions caused by the virus. As such, occasionally, the number of patients in ICUs or that require a ventilator may exceed the number of patients in hospitals with COVID-19.)
Another 137 cases were resolved in the past 24 hours and of Ontario’s total case count, 538,702 are now considered resolved.
There were 11,930 tests conducted in the province Sunday with a 1.0 per cent positivity rate.
There were 22 cases identified in Toronto, 15 in Hamilton, 14 in Waterloo, and 13 in Peel region.
Officials in Ontario are also continuing to track the spread of variants of concern in the province.
There were 19 new confirmed cases of the Alpha variant, and there have now been 145,405 confirmed cases of that strain in Ontario.
Three new cases of the Delta variant were confirmed Monday, and there have now been 3,916 total cases of that variant in Ontario.
No new cases of the Beta or Gamma variant were identified in the province, according to Monday’s data.
Ontario’s vaccination rollout has now reached 80.4 per cent of eligible (12-plus) residents with one dose, and 66.7 per cent of residents have received both vaccine doses.
Another 65,920 vaccine doses were administered across the province on Sunday. As of 8 p.m. Sunday, 19,018,393 doses had been administered and 8,625,932 Ontarians had been fully immunized with both doses, according to the latest provincial data.
Ottawa Public Health is reporting seven new cases in the city and no new deaths.
There have now been 27,782 total cases in Ottawa and of those, 27,147 are resolved. There have been 593 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the city.
There are now 42 active cases in Ottawa, two fewer than Sunday, and there remains one patient in hospital, with none in ICU.
There have been 40 total cases of the Delta variant in Ottawa, according to provincial data.
There have also been 1,416,743 total vaccine doses administered in Ottawa.
According to OPH, 768,001 eligible residents (age 12-plus) have received one dose, and 638,520 are full vaccinated.
That represents 83 per cent of the eligible population with one dose and 69 per cent of the eligible population with both doses.
There was one new local case reported Sunday, and Ottawa has seen 27,775 total cases and 593 deaths, according to Sunday’s data.
Only one other case was identified Monday in the East region of the province, with one confirmed case in the Hatings region.
No new cases were identified in the Eastern Ontario public health unit, Kingston, Renfrew County or in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark.
Premier Doug Ford is in Ottawa Monday to make an announcement at the Ottawa Hospital’s General campus, where will be joined by Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jeremy Roberts, Mayor Jim Watson, and Ottawa Hospital president and CEO Cameron Love.
The announcement is set for 1:15 p.m.
There have been 298 new cases in Quebec since the last provincial update on Friday, including 223 new cases over the weekend and 75 new cases confirmed Monday.
There have been 376,828 total cases in Quebec and 11,240 deaths. One new death was reported in Monday’s data.
Of those total cases, 364,774 people have recovered in Quebec and those cases are now considered resolved.
There are 67 patients in hospital in Quebec, which remains stable for the previous day’s figures, and there are 20 people in intensive care. That is one fewer than recent days.
Another 55,188 vaccine doses have been administered in the province, including 54,106 doses in the past 24 hours.
There have been 12,228,529 total vaccine doses administered in the province.
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If you don’t eat whole grain foods on a daily basis, consider rethinking your menu.
According to researchers from Tufts University in Boston, doing so can help you manage your waist size, blood sugar (glucose) and blood pressure as you age. And it doesn’t take a lot. The sweet spot, it seems, is three whole grain servings each day.
Repeated studies have linked higher whole grain intakes to protection against heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The latest findings, published earlier this month in the Journal of Nutrition, suggest that whole grains guard against chronic disease by reducing increases in risk factors that occur over time.
All grains – such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, oats – start out as whole grain kernels made up of three layers: The outer bran layer, which contains nearly all the fibre; the inner germ layer, which is rich in nutrients, antioxidants and healthy fats; and the starchy endosperm.
Eating whole grains and 100-per-cent whole grain foods means that you’re getting all parts of the grain kernel.
When whole grains are processed into refined flour, the bran and germ layers are removed, resulting in a loss of most of the fibre, one-quarter of the grain’s protein and a substantial amount of at least 17 nutrients.
The researchers compared how whole grain and refined grain intake affected changes in five risk factors for heart disease and stroke: waist circumference, fasting blood glucose, blood pressure, blood triglycerides (fats) and HDL (“good”) blood cholesterol.
They did so by assessing the diets and health of 3,121 middle-aged and older adults, every four years, over a span of 18 years. Participants were, on average, 55 years old at the start of data collection.
People who ate at least three daily servings of whole grains (versus one-half or less) experienced smaller increases in waist circumference. Over each four-year period, waist circumference increased one inch among those who ate few whole grains compared to one-half inch among those who ate more whole grains. The protective effect of whole grains on waist size was strongest in women.
Whole grain eaters also had smaller increases in fasting blood glucose and blood pressure over time.
With respect to refined grains (such as white bread, white pasta and white rice), the results revealed that people who ate four or more servings per day (versus fewer than two) experienced greater increases in waist circumference and smaller declines in blood triglycerides over the study period.
Eating fibre-rich whole grains can help you feel satiated and prevent overeating. The soluble fibre in whole grains can also help prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin after eating. This may, in turn, favour fat-burning rather than fat storage.
Whole grains are also good sources of magnesium and potassium, minerals used to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. And many whole grains contain prebiotic carbohydrates, which fuel beneficial gut microbes.
One serving of whole grain is equivalent to one slice of 100-per-cent whole grain bread or one-half cup of cooked whole grain pasta or cooked whole grain (including oats, brown rice, farro, millet and hulled barley).
Read labels on packages of whole grain breads, crackers and breakfast cereals. If you don’t see “100-per-cent whole grain” listed, scan the ingredient list to make sure the product doesn’t contain refined grains (for example, wheat flour).
When buying rye bread look for ingredients that indicate whole grain such as whole rye flour, rye meal, rye kernels and rye flakes.
Don’t be fooled by claims of added fibre. Wonder White + Fibre bread, for example, isn’t a whole grain bread. Nor is Catelli’s Smart Pasta. Both are refined grain products with added oat hull fibre (and inulin in the pasta).
If you avoid wheat, rye and barley because they contain gluten, include gluten-free whole grains in your daily diet such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, teff, sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth and gluten-free oats.
Batch cook whole grains so that you have them ready to add to meals. Toss cooked quinoa, bulgur or farro into green salads; add barley, red rice or spelt berries to soups, stews and chilis; or make whole grain bowls with freekeh or brown rice.
Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD
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