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One day, four overdose deaths: Ontario city struggles as opioid crisis marches on – The Globe and Mail

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Kevin Davis, the mayor of Brantford, Ont., is photographed during an interview at Brantford city hall on Jan 18 2019. Mayor Davis had to pause to get control of his emotions when asked about the impact of the opioid crisis on his city.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

One was a burger-joint chef who loved to skateboard when he was growing up. One was a big truck driver with striking blue eyes. Another was the father of four kids. Another was famous for his devotion to his dog, Rocco.

These four men all died of drug overdoses on a grey Friday this month in Brantford, the small city in Southwestern Ontario where Wayne Gretzky was raised. It is the most overdose deaths the city has had in one day, the equivalent – when compared to the size of its population – to 120 deaths in one day in Toronto.

Like other Ontario cities that have seen overdose rates rise as the opioid crisis moves from west to east across the country, Brantford is struggling with the loss. Mayor Kevin Davis had to pause to get control of his emotions when asked about the impact on his city. “It’s tragic, it’s devastating,” he said. “You feel almost a sense of hopelessness.” It is easy to “categorize and stigmatize” drug users, he said, but “these are real people.”

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Just a year ago, the community of 100,000 seemed to be making some modest progress in its fight to prevent drug overdoses. A new addiction-medicine clinic had just opened up. Authorities were implementing a new drug strategy that aimed to spread the word about the dangers of drug use and get the overdose-reversing drug naloxone onto the streets.

But the area had 35 fatal overdoses last year, preliminary figures show. That is up from 22 in 2018 and 25 in 2017. Visits to the hospital emergency department for overdoses were also up in 2019, though the number of overdoses that emergency services were called to was down slightly. Now this – four deaths in a single day.

The deaths are part of a wave of overdoses that hit the community at the start of the new decade. A special alert from the Brant County Health Unit said that, including the four fatal ones, there were 17 in the first 12 days of January, more than in an average full month in 2019.

Other Ontario cities are also seeing higher numbers as the overdose epidemic that crested first in British Columbia and Alberta rolls through Canada’s most populous province. Public Health Ontario reports that 435 people died from overdoses in the first quarter of last year, an increase of 42 per cent from the same period in 2018.

“It’s been a bad couple of months,” said Stephanie Rochon, co-ordinator of Brantford’s addiction medicine clinic. She said testing of patients is showing stronger strains of fentanyl, as well as the even more potent carfentanil and other fentanyl analogs. Users often don’t know what drugs they are using, she said, putting them at high risk of getting a bad dose.

The four men in Brantford died on Friday, Jan. 10. The youngest was 26, the oldest 38. Police aren’t saying what drugs they may have used or where and how they died, pending the results of post mortems and further investigation. But Justine Radcliffe, a cousin of one of the men, Grant York, said she saw authorities removing two bodies from a house next to her place on Murray Street, a few minutes from the city core.

Ms. Radcliffe said her cousin’s wasn’t one of them. He died at home, she said. She called him a quiet person who cooked at the Works Gourmet Burger Bistro. The restaurant closed its doors for that evening, saying on Facebook that it had just received “some devastating news.”

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Staff at the head shop next door, Crazy Bill’s, said Mr. York was a “sweet guy” who often came in for cigarettes or energy drinks. To help prevent more deaths, they have given away dozens of drug-testing kits since the overdoses this month.

A death notice called Mr. York an “amazing soul” whose “humour, laughter, loyalty, love for life and impact on others will be missed.” His mother, Jennifer York, posted on a local news social-media page that “he was not an addict, purely recreational.” She warned others to know their neighbours and learn to recognize drug houses, with lots of people coming and going and expensive vehicles outside. “Watch your surroundings. I can not stress this enough!” she said.

Two of the other men, Kevin Waring and Richie Britton, were good friends. Mr. Waring was a long-haul trucker. His Facebook feed includes pictures of a gleaming white transport truck and a sign that reads, “Beer is the perfection of water.” His nickname was Bundy, after the gargantuan professional wrestler King Kong Bundy.

His pal, Mr. Britton, liked soccer and played pool in a league that had weekly games at local bars. His “fur baby,” Rocco, a boxer, was like family to him, friends said.

One friend, Cody Henry, organized drinks at a downtown pub to mark the passing of the two men. He said they were “the type of guys who, if they were your friends, would do anything for you. There should have been more people in the world like them.” Mr. Britton was always helping friends move. Mr. Waring was supposed to give Mr. Henry some tips on driving a truck for a living the day that he died.

Mr. Henry’s girlfriend, Kristen Ferguson, said Mr. Britton would hang out with her when Mr. Henry was away on motorcycle trips. The two would talk and watch videos on YouTube. “I lost a brother” when he died, she said, wiping away tears as she stood outside the pub.

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The fourth man, Cody Annis, was remembered in his death notice as the “beloved dad of Aliyah, Shyvon, James ‘Devon’ and Zayden.” The notice said, “Cody was happiest when he was outdoors and in nature, fishing pole in hand and kids beside him.”

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Tam warns of possible surge in COVID-19 cases – Canada News – Castanet.net

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Only a small fraction of the 40,000 new ventilators Canada ordered for hospitals last spring have already been delivered but several companies involved say their production lines will start delivering the products faster in the next few weeks.

The promise of new arrivals comes as Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, warned Friday that a fall surge of COVID-19 cases could overwhelm the health-care system, including its supply of critical care beds and ventilators.

“What we know based on what we learned from other countries and cities that had a devastating impact in that initial wave, if you exceeded that capacity the mortality goes up really, really high,” she said.

Flu season and other respiratory infections common in the fall could put added pressure on the system if COVID-19 flares up in a big way.

Tam said there were many lessons learned from the spring, when the government was ill-prepared and without enough protective equipment for health-care workers, and feared a massive surge of COVID-19 would overwhelm the health-care system.

“We are much better prepared than we were before,” she said.

In March, Canadians watched in horror as northern Italy’s COVID-19 outbreak overran its health-care system, leaving doctors to choose which patients got a ventilator and which were left without one. That experience, coupled with warnings it could happen here too, compelled federal and provincial governments to order thousands of new ventilators.

But much like surgical face masks and N95 respirators, Canada didn’t already produce many ventilators domestically, and getting them from international sources is tough when global need for new ventilators is in the hundreds of thousands. So Canada asked firms here if they could step up, and out of that four new consortiums to build ventilators were formed.

A fifth contract was signed with Thornhill Medical, a Toronto firm that at that point was making about 50 of its portable breathing machines a month.

In all, Canada ordered 40,328 ventilators, for an estimated $1.1 billion, and as of Friday, it had just 606 in hand.

Paul-Emile Cloutier, the president of national health-care advocate HealthCareCAN, said there is concern about the status of the government’s orders for personal protective equipment and ventilators ahead of the possibility COVID-19 will surge again in Canada this fall.

“Details are crucial as we prepare for the expected next wave of COVID-19,” he said.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday the government is pushing on to get the entirety of the orders in place. A statement from her department said “Canada currently has sufficient ventilators to meet current demands” and that the ones on order are to bolster existing Public Health Agency of Canada stockpiles, as well as the units already in hospitals and provincial warehouses across the country.

But Health Canada won’t say how many ventilators the country now has in total. It will also not disclose any modelling for how many could be needed in a worst-case scenario situation. In March there were about 5,000 ventilators nationally, and another 500 in the national emergency stockpile.

Canada’s ability to plank the COVID-19 curve in the spring meant warnings about running out of ventilators never came to fruition.

John Walmsley, the executive vice president at Starfish Medical in Victoria, said that took the pressure off his new coalition, Canadian Emergency Ventilators, Inc.

“We have a little bit more elbow room to do things in a bit of a controlled manner but I would say we’re looking to get it done this year,” he said.

“We’re all concerned about a second wave and being ready for that and so we’re on board to deliver for that.”

Canadian Emergency Ventilators is still waiting for Health Canada approval before it can start shipping its promised 7,500 machines. It submitted the documents in June and it is taking a bit longer than expected to get the green light.

Once that happens, the Public Health Agency of Canada would have to test the product, and then the units that have already been built could be shipped, said Walmsley. He is still hopeful to fill the order by the end of the year.

Thornhill Medical CEO Lesley Gouldie said her company’s partnership with Linamar, a manufacturer based in Guelph, Ont., has been a great success. Thornhill is to provide 1,020 machines to Canada, and has shipped 27 so far.

Gouldie said Linamar can make as many as 100 of the units a week, but getting the supplies for the 1,500 parts that make up their portable device proved to be difficult in a pandemic.

“The limiting factor is the supply chains,” Gouldie said.

She said the kinks are mostly worked out now, and she expects to ship enough machines each week to fulfil their contract by early December.

Rick Jamieson, the CEO of FTI Professional Grade, said they expect to fulfil their entire contract for 10,000 ventilators by Dec. 12. FTI is one of several companies in a consortium called Ventilators for Canadians, which has already delivered 132 ventilators. Another 120 are on track for delivery next week and 240 in the last week of August.

“We have activated a fourth shift to increase production knowing that a second wave is likely this fall and winter,” said Jamieson.

Montreal’s CAE received Health Canada approval for its new ventilator on June 17, and said that day it expected to begin shipping “hundreds each week.” It has a contract to deliver 10,000.

The final company, Vexos, was the last to sign a contract, and had to submit its product to Health Canada as well, and began shipping in late July.

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Ventilator supply starts to increase as Tam warns of possible surge of COVID-19 – Toronto Sun

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OTTAWA — Less than two per cent of the 40,000 new ventilators Canada ordered for hospitals last spring have already been delivered.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says Canada is better prepared for a fall wave of COVID-19 than it was in the spring, but also says that wave could be big enough to overwhelm Canada’s health-care system, including its supply of ventilators.

Health Canada won’t say how many ventilators hospitals could need to respond to such a surge, but insists it has enough for now, with the new ones ordered meant to augment existing stockpiles.

Only 606 of the 40,328 ventilators Ottawa ordered in April and May have arrived, but at least three of the companies involved say they expect to double or even triple the number they ship in the coming weeks.

Four of them needed Health Canada approval for their product, which is still outstanding in two cases, and another said supply chain issues delayed production.

While the contracts for the ventilators, worth more than $1.1 billion, run through March 2021, most of the companies expect to fulfil their entire order before the end of the year.

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Ventilator supply starts to increase as Tam warns of possible surge of COVID-19 – insauga.com

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Only a small fraction of the 40,000 new ventilators Canada ordered for hospitals last spring have already been delivered but several companies involved say their production lines will start delivering the products faster in the next few weeks.

The promise of new arrivals comes as Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, warned Friday that a fall surge of COVID-19 cases could overwhelm the health-care system, including its supply of critical care beds and ventilators.

“What we know based on what we learned from other countries and cities that had a devastating impact in that initial wave, if you exceeded that capacity the mortality goes up really, really high,” she said.

Flu season and other respiratory infections common in the fall could put added pressure on the system if COVID-19 flares up in a big way.

Tam said there were many lessons learned from the spring, when the government was ill-prepared and without enough protective equipment for health-care workers, and feared a massive surge of COVID-19 would overwhelm the health-care system.

“We are much better prepared than we were before,” she said.

In March, Canadians watched in horror as northern Italy’s COVID-19 outbreak overran its health-care system, leaving doctors to choose which patients got a ventilator and which were left without one. That experience, coupled with warnings it could happen here too, compelled federal and provincial governments to order thousands of new ventilators.

But much like surgical face masks and N95 respirators, Canada didn’t already produce many ventilators domestically, and getting them from international sources is tough when global need for new ventilators is in the hundreds of thousands. So Canada asked firms here if they could step up, and out of that four new consortiums to build ventilators were formed.

A fifth contract was signed with Thornhill Medical, a Toronto firm that at that point was making about 50 of its portable breathing machines a month.

In all, Canada ordered 40,328 ventilators, for an estimated $1.1 billion, and as of Friday, it had just 606 in hand.

Paul-Emile Cloutier, the president of national health-care advocate HealthCareCAN, said there is concern about the status of the government’s orders for personal protective equipment and ventilators ahead of the possibility COVID-19 will surge again in Canada this fall.

“Details are crucial as we prepare for the expected next wave of COVID-19,” he said.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday the government is pushing on to get the entirety of the orders in place. A statement from her department said “Canada currently has sufficient ventilators to meet current demands” and that the ones on order are to bolster existing Public Health Agency of Canada stockpiles, as well as the units already in hospitals and provincial warehouses across the country. 

But Health Canada won’t say how many ventilators the country now has in total. It will also not disclose any modelling for how many could be needed in a worst-case scenario situation. In March there were about 5,000 ventilators nationally, and another 500 in the national emergency stockpile.

Canada’s ability to plank the COVID-19 curve in the spring meant warnings about running out of ventilators never came to fruition.

John Walmsley, the executive vice president at Starfish Medical in Victoria, said that took the pressure off his new coalition, Canadian Emergency Ventilators, Inc.

“We have a little bit more elbow room to do things in a bit of a controlled manner but I would say we’re looking to get it done this year,” he said.

“We’re all concerned about a second wave and being ready for that and so we’re on board to deliver for that.”

Canadian Emergency Ventilators is still waiting for Health Canada approval before it can start shipping its promised 7,500 machines. It submitted the documents in June and it is taking a bit longer than expected to get the green light.

Once that happens, the Public Health Agency of Canada would have to test the product, and then the units that have already been built could be shipped, said Walmsley. He is still hopeful to fill the order by the end of the year.

Thornhill Medical CEO Lesley Gouldie said her company’s partnership with Linamar, a manufacturer based in Guelph, Ont., has been a great success. Thornhill is to provide 1,020 machines to Canada, and has shipped 27 so far.

Gouldie said Linamar can make as many as 100 of the units a week, but getting the supplies for the 1,500 parts that make up their portable device proved to be difficult in a pandemic.

“The limiting factor is the supply chains,” Gouldie said.

She said the kinks are mostly worked out now, and she expects to ship enough machines each week to fulfil their contract by early December.

Rick Jamieson, the CEO of FTI Professional Grade, said they expect to fulfil their entire contract for 10,000 ventilators by Dec. 12. FTI is one of several companies in a consortium called Ventilators for Canadians, which has already delivered 132 ventilators. Another 120 are on track for delivery next week and 240 in the last week of August.

“We have activated a fourth shift to increase production knowing that a second wave is likely this fall and winter,” said Jamieson.

Montreal’s CAE received Health Canada approval for its new ventilator on June 17, and said that day it expected to begin shipping “hundreds each week.” It has a contract to deliver 10,000.

The final company, Vexos, was the last to sign a contract, and had to submit its product to Health Canada as well, and began shipping in late July.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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