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The Latest: NYC begins proof of vaccination at eateries – Burnaby Now

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s first coronavirus outbreak in six months has grown to seven people.

The announcement Wednesday came a day after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed a strict lockdown after the first case was reported. The lockdown is for at least three days for the country and at least a week for the cities of Auckland and Coromandel.

Ardern said Wednesday the government expects the number of cases to keep growing, especially after some of those infected spent time at a church, a school, a casino and a hospital. She announced a new mandate compelling people to wear masks in supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies during strict lockdowns.

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Ardern says genome testing has confirmed the outbreak is of the delta variant and originated from an outbreak in Sydney, Australia, although it’s not yet clear how the virus breached New Zealand’s border quarantine controls.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Britain OKs Moderna vaccine for ages 12 and up

— New York City begins proof of vaccination at eateries, gyms, cultural venues

— Sources: U.S. to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters at 8 months

— New Zealand to enter lockdown after single virus case found

— Among France’s poorest, once-lagging vaccine rates increase

— More U.S. cities to require masks in public

— Hawaii’s largest private hospital system runs out of ICU beds

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SYDNEY — Australia’s most populous state is reporting a record 633 new coronavirus infections as concerns grow about the spread of the delta variant beyond Sydney. The previous high for a 24-hour period in New South Wales was 466 on Saturday.

Officials also said Wednesday that three people died in the period, bringing the death toll to 60 from the outbreak first detected in Sydney in mid-June.

Officials say infections were reported in towns in the state’s west, north and central region in recent days. Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26 and the entire state has been locked down since Saturday.

The national capital of Canberra is surrounded by New South Wales and it reported 22 new infections from a cluster that originated in Sydney.

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PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is upping the pressure on public school districts defying a state ban on mask mandates by threatening to cut off some funds.

The governor said Tuesday that schools won’t get any cash from a $163 million grant program he controls if they don’t drop mask rules within 10 days. Schools also will lose out on the $1,800 per student if they have to close because of coronavirus outbreaks.

At least 16 districts teaching nearly a third of the state’s 1.1 million public school students now have mask rules. A judge ruled this week that the state ban does not take effect until Sept. 29.

Ducey also announced a $10 million program that will give $7,000 for a student to use for private schooling if their public school requires isolating or quarantining due to virus exposure, orders mask wearing or gives preferential treatment to vaccinated children.

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HOUSTON — At least four school districts in Texas have closed campuses due to coronavirus outbreaks early in the new school year.

The shutdowns are taking place as more districts and communities are requiring students and residents to wear face coverings indoors, defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.

The school district in Gorman in North Texas had been set to begin the school year Wednesday but is delaying that by a week. Campus shutdowns also were announced Tuesday by the districts in the East Texas towns of Bloomburg and Waskom.

Those moves came a day after the Iraan-Sheffield district in West Texas closed its schools for two weeks.

Mask wearing was optional in these four school districts. At least 21 other districts, including some of the state’s biggest, have instituted mask mandates, which are in violation of Abbott’s executive order banning such measures.

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University is requiring masks to be worn in classrooms and labs for the next 30 days, saying not enough students and employees have submitted proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.

The university says the rule takes effect Wednesday, which is when classes start on the Morgantown campus. The mask requirement applies to everyone, even those who have been vaccinated.

While the university is not requiring its students and employees to be vaccinated, officials had set a vaccine verification goal of 80% by Sept. 1. Students, faculty and staff on all campuses were required to either provide a vaccine verification or a negative virus test result by Friday.

The school says only about two-thirds of students and staff have submitted the verification paperwork on the Morgantown campus and even less have done so on its Beckley and Keyser campuses,

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi state officials say they more children are being hospitalized with COVID-19 than earlier in the pandemic.

As of Friday, 18 children were hospitalized, and on Sunday five were in an intensive care unit, with four on ventilators.

The state Department of Health said Monday that health officials heard this week about the COVID-19 death of a child between age 11 and 17, raising the total of young people deaths to five since the start of the pandemic.

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CHICAGO — Chicago will require masks in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status as daily COVID-19 case counts rise.

The mandate takes effect Friday citywide for everyone over age 2. Chicago’s top doctor said Tuesday that the city is reporting roughly 400 cases daily, which is a threshold public health officials say signals a higher transmission risk.

Still, public health officials say it’s much lower than a winter peak when it was over 3,000 cases a day.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady says no further restrictions or closures are currently planned and the goal is to remain open, but careful.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A major state employer, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System, said Tuesday it would require workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 12.

The requirement affects 16,000 employees and others working in hospitals and could help boost the state’s last-in-the-nation ranking for the shots.

Employees of UAB Health already are required to be vaccinated against other health threats including the flu, the system said, and COVID-19 is threatening its ability to provide care.

Nearly 100 doctors, nurses and other workers have contracted COVID-19 at UAB Hospital, a report showed.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is reinstating a mask mandate for all indoor public places, regardless of vaccination status.

Grisham’s office also announced Tuesday that more people will be required to get vaccinated, such as workers at hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile justice facilities and residential treatment centers.

All workers at schools in New Mexico must also get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

Officials noted that vaccination rates remain stagnant, but infections are rising.

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ATLANTA — Parents in Georgia’s second largest school district plan to rally again to try to force school officials to require masks amid a statewide surge in coronavirus cases that has disrupted classroom instruction for thousands of students.

The plans for a rally on Thursday by Cobb County school parents come as coronavirus cases in the school system and other districts around the state continue to rise.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday reiterated his opposition to mask and vaccine mandates and said he has no plans for statewide school restrictions.

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PHOENIX — A western Arizona school district is considering a proposal to ban any discussion between staff and students about vaccines and masks.

The Colorado River Union High School’s governing board is set to meet on the matter Tuesday night.

The measure would allow for disciplinary action to be taken against any district employee who speaks on “anything related to vaccine status or encouraging/discouraging vaccines or mask with students.”

District officials did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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HONOLULU — Hawaii’s largest private hospital system has run out of ICU beds amid a surge of new coronavirus cases.

Jason Chang, chief operating officer of The Queen’s Health Systems and president of The Queen’s Medical Center, says all of the hospital system’s beds are completely full.

The hospitals were canceling some elective surgeries and procedures and diverting emergency patients to other hospitals, Chang said.

Hospital workers are tired and frustrated because most of the COVID-19 patients they are caring for are not vaccinated, Chang said.

Hawaii, with a population of nearly 1.5 million people, has averaged 652 new cases a day over the past week and has a 7.5% positivity rate, according to state data. In early July, the state was averaging 50 cases a day.

At least 308 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized statewide.

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LAS VEGAS — Vaccine verification at major venues has become a coronavirus fighting front in Nevada.

Las Vegas’ biggest trade conference on Tuesday followed the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders announcing they’ll require attendees to prove they’re inoculated.

The sponsor of the CES gadget show said attendees in January will have to show they’ve been vaccinated to enter venues including the expanded Las Vegas Convention Center.

The announcement came a day after Gov. Steve Sisolak said indoor venues with 4,000 or more attendees can opt out of the state’s mask requirements if they opt in to a program ensuring that attendees have inoculations.

Sisolak said one dose of a two-dose vaccination will get people in the door, but they’ll still have to wear face coverings.

Fully vaccinated people won’t have to wear masks.

The Raiders unveiled their first-in-the-NFL policy to require fans to show proof of vaccinations beginning Sept. 13.

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JACKSON, Miss. — A top Mississippi health official said Tuesday 20,000 students are currently quarantined for COVID-19 exposure in the state — 4.5% of the public school population, according to the state’s latest enrollment figures.

The data comes from reports made by 800 schools to the Mississippi State Department of Health last week, Mississippi State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said during a call with state pediatricians.

The school outbreaks have resulted in many school officials rethinking their policies after beginning the academic year without restrictions, like mask mandates. Around 600 schools have now implemented universal masking for indoor settings, Byers said.

But there are still many settings where many restrictions that could keep kids safer are not in place — or not enforced.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — State Fairs in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin are offering COVID-19 vaccinations as the delta variant spreads across the country.

In Iowa, a vaccination booth nestled among corn dog and funnel cake stands vaccinated 150 people in the first four days of the fair in a state where only half of the population is fully vaccinated. All but three of Iowa’s 99 counties are experiencing a substantial or high rate of spread.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ policy of personal responsibility allows fairgoers to decide whether to be vaccinated or wear a mask. Public health officials recommend wearing a mask in crowds. The fair is on track to attract an estimated 1 million visitors.

At the Indiana State Fair, 304 vaccines have been administered since July 30. And at the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee, 608 people were vaccinated over 11 days, perhaps enticed by the promise of a free cream puff pastry.

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PHOENIX — Five Arizona school districts have joined the growing list of districts requiring students and staff to wear masks, even though a state law bars such mandates.

Two districts in the Tucson area and three in metro Phoenix issued mask requirements after a Maricopa County judge ruled Monday that the state doesn’t take effect until Sept. 29.

A teacher who filed a lawsuit challenging a mask mandate at one Phoenix district argued it took after lawmakers approved it in late June. In all, at least 16 districts in Arizona are requiring students and staff to wear masks while indoors amid fears over the delta variant.

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TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s Health Ministry reported 451 new cases and two deaths related to the coronavirus.

That is a significant increase compared to last month when there were less than 10 new cases per day.

Authorities have made August a free month for receiving a vaccine, urging all people 18 and older to get one. Albania uses Sinovac, Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and some Sputnik V vaccines. Albania has given 1.3 million shots to a population of 2.8 million.

Neighboring Kosovo is noting a serious increase in the daily numbers. Authorities reported 1,765 new cases and five deaths on Tuesday, a significant increase compared to July.

About one-third of its 1.8 million population has gotten at least one shot of the Pfizer or Astra Zeneca vaccine.

The Associated Press





































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Canada Facing Difficult Battle with Mental Health Struggles

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Mental health is an important health issue that affects us all, and unfortunately, it’s an issue that is rarely discussed openly. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 20% of Canadians will experience a mental illness.

This makes mental health one of the most pressing issues facing Canadians today. Let’s take a closer look at why mental health is such an important issue in Canada.

 

The Need for Better Mental Health Care

In Canada, access to quality mental health care can be costly and difficult to obtain. Many Canadians are unaware of what services are available or how to access them due to a lack of public education about mental health.

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Additionally, there is still a stigma attached to seeking help for mental illness, which can make it difficult for those who need help to get it. As a result, many people cannot access the care they need in order to live happy and healthy lives.

This deficiency can have severe consequences; untreated mental illness can lead to increased risk for suicidal behavior, substance abuse, homelessness, unemployment, and other serious problems.

Additionally, research shows that early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent long-term complications and reduce the overall costs associated with mental health treatment.

Mental health services are especially important for marginalized populations such as Black Canadians, Latinx individuals, LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants, and individuals with low incomes who have been underserved when it comes to healthcare access.

These communities often experience higher rates of poverty and discrimination which results in an even greater need for quality mental health services but also fewer resources available to them.

Given these facts, it is clear that there is a great urgency for better access to mental health services. To make meaningful progress towards addressing this issue we must first focus on breaking down barriers such as stigma against seeking help as well as lack of information about available services among vulnerable populations.

Furthermore, a greater investment must be made into training more providers so there are enough qualified professionals available who understand how to provide culturally competent care.

Particularly when working with traditionally underserved communities – while also ensuring accessibility through reduced cost or free options for those with limited insurance coverage or financial resources.

 

Mental Illness as an Invisible Disease

Unlike physical illnesses, mental illnesses are often invisible and difficult to diagnose. This makes it difficult for those living with a mental illness to get the help they need as well as understand what they are going through.

It also means that many people do not realize the severity of mental illnesses and the impact they have on the lives of those living with them until they experience it firsthand or hear stories from someone who has gone through similar struggles.

Mental illness affects more people than most realize. It can be difficult to comprehend the depth of mental health disorders, as they are often invisible and misunderstood. Mental illness is a disease, yet it can remain hidden while still having a profound effect on a person’s life.

 

The Impact on Society

Mental illness has far-reaching effects on society as a whole. Untreated mental illness can lead to substance abuse, homelessness, unemployment, and even suicide in some cases.

All of these have ripple effects throughout our communities, from increased crime rates and lower productivity at work to higher healthcare costs and fewer resources available for those in need, making this an issue that affects us all regardless of our personal situations.

We need to create a friendly environment in which those with invisible diseases feel comfortable sharing their stories and seeking help without fear of judgment or rejection.

Mental illness should not be ignored; rather it should be treated with respect and understanding just like any other type of medical condition.

By recognizing the reality of invisible diseases such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more we can begin to create a world where everyone gets the help they need regardless of whether or not their condition is visible on the surface.

With understanding comes empathy, and empathy leads us toward meaningful change for ourselves and our communities alike.

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Five things to know about health-care talks Tuesday between Trudeau, premiers

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OTTAWA — On Tuesday in Ottawa, Canada’s 13 premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will sit around the same table in person for the first time since COVID-19 hoping to find a path toward a new long-term health-care funding deal.

Both sides are optimistic a deal will emerge but there are some big divides to overcome, including how much more money Ottawa is willing to put on the table, and how much accountability the provinces are willing to put up in return.

The premiers have been asking for a new deal for more than two years. Trudeau kept punting until the COVID-19 crisis was largely over.

That time has come.

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Trudeau has been clear a deal is not going to be finished this week. But here’s a snapshot of how we got to this point, and what they’re going to be talking about.

Money, Money, Money, Money

This year Canada expected to transfer almost $88 billion to the provinces and territories for health, education, social supports and equalization. The Canada Health Transfer, or CHT, is $45.2 billion, or 51 per cent of that.

In their 2022-23 budgets, the provinces collectively forecast to spend $203.7 billion on health care. Ottawa’s transfer accounts for 22 per cent of that. The provinces want that increased to 35 per cent, which would mean $26 billion more this year alone.

“There’s been continual demands for an increase in the CHT although I’ve never seen quite as large a demand for an increase as this one,” said Gregory Marchildon, a professor emeritus at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.

Trudeau intends to put an offer on the table Tuesday. It will not be an immediate increase of $26 billion, but Ottawa has been silent on where it will land.

While it has existed in its current form only since 2004, some sort of federal health transfer dates from 1957, when Ottawa offered 50-50 funding for health care to provinces that agreed to provide public hospital services based on national standards.

It has evolved and changed at least five times since then, including splitting the federal share between cash and a transfer of tax points — when the federal government cut its income tax rates and the provinces could raise their own in exchange.

In 1995, then-finance minister Paul Martin, desperate to turn around Canada’s debt problems, slashed the health and social transfer by 20 per cent, followed by a 15 per cent cut in 1996. Some provinces have said their health systems have never recovered.

In 2004, a new deal was reached between the premiers and Martin, who by then was prime minister, to see the Canada Health Transfer increased six per cent a year for a decade.

The Conservatives under prime minister Stephen Harper kept that in place, but told the provinces that in 2017-18, the CHT increase would be based on a three-year average of economic growth, but with a minimum increase of at least three per cent.

Trudeau and the Liberals have maintained that.

With economic growth, the annual CHT increase has averaged five per cent since 2017-18.

Over the last 10 years, the CHT has increased 67 per cent, to $45 billion from about $27 billion in 2012-13.

An attempt in 2016 to negotiate a new CHT deal mostly failed, resulting in one-on-one agreements between Ottawa and the provinces and territories to share $11.5 billion over 10 years, beginning in 2017-18, to improve mental-health and home care.

Angling for Accountability

In the split jurisdictional world Canada’s governments live in, provinces are the ones who control health-care delivery. So for the most part, the federal government helps fund it and the provinces get to say how it’s spent.

The Canada Health Act, passed in 1984, sets out the guiding principles for recipients of the Canada Health Transfer, including that health-care systems must be universally accessible. Failing to abide by the principles can, and has, resulted in Ottawa clawing back some transfers.

Trudeau has made clear any increase to federal health transfers must be met with provincial accountability to show results. The federal government has been frustrated at the lack of accountability from provinces over transfers for health care made during COVID-19.

It is adamant that will not be the case with a new funding deal, and is looking at a combination of an annual increase to the CHT and separate deals to target specific problem areas, like health-care worker retention and training, access to family doctors, surgical backlogs, and data collection and sharing.

The 2017 deals on mental-health and home care will be a bit of a model. Those deals saw Ottawa promise $11.5 billion over 10 years for the two areas, but in exchange provinces had to agree to a common set of principles and goals, and to report results.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information was tapped to help collect and publish data. The most recent report in December is still laden with gaps and incomplete data. The reports note it will take time for the reporting to lead to change, and that provinces need to harmonize their data collection in order to better compare statistics across provincial lines.

Marchildon said one of the biggest problems for the federal government in demanding accountability is that measuring health outcomes is difficult, and hard targets are rare.

It’s all about the numbers

Of course, it’s difficult to measure progress if you’re not keeping track.

Data — or the lack of it — is a long-standing weakness of Canada’s federalized system, with 13 separate health-care systems working alongside one another but not necessarily in tandem.

In his first public overture to open negotiations with provinces on health funding in November, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told provincial health ministers the federal government would increase the Canada Health Transfer if provinces agree to work together on a “world-class health data system for Canada.”

“It is the foundation for understanding what we’re doing, who’s receiving services, whether we’re making improvements,” said Kim McGrail, a professor with the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health.

McGrail was one of several experts the federal government tasked with reporting on what a “world-class health data system” would look like in Canada.

Gaps in Canada’s data tripped up the national health responses in dozens of different ways during the pandemic, from tracking the number of COVID-19 cases to reporting adverse effects from vaccines.

The same is true of tracking surgical backlogs and other information about how well, or not, the health system is working.

“Data informs every part of the way we think about health,” McGrail said, which includes the health of individual patients.

Canadians who move from one province to another can’t easily access their records because the technology isn’t compatible.

It’s a problem that exists even within provinces, as incompatible technology makes records inaccessible between hospitals and clinics.

“We need those technology systems to be able to talk to one another, to be able to to move data back and forth or to send messages back and forth in some way,” she said.

It’s an expensive problem to fix. Just last week, Nova Scotia government signed a $365-million contract to bring new electronic health-care records to the province, which may or may not be compatible with other provincial systems.

McGrail said investments will pay off if important information about the health of Canadians stops falling through the cracks.

The expert panel delivered a report last year that will likely serve as a road map for improving data sharing in Canada. It includes 31 recommendations, starting with provinces, territories and the federal government agreeing on a shared national vision for health data.

Ontario and Quebec have indicated a willingness to work with Ottawa on data, though other provinces have been less firm about it.

Aging gracefully

Provincial leaders have been able to agree with Ottawa on the need to reform Canada’s long-term care homes, though exactly how to accomplish that is still up for debate.

Duclos has said helping Canadians “age with dignity” is one of Ottawa’s priorities for a new health-care deal, and long-term care plays a major role in that.

So does home care, and the 2017 bilateral deals already began to advance improvements on that front.

Long-term care is an entirely different story.

The pandemic cast a glaring light on the dismal conditions in care homes across the country, when COVID-19 outbreaks led to thousands of deaths and inhumane living conditions for seniors. The military and the Red Cross were summoned to help.

In the early months of the pandemic, Canada had the worst record for COVID-19-related deaths in long-term care of the world’s wealthy countries.

Meanwhile, residents were isolated from the outside world and workers struggled to provide basic care and ensure dignity.

Experts and advocates say the problems long predate the pandemic, and have gone largely ignored until now.

“Given the devastation that we’ve seen in the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts on our health-care system … we’re seeing this unprecedented moment where finally there’s some hope of collaboration,” said Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician and founder of Doctors for Justice in Long-Term Care, which advocates for an overhaul of Ontario’s long-term care system.

Governments are now scrambling to improve the conditions, as the number of people who need specialized care grows every year and the number of workers willing to provide that care dwindles.

Several provinces have already announced plans to increase the number of hours of care residents receive per day and build new spaces for the growing number of seniors who are living longer with more serious cognitive and physical impairments.

The federal government created a $1 billion “safe long-term care fund” during the pandemic to help pay for immediate infection prevention and control measures to stop the spread of the virus.

The government also set aside $3 billion to help provinces bring homes in line with national standards for the design and operation of long-term care, though specific agreements with provinces haven’t yet been signed to deliver that money.

Those standards were publicly released last week but are unlikely to factor into the health-care talks.

Still, there is plenty of work that needs to be done if provinces have a hope of meeting the standards, especially when it comes to the workforce.

“I think we’re stepping into a crisis,” said Dr. Joseph Wong, the founder of Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, the largest non-profit nursing home in the country.

He said Canada will need upwards of 100,000 new personal support workers to provide care over the next 10 to 15 years in order to provide adequate care to residents.

“It is a time bomb,” he said.

Essential Workers

The same could be said of the health system at large.

None of the lofty goals of the federal or provincial politicians will be possible if they don’t find a way to persuade workers to stay in hospitals, clinics and long-term care centres across Canada, said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

“They don’t have the staff to do the job,” she said.

Staff shortages have been the common theme among some of the most serious issues underlying the public-health crisis in Canada.

Dozens of emergency rooms have been forced to close temporarily or reduce hours because there weren’t enough staff to treat urgent injuries and illnesses. The Canadian Medical Association estimates nearly five million Canadians don’t have a family doctor. And hundreds of thousands of Canadians are sitting on wait-lists for backlogged surgeries and diagnostic tests.

Health unions and professional associations want a national strategy to keep doctors, nurses and personal support workers in their jobs as well as train new staff to bolster their ranks.

Silas said after years of burnout and moral distress over not being able to care for their patients properly, nurses in particular have said, “I’ve had enough.”

Nurses in Ontario have also balked at a law limiting pay increases to one per cent a year.

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows that because of new graduates, the supply of nurses is still growing. However, many have chosen not to take full-time positions, and existing staff are increasingly eyeing early retirement, Silas said.

The heavier demands of the job since the pandemic, combined with fewer and fewer people to do the work, has created what even the federal health minister calls a crisis.

“We need to stop the bleed,” Silas said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2023.

 

Mia Rabson and Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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Governments seek buyer as Quebec COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Medicago set to close

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MONTREAL — The Quebec government says it’s looking to find a buyer for Medicago Inc., the Quebec-based COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer that will be shut down by parent company Mitsubishi Chemical.

Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said Friday the province has had preliminary talks with potential buyers in the pharmaceutical sector to keep Medicago’s expertise and skilled workforce in Quebec. He said both the Quebec and federal governments would be willing to put in money to secure a deal.

“We can’t operate it ourselves; the government will not be the main shareholder,” Fitzgibbon said. “But if there is a pharmaceutical company that considers it’s worth continuing, we’re ready to help.”

Mitsubishi Chemical said Thursday it would stop marketing the Medicago-produced Covifenz vaccine, which is plant-based and was approved by Health Canada one year ago for adults aged 18 to 64.

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The Japanese chemical company said it had been preparing to commercially produce the Covifenz vaccine but decided against doing so because of the “significant changes” in the COVID-19 vaccine environment. The company said it would dissolve Medicago because it is no longer “viable” to continue marketing its products.

“In light of significant changes to the COVID-19 vaccine landscape since the approval of Covifenz, and after a comprehensive review of the current global demand and market environment for COVID-19 vaccines and Medicago’s challenges in transitioning to commercial-scale production, the (company) has determined that it will not pursue the commercialization of Covifenz,” Mitsubishi Chemical said in a statement.

Following the announcement, Medicago issued a statement thanking its employees. “The Medicago team has pushed scientific boundaries and we know that they will continue to make incredible contributions to innovation and biopharmaceutical’s sector.”

Canada invested $173 million in Medicago in 2020 to support development of the Covifenz vaccine and help Medicago expand its production facility in Quebec City.

On Thursday, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters the federal government is in “solution mode.”

“Our first order of business is really to try to find a partner who can help us preserve the jobs, preserve the technology and the intellectual property,” Champagne said.

The minister acknowledged that mRNA vaccine technology for COVID-19 became dominant as it “seemed to be most effective.”

But Medicago’s plant-based vaccine was still “promising,” Champagne said.

“Everyone agreed that the plant-based vaccine could very well help in a future pandemic,” Champagne said.

Speaking to reporters on Montreal’s South Shore Friday, Fitzgibbon said the company informed the province at the end of December it intended to pull the plug on Medicago.

In May 2015, Quebec and Ottawa announced loans of $60 million and $8 million, respectively, for the construction of a complex in the Quebec City region to house Medicago’s activities.

“The challenge is not (getting the loan repaid), it’s how we can save the jobs, save this company,” Fitzgibbon said.

While Canada authorized Medicago’s vaccine in February 2022, it was rejected for emergency use by the World Health Organization in March because tobacco company Philip Morris was a minority shareholder in the company, contravening a policy adopted in 2005 by the United Nations agency.

Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand said on Twitter he was saddened by the closure of the company.

“My thoughts are with the families who learned some very sad news,” Marchand said Thursday evening. “We have to roll up our sleeves to keep all this expertise in the field of health innovation in Quebec City.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

 

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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