Nurses rally in Nova Scotia to demand government fix the broken health-care system

The nursing shortage isn’t a new issue for Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union president Janet Hazelton but in her 20 years as leader of the organization she says never seen the staffing situation so bad.

More than 50 nurses and union members gathered Friday morning outside the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union headquarters in Dartmouth to join a national day of action highlighting the nursing crisis across Canada.

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“We as nurses owe it to our patients and residents and families, we owe it to them to continue our fight to say when we are healthy, when we are well-staffed and when we are safe, that means you, the residents, families and clients, you are safe and you are getting the good care which you deserve,” said Hazelton.

The nurses are “done asking,” said Hazleton. That’s the rallying cry for the nurses and other front-line health-care workers who are demanding urgent action from the government to fix the broken health-care system.

With voters casting their ballots in the federal election Monday, the nurses said they are frustrated with the status quo and demand action and investment to fix the staffing problem.

“We are here, our voice is loud and we do expect you (the government) to follow through,” said intensive care nurse Kerri Webster-McIsaac. “We want better for our constituents in Nova Scotia.”

As the pandemic drags on, the past 18 months have been hard on health-care workers, said Jen Thiel, an emergency room nurse.

More and more nurses are leaving their jobs, says the union.

There are nearly 1,500 nursing vacancies in Nova Scotia currently, leading to longer wait times at hospitals across the province and forcing Nova Scotia Health to postpone more than 150 non-urgent surgeries in the Central and Northern health regions.

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For front-line health care workers, the ongoing staffing shortage means more pressure on them to work longer hours and it’s leading to burnout, said Thiele.

“We’ve been short of nurses long before the pandemic and the pandemic has made it ten-fold worse because we have lost a lot of retired nurses and people who planned on staying in the profession have left and that’s putting the extra strain on us,” she said.

Insufficient staffing is also a strain on nurses working in the long-term care sector which was hit hard by the pandemic, as the virus claimed the lives of thousands of elderly Canadians.

Reports show the government and the long-term care sector were ill-prepared for the pandemic and it requires significant investments and reforms to improve the quality of care to protect residents and those who work in the facilities.

“We are so understaffed in long-term care, we need more of all of us to do the job and to better provide safe and adequate care to our patients,” said long-term care nurse Glenda Sabine.

The new Progressive Conservative government and Premier Tim Houston have made fixing the health-care problem in Nova Scotia its top priority and campaigned on the promise to invest a record amount of taxpayer dollars to do it.

Houston and the health and wellness minister Michelle Thompson will meet with front-line health workers directly starting Monday and tour the province to speak with those working in health care to seek their solutions.

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The government says it also wants to hear from professional associations, unions and regulatory colleges outside of the health-care tour.

Recruitment and education are key to addressing the staffing shortage said Webster-McIsaac.

“I have heard that since the pandemic, that applications are up, however, the seats aren’t there, there’s not enough of them,” said Webster-McIsaac. “The government hasn’t sponsored enough seats to bring in enough nurses to be trained.”

The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union represents nearly 8,000 nurses working in hospitals, long-term care homes, and in community and primary care settings.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'It's really serious': Nurses across New Brunswick say they've passed the breaking point

WATCH: Nurses in New Brunswick protested at the legislature demanding their concerns be addressed. As Travis Fortnum reports, it’s part of a national day of action.

As nurses and supporters Canada-wide step out for a national day of action, New Brunswick’s nurses rally in cities across the province.

Workers in two bargaining units within New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) have worked without contract since Dec. 31, 2018.

There’s been a recruitment and retention problem in the province for years but members say the COVID-19 pandemic has made the weight of the profession almost too much to bare.

“A lot of nurses I work with have contemplated suicide because of the shortage and just how we’re treated at work,” says registered nurse Charlotte Cobbett.

“It’s really serious.”

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Dressed in her scrubs, Cobbett joined the rally in Saint John, held outside Health Minister Dorothy Shephard’s office.

Shephard didn’t speak to the nurses outside, but in a written statement sent to Global News, says the Department of Health is proud of their hard work.

“They need our support,” she writes.

“Our government is working hard to address recruitment issues to provide support.”

In her statement, Shephard says the department is working with New Brunswick’s Regional Health Authorities to entice new nurses to the province with incentives — things like a previously-announced International Educated Nurses pilot, which she says has so far attracted 70 candidates.

“We are not standing still,” writes Shephard.

“We hear the concerns of our nurses. And we will continue to support them as we strive to find solutions to these critical issues.”

NBNU president Paula Doucet joined members and supporters on the lawn of the Legislature for the Fredericton branch of the rally, saying one way the province could support them is to meet demands at the bargaining table.

“We need to get these contracts behind us because we know health care in this province is suffering,” she says.

NBNU Presidnet Paula Doucet led one rally in Fredericton.

NBNU Presidnet Paula Doucet led one rally in Fredericton.

Travis Fortnum / Global News

Demands brought forth by the union before COVID-19 added to the stresses of the profession, putting nurses on New Brunswick’s front lines.

“We’ve held it together throughout this pandemic and we are done,” Doucet says.

“The stress that registered nurses and front-line workers have faced every day with on-ing and off-ing PPE and wondering are they bringing this virus home to their family has been an emotional turmoil,” she says.

Tentative agreements reached in August were rejected by union members.

 

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Quebec fulfills 68 of 142 Viens Commission recommendations

Two years ago, the Viens Commission laid out recommendations to address violence and discrimination against Indigenous people in Quebec. The provincial government said it has now put into effect, or is actively working on 68 of the 142 calls to action.

Quebec’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière said the provincial government is working to improve services for Indigenous people, but he concedes it will take a long time.

READ MORE: Quebec earmarks $14M to support justice services in Indigenous communities

Speaking at the First Nations and Inuit exhibit at the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City Friday, Lafreniere told reporters that the government is now working on 68 recommendations, up from 51 a year ago.

He asked the public not to focus on the numbers, because while some recommendations, such as making apologies, were easy, others require legislative change or discussions with the federal government.

The minister also announced his priorities for the future.

“Those priorities have been established with chiefs and grand chiefs, over my visits that I’ve done over the summer,” said Minister Ian Lafrenière.

READ MORE: Systemic racism still a contentious issue at Quebec-First Nations political roundtable

He said he and leaders from 30 First Nations communities he visited agree priorities are to improve education, youth protection and the well-being of Indigenous women.

To date, the government has spent $125 million of the $200 million set aside for the Viens Commission recommendations.

READ MORE: Treatment of Indigenous woman in Quebec hospital puts focus on systemic racism

Sept. 28 will mark one year since the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who died in hospital while staff uttered racial slurs at her.

“This is a duty to remember, a duty to remember what happened a year ago,” Lafrenière said.

But First Nations leaders say it’s also a duty to recognize systemic racism, particularly in the health-care sector.

“I’ll be extremely honest and transparent with you. When I first got this position, it was in every, every conversation that we had,” the minister said, referring to systemic racism.

Still, the Atikamekw Nation Grand Chief Constant Awashish said the government has always been on the defensive.

“We have to call a dog a dog, a cat a cat,” said Awashish. “For us, First Nations, for the family of Joyce Echaquan, and for the community of Manawan, it’s important to call it the way that it should be called, so we can address it in the proper way,” the grand chief said.

READ MORE: Quebec ‘has failed in its duty,’ premier says in apology to Indigenous peoples

Awashish did commend Minister Lafrenière though for making other efforts.

“They appointed an Atikamekw person at the CISSS de Lanaudière,” the grand chief gave as an example.

However, he said it’s too early to tell if there’s been systemic change.

Quebec’s ombudsman will follow up on future government actions and Lafrenière promises another update in spring 2022.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Police find suspect vehicle linked to fatal north London, Ont. shooting

Police in London, Ont., say they’ve found a suspect vehicle that investigators have linked to a fatal shooting last week in the city’s north end.

On the evening of Sept. 10, Lynda Cruz Marques, 30, was shot outside a home on Wateroak Drive, according to police.

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According to the victim’s Instagram page, Marques was a registered nurse with over seven years of experience within different settings including long-term care homes and hospitals across London, Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.

Her Instagram bio says she was a certified advanced nurse injector,⁣ and ran her own botox and fillers clinic called Face by Lynda.

Police attend the scene of a fatal shooting in north London on Sept. 11, 2021.

Police attend the scene of a fatal shooting in north London on Sept. 11, 2021.

Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

In an update issued on Friday, police said three suspects linked to the murder drove to the home on Wateroak Drive in a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta.

“Two of the suspects exited the vehicle and each fired shots in a car parked in the driveway that was occupied by the victim,” police said, adding that Marques suffered multiple gunshot wounds, ultimately leading to her death.

“Both suspects returned to the car, and fled the area.”

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On Wednesday, nearly a week after the murder, police say they found a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta near the end of Meadowlily Road South, a side street that runs alongside Meadowlily Woods in south London.

Police describe the vehicle as black with black rims and four doors.

“We believe that the car located on Wednesday is the same one used during the commission of this murder,” said Det. Sgt. Sean Travis with London police’s major crime section.

“Its discovery provides an opportunity to advance the investigation into this horrific incident and we are appealing for anyone with information to contact us.”

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Police are seeking information on either the Jetta, those who were inside or any suspicious activity that was witnessed in the Wateroak Drive area or near Meadowlily Road South on or around Sept. 10.

Investigators are also appealing to the public for any footage that relates to either of those matters.

Anyone wth information is asked to contact London police at 519-661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

— with files from Global News’ Kelly Wang.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Cystic fibrosis patients, advocates push Manitoba to fund new 'miracle' drug

A drug that is being hailed as a ‘miracle’ and ‘life-changing’ by cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, advocates and doctors has yet to be funded in Manitoba and the national organization that informs how provinces fund medications is recommending limitations on who would be eligible.

Every morning, Nick McDonald wakes up early for CF treatment. The disease has impacted his lungs, his breathing and his digestive system.

“Every meal that I eat, I have to take five pills in order to properly digest my food,” McDonald said.

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That’s just a small portion of what he does to try to keep his cystic fibrosis under control on a daily basis.

But the 26-year-old is desperate to get his hands on Trikafta, a newly approved drug in Canada that he said would alter his life.

“It would mean a lot,” he said.

“It would probably extend my life by several years.”

“It would decrease the amount of treatment I have to do, most likely I would be able to stop taking so many courses of antibiotics. I would just feel healthy,” he said.

But for many, like McDonald, the cost of the drug is prohibitive.

The list price for Trikafta in the U.S. is $310,000, meaning paying to fund the drug for one patient in Canada could be more than $400,000 a year.

That price is significantly reduced when it goes through a provincial program, as they negotiate prices down. But without those programs adding the drug to an approved list, individuals would be left to pay the six-figure sticker price themselves.

Manitoba has yet to add Trikafta to its coverage.

“Really we need it to be funded by the province so that everyone can have access to it without going deeply into debt,” McDonald said.

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Health Canada approved Trikafta for people with cystic fibrosis aged 12 and up with at least one F508del mutation.

“The drug works on one particular mutation, in Canada that’s about 90 per cent of the cystic fibrosis population. So it’s pretty significant,” Cystic Fibrosis Canada Chief Scientific Officer Dr. John Wallenburg said.

How it works

Cystic fibrosis is caused by mutations in a specific gene, which create a faulty protein. It impacts people’s lungs, digestive systems and can cause uncontrollable coughing.

“It’s not necessarily the defective protein itself (that’s the problem). It’s the downstream consequences that are so harmful. It’s the symptoms that this leads to,” Wallenburg said.

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Rather than just treating symptoms, Trikafta targets the basic defect from one specific genetic mutation that causes CF.

“What’s different about this drug is that (it) goes in and it fixes that broken protein.”

“And so what it’s doing, it’s correcting the biological basis of the problem before the symptoms that are downstream from the problem,” Wallenburg said.

There is no cure for CF, but advocates said Trifakta is as close to one as possible, for now.

“Trikafta is actually a miracle drug,” lead provincial advocate of Cystic Fibrosis Canada Patti Tweed said.

Coverage Issues

On Thursday, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, the body that reviews the cost-effectiveness of drugs on behalf of the public payers, recommended listing this drug.

However, it also recommended restricting coverage to only those with a lung function of 90 per cent or less.

“The way it stands right now with the restrictions, it would eliminate 27 per cent of the population in Canada from actually benefiting,” Tweed said. “And that’s just not acceptable.”

This means CF patients with healthier lungs will be forced to wait for their health to decline before being able to access a drug that could help prevent further disease progression.

“So what that does essentially is eliminate mostly children and young adults who have been doing their very best, by all means possible, to keep their lung function up and to not deteriorate,” Tweed said. ” So we certainly don’t want to have our people become sicker in order to be able to get access to this drug.”

Manitoba Response

The province says the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) reached a mutual agreement on terms (pricing and conditions of coverage) earlier this week.

While the role of the pCPA is to conduct joint provincial, territorial and federal drug plan negotiations for brand name and generic drugs, any final drug funding decision remains under the authority of individual jurisdictional public drug plans.

“Manitoba will now work through our respective processes to make the decision to list Trikafta on the Pharmacare public drug plan,” a provincial spokesperson said.

However, the province did not say when that decision would be made.

“Manitoba realizes the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenging times for cystic fibrosis patients and their caregivers and will be working as quickly as possible on this file.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

2nd man wanted for manslaughter in Gabriel Neil's death: London police

The London Police Service announced Friday that it is seeking a 19-year-old man in connection with the death of first-year Western University student Gabriel Neil, 18.

Police say Haroun Raselma, 19, of London is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant of arrest for manslaughter.

Read more:
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Police have not released any photo or description of Raselma as of Friday afternoon.

Aliyan Ahmed, 21, of London is already facing a charge of manslaughter in the case and was released on bail Thursday following a court appearance.

The charges stem from an incident early Saturday morning near Western and Sarnia roads in which Gabriel Neil, an 18-year-old first-year health science student, was critically injured after being assaulted around 2 a.m.

Read more:
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Neil was transported to hospital in critical condition.

On Tuesday, police announced that Neil had died from his injuries and that Ahmed had been charged in connection with the case.

A statement issued by a representative of Neil’s family described the 18-year-old as a “gentle and kind soul who made friends wherever he went.”

“He was excited to be starting his first year of Kinesiology at Western and had aspirations of one day becoming a doctor,” the statement read.

— with files from Global News’ Matthew Trevithick.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

$360K of drugs seized after man stashes them in bushes in Barrie, Ont.

City police have seized $360,000 of suspected cocaine and fentanyl after a man was seen stashing several packages into bushes on a residential property in Barrie, Ont.

After the suspicious man was seen stashing the packages, a homeowner contacted police, who were able to determine that the bags contained a large amount of suspected cocaine.

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Hours later, a man matching the description of the suspicious person returned to the area and was arrested when he retrieved the packages.

A 37-year-old Barrie man is facing numerous charges, including two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and two counts of possession of a drug.

In total, police seized 7.9 pounds of suspected cocaine and 50 grams of suspected fentanyl.

The Barrie man was held for a bail hearing.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Alberta sees spike in COVID-19 vaccinations after vaccine passport announcement

After announcing his government would bring in new COVID-19 measures on Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney is facing a tremendous amount of criticism from people to the left, the right and within his own caucus. Tom Vernon explains.

Alberta administered 28,158 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, one day after the province announced a vaccine passport-type program.

To compare, 9,750 doses were administered on Wednesday.

“Albertans are doing their part to get vaccinated to protect themselves and each other,” Alberta Health said on Twitter on Friday.

Read more:
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Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced a number of new restrictions on Wednesday in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta.

The two also announced a restrictions exemption program where businesses could not adhere to any restrictions if they asked all patrons for proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken in the previous 72 hours.

PCR tests from Alberta Health or Alberta Precision Laboratories will not be accepted, the tests must be paid for by the patron.

Read more:
Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine passport, new restrictions: How things are going to change

As of Sept. 15, 79.6 per cent of eligible Albertans over the age of 12 had received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Just over 71 per cent of the same population was fully vaccinated.

Vaccination appointments can be made online or by calling 811.

 

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Driver facing charges after east Hamilton hit-and-run leaves pedestrian with critical injuries

A Hamilton man is facing charges in connection with a hit-and-run in the city’s east end earlier this week.

Hamilton police say it happened at about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday when the driver of an SUV lost control of his vehicle while driving along Mount Albion Road just north of Hixon Road.

According to investigators, the vehicle went up on the sidewalk and hit a 55-year-old woman.

She remains in critical condition in hospital.

Read more:
Police seek driver tied to hit and run in Hamilton’s east end

Police say the driver of the SUV got out of the vehicle and spoke to some witnesses before fleeing on foot toward Lawrence Road, leaving the vehicle behind.

On Thursday, the driver turned himself in to police.

The 52-year-old Hamilton man is charged with dangerous driving causing bodily harm, failing to remain, causing bodily harm, and failing to comply with probation.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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