Ontarians push back against companies denying them access to ‘non-essential’ goods

Ontario residents are pushing back against big box and discount stores cutting off access to in-store items the province has deemed ‘non-essential’ as part of the the new COVID-19 stay-at-home measures.

They argue that many of those items are essential, especially for low-income households who can’t afford to buy supplies online or at pricier retailers.

“There are a lot of things people think are everyday essentials that are roped off and I think that’s a mistake that the government overlooked,” said Sarah Colero, a person whose income relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program.

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Here’s what Ontario’s big-box stores look like as new COVID-19 state of emergency takes effect

She claims the ODSP only provides her with just under $1,200 a month and she depends on stores like Dollarama to get her supplies.

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Colero claims Dollarama has closed off access to aisles with many supplies she needs and can’t afford to purchase elsewhere.

“Cleaning supplies, menstrual products, paper towels, tissues, tin foil,” she said. “I love Dollarama because everything there is a good price and that’s really what we need, because on ODSP, we have to budget so carefully.”

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Dollaramas across Toronto have signs outside stores listing items that the province had deemed ‘non-essential’ and it could no longer sell in-store, including supplies related to school, office, kitchen, hair accessories and closet and bathroom.

Dollarama also doesn’t allow for curbside pickup.

Ulisse Aiello is a caregiver to his brother with autism and said he desperately needs art supplies to keep his sibling occupied.

“He has the mentality of a five-year-old so you have to do a lot of things with him to keep him busy,” Aiello said.

Read more:
Ontario issuing stay-at-home order, declares 3rd state of emergency amid COVID-19 pandemic

Aiello adds that, with their budget, he can only afford art supplies at places like Dollarama and Walmart.

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“It’s not fair that you’re closing down sections of a store that are absolutely essential to many people,” he said. 

Meanwhile, many others took to Twitter to criticize Walmart for closing off areas of their stores, including some who claimed they were denied access to child supplies and diapers.

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Dr. Andrew Boozary suggests the government should be more flexible when it comes to what is deemed ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential,’ especially to those in marginalized and low-incomes communities.

“It’s a really tough line to draw between what is essential and non-essential,” said Boozary.

“We just have to listen to the community in things that they need, things that are essential through this stretch — because we really need to know that there’s that solidarity as to which kind of neighbourhoods are at risk and which neighbourhoods are going to have the least access to support and help.”

Read more:
COVID-19: Highlights of Ontario’s new measures as stay-at-home order set to take effect Thursday

In response to Global News’ request for a statement, Ontario’s ministry of health said the rules only allow big box and discount stores to sell certain items.

“These categories are limited to: grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items and personal care items,” said ministry of health spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene.

“Given the vast number of types of items that big box/discount retailers sell, the prescribed categories ensure that retailers have the flexibility needed to categorize all items sold,” she added.

“Should a big box/discount store wish to sell other items, they must comply with any applicable conditions that other retailers that sell those items comply with.”

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COVID-19: Ontario hospitals suspending non-emergency surgeries

COVID-19: Ontario hospitals suspending non-emergency surgeries

Meanwhile, a Dollarama spokesperson told Global News in a statement: “We are committed to maintaining this essential role while also adhering to evolving government orders in the face of a persistent virus.

“We moved quickly (Wednesday) following the announcement of new emergency measures effective (Thursday), and we sincerely thank all our customers for their patience and understanding in what continue to be extremely difficult circumstances for Canadians from all walks of life.”

“We thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we implement the new guidelines,” said Walmart Canada media relations representative, Adam Grachnik.

“In this case, diapers are permitted for sale in our stores.”

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

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Eating disorders, substance abuse increasing in youth amid pandemic, says Hamilton hospital – Hamilton

Eating disorders, substance abuse and suicide attempts are just some afflictions McMaster Children’s hospital says they’ve seen increase amid months of COVID-19 pandemic safety measures in Ontario over the last year.

A recent report from Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) which chronicles a four-month period (September to December 2020) during the pandemic, says the shared hypotheses among staff is that isolation, exercise risks, no school, and limited access to physicians are contributors to the negative changes tied to recent youth mental health issues.

“We are all coping with multiple stressors brought on by the current pandemic,” says Dr. Paulo Pires from McMaster’s Child & Youth Mental Health Outpatient Services.

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A year into the pandemic, mental health workers face burnout and soaring demands

“We must be attentive to the unique impact of these stressors on children and youth depending on their stage of development.”

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The facility says there was an “unprecedented” increase in referrals to their eating disorders program during the four-month period, 90 per cent more compared to 2019 numbers.

The agency says there were 117 new referrals between September and December compared to just 67 the year before.

Click to play video: 'Increase in need for youth mental health support'

Increase in need for youth mental health support

Increase in need for youth mental health support

Meanwhile, increased conflict at home, a lack of social interaction and the inability to rely on friends are believed to be contributors in a steady increase in suicide-related events.

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“Youth admitted for medical support after a suicide attempt has tripled over a four-month period, compared to last year,” the report said. “Patients are staying in hospital longer due to more serious attempts.”

Read more:
‘Burnout is real’: COVID-19 pandemic takes mental health toll on health-care workers

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Youth admitted with substance abuses has also doubled compared to 2019, particularly the use of opioids.

The report from McMaster comes on the heels of a more general mental health survey from the Canadian Mental Health Association which is urging the province to invest in the sector during upcoming budget talks.

The CMHA poll suggests the second wave of the pandemic has “eroded” Ontarians already fragile emotional well-being.

CHMA CEO Camille Quenneville told Global News that three surveys conducted amid the pandemic have trended lower than the previous and continue to head “in the wrong direction.”

Read more:
Ontarians’ mental health has continued to deteriorate throughout COVID-19 pandemic: poll

The current poll, conducted by Pollara who surveyed just over 1,000 Ontarians online between Feb. 19 and 22, suggests only 35 per cent of Ontarians consider their mental health to be “very good” or “excellent.”

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That’s down about 17 per cent from the first round of polling in May.

Of particular concern is substance abuse in which more than one-quarter of Ontarians – 27 per cent – are using more substances to cope with the pandemic. That’s up from 21 per cent in a CHMA summer poll.

Read more:
40% of Canadians struggling with mental health, addiction amid coronavirus pandemic: Ipsos

“We have never seen the kind of opioid overdose epidemic that we’re in right now,” said Quenneville.

“The numbers are terrifying and the amount of alcohol consumption has also gone up to all-time highs.”

Quenneville says accessing mental health supports is becoming difficult according to the survey’s respondents. Thirty-five per cent say they are finding it difficult to get help compared to the 27 per cent in the summer who said they had issues with professional supports.

Pires says about 1 in 5 children are suffering from a mental health concern, but only about 1 in 4 actually receive treatment.

Click to play video: 'Toronto woman shines light on youth mental health in memory of her daughter'

Toronto woman shines light on youth mental health in memory of her daughter

Toronto woman shines light on youth mental health in memory of her daughter – Feb 26, 2021

The psychologist and clinical director says parents should look out for changes in eating, sleeping and behaviours which last for many days or weeks.

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“Changes in behaviour can include expressions of distress, disconnecting from loved ones, or acting-out behaviours. Caregivers are encouraged to reach out for professional help for their children or for themselves as parents,” says Pires.

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

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Halifax wheelchair user ‘trapped’ in apartment due to 15-day-long elevator repair

A Halifax mom is advocating for her son with disabilities, who hasn’t been able to leave his apartment for more than two weeks, due to an out-of-order elevator.

Tracy Denney and her 30-year-old son Adam live on the third floor at 16 Caxton Close, with four flights of stairs standing between their apartment and the exit.

“I’m fed up,” Denney tells Global News.

Adam has spina bifida and has been wheelchair-bound since he was two years old.

The only elevator in their building broke down Feb 24. For more than two weeks, Adam has not been able to leave his apartment.

Read more:
Waiting list ‘abyss’ in N.S. for care and housing of people with disabilities: doctor

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Now, his mother says it’s having an impact on his physical and mental health.

“I understand that probably in the last year with COVID, a lot of people have been stuck in their house. But there’s a difference between being stuck in your house and being trapped,” Denney said.

“He’s actually physically not able to get out of the apartment.

“It’s mental health and panic attacks; he’s just overwhelmed by what’s going on.”

Denney also said Adam is now going onto week three of having to miss work because he cannot leave. She is a single mother, so this is having a financial impact on the family as well.

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She said this is not the first time the elevator has broken. She and her son moved into the building in 2005, but issues with the elevator arose in the last two years.

“It’s gone down many times, sometimes that’s days at a time,” said Denney.

She said the elevator broke on New Year’s Day in 2020 and stayed broken for nine days. Adam missed holiday dinners and a hockey games he sometimes coaches.

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Submitted by Tracy Denney.

Submitted by Tracy Denney

“We have been actively looking for a wheelchair-accessible apartment, and the problem is in the HRM, there’s no affordable, accessible housing. So we’re pretty well stuck.”

In the last 15 days, Denney said she’s made countless of phone calls to the owners of the building, operated by Doric Management, as well as the company in charge of fixing the elevator.

“I’m sort of just getting the run around because the elevator place doesn’t really tell me what’s going on.”

Having already unsuccessfully contacted medical services and the fire department in hopes of getting help, Denney said she’s exhausted her options.

Click to play video 'Advocates call for reversal of funding cuts for books for people with disabilities'

Advocates call for reversal of funding cuts for books for people with disabilities

Advocates call for reversal of funding cuts for books for people with disabilities

On Tuesday, Denney filed a complaint with the Residential Tenancies Program, also known as the tenancy board.

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“We’re just at our wit’s end. We don’t know what to do,” she said.

Doric Management declined an interview with Global News. In an email statement, the agency said the lengthy repair is out of their hands.

“Our repair company is working to complete the repairs on a timely basis. We regret the inconvenience that this is causing our tenants,” the statement read.

The company said it is aware of the issues an out-of-order elevator has caused tenants with mobility issues.

“The elevator is an amenity which helps many of our tenants on a daily basis. Any time it is out of commission for needed repairs it’s inconvenient and we recognize that,” the statement added.

“At the same time, repairs and maintenance are required for the continued safe operation of the elevator. We need to make sure the elevator is operating safely, and this sometimes means it is unavailable during repairs.”

An ‘out-of-order’ sign is seen at the 16 Caxton Close apartment building in Halifax.

Submitted by Tracy Denney

In response to a safety concern, Doric Management said: “Absolutely safety is a concern. This is why we need to maintain and repair the elevator to ensure it in safe working order.”

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As of Wednesday evening, the elevator was still out of order.

Denney said able-bodied people are just not aware of how difficult this is for her son.

“It would be like me removing the stairs and telling everybody ‘you have to stay in your apartment.’ I know that’s not something that would happen, but to him, that’s what’s happening,” Denney said.

“His way of exit and entry is gone.”

Denney says she knows she may be annoying to the property managers, but she is Adam’s only advocate.

“I’ll do anything to make sure he’s able to get in and out,” Denney said.

The Department of Service Nova Scotia stold Global News in an email that it “(does) not comment on complaints due to privacy of the individuals involved.”

“The Human Rights Commission may be able to provide information on the rights of persons with a disability,” the email read.

As for the complaint, the department said “a residential tenancies officer can offer to mediate the dispute or a hearing will be held and a decision made within 14 days.”

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Tracy and Adam Denney are scheduled to attend a Residential Tenancy hearing by phone on April 7.

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

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Phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccine plan to focus on age, neighbourhood and health conditions in April

The Ontario government says there will be a focus on seniors aged 60 and older, those in other congregate settings, hot spot regions and those who cannot work from home in an updated vaccine rollout plan on Friday.

According to the documents, the vaccine rollout firstly targets death prevention, followed by prevention of illness, hospitalization and ICU admission, and transmission reduction.

The province is currently wrapping up Phase 1, in which those living in long-term care homes, retirement homes, as well as staff and front-line workers were targeted. Over 820,000 doses have been administered and over 269,000 Ontarians have been fully immunized with two shots.

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Officials noted that the plan does not factor in the newly approved Johnson & Johnson shot and additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, which was announced on Friday.

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Health officials said timelines are amendable and may change based on vaccine supply.  There are currently four vaccines approved in Canada: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The first three require two shots several weeks apart while Johnson & Johnson only requires one.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine rollout said with the approval of the new vaccines, the hope will be that everyone who wishes to be vaccinated will have at least their first dose by the end of June, or potentially by the first day of summer on June 20.

Phase 2 of Ontario’s three-phase rollout plan will see shots administered based on risk factors including age, neighbourhood, existing health conditions and inability to work from home.

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This strategy focuses on the 2.5 million Ontarians between the ages of 60 and 79 years old.

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Residents over the age of 80 will be vaccinated first in March, followed by those over 75 years old, over 70 years old, over 65 years old and over 60 years old with the target end date to be done by the beginning of June.

The Phase 2 sequencing provided by the Ontario government.

Ontario government

Health Conditions and Congregate Settings

This strategy focuses on the 2.9 million Ontarians living with health conditions and the 0.2 million Ontarians living in congregate settings. This group will begin to be vaccinated in April.

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Ontarians living with the following health conditions will be vaccinated in Phase 2:

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Highest-risk (442,000)

  • organ transplant recipients
  • hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients
  • people with neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised
  • haematological malignancy diagnosed <1 year
  • kidney diseases eGFR<30

High-risk (292,000)

  • Obesity (BMI>40)
  • Other treatments causing immunosuppression
  • intellectual or developmental disabilities

At-risk (2.2 million)

  • immune deficiencies and autoimmune disorders
  • stroke/cerebrovascular disease
  • dementia
  • diabetes
  • liver disease
  • all other cancers
  • respiratory diseases
  • spleen problems
  • heart disease
  • hypertension with end organ damage
  • diagnosis of mental disorder
  • substance use disorders
  • thalassemia
  • pregnancy
  • immunocompromising health conditions
  • other disabilities requiring direct support care in the community.

At-risk staff, essential caregivers and residents in congregate settings will be vaccinated in this category.

  • supportive housing
  • developmental services/intervenor and supported independent living
  • emergency homeless shelters
  • other homeless populations not in shelters
  • mental health and addictions congregate settings
  • homes for special care
  • violence against woman shelters and anti-human trafficking residents
  • children’s residential facilities
  • youth justice facilities
  • indigenous healing and wellness
  • provincial and demonstration schools
  • on-farm temporary foreign workers
  • bail beds and indigenous bail beds
  • adult correctional facilities

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Coronavirus: Toronto still waiting on vaccine supply boost from province

This strategy focuses on the 900,000 Ontarians living in targeted hot spot regions, who have high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission. These hot spot regions will still focus on older age groups first. The vaccination process will begin in April and is expected to be completed by the end of May.

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The following 13 public health units will receive up to 920,000 additional vaccine doses to target “historic and ongoing hot spots,” according to the documents.

  • Durham
  • Halton
  • Hamilton
  • Niagara
  • Ottawa
  • Peel
  • Simcoe Muskoka
  • Waterloo
  • Wellington Dufferin Guelph
  • Windsor Guelph
  • Windsor Essex
  • York
  • Toronto
  • South West

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COVID-19 vaccination booking sites busy in Ontario regions offering shots to oldest seniors

This strategy focuses on the almost 2.5 million Ontarians who cannot work from home amid the pandemic. These residents are broken into two groups and those who fall under this category will be vaccinated at the end of Phase 2 expected to be around June.

The first group contains 730, 000 people:

  • elementary/secondary school staff
  • workers responding to critical events (police, fire, compliance, funeral, special constables)
  • childcare and licensed foster care workers
  • food manufacturing workers
  • agriculture and farm workers

The second group contains 1.4 million people:

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  • high-risk and critical retail workers (grocery and pharmacies)
  • remaining manufacturing labourers
  • social workers
  • courts and justice system workers
  • lower-risk retail workers
  • transportation, warehousing and distribution
  • energy, telecom, water and wastewater management
  • financial services
  • waste management
  • mining, oil and gas workers

Over 400,000 essential caregivers will be vaccinated at the same time (at the end of Phase 2), with the focus being on those who take care of residents living with the highest-risk conditions including organ transplants recipients and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients.

Ontario will be launching its online vaccination booking system and call centre on March 15. Certain public health units have launched their own system including in Peel Region and Guelph.

Click to play video 'Ontario pharmacies added to COVID-19 vaccine rollout'

Ontario pharmacies added to COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Ontario pharmacies added to COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The Ontario government said it is also working with all 34 public health units in the province to create mass immunization clinics. According to the document, “it is expected that approximately 80 per cent of total provincial vaccine allocations will be administered through mass immunization clinics during Phase 2 and 3.”

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Vaccinations will also be made available through certain pharmacies and family health centres.

“It is expected that the majority of the first shipment of AstraZeneca in March and in Phase 2 will be supported by the addition of retail pharmacies and primary care,” the documents read.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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

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Smitty’s pancake days charity for children with disabilities raises over $5000 this year – Kingston

Smitty’s Family Restaurant & Lounge hosted their 23rd annual Pancake Days in February, where a short stacks of pancakes were made available for $9.99, and all proceeds were donated to the Easter Seal Kids.

The restaurant announced in a statement Monday that their Pancake Days have raised a total of $5,083.53, which is over a thousand dollars more than last year’s charity.

“I know it’s a difficult time right now for people trying to raise money for good causes, the need is ongoing for these families,” says Smitty’s owner, Randy Loucks.

Loucks and his family donated $1,000 personally this year as well.

Read more:
Easter Seals amps up online fundraising as equipment requests climb

Pancake Days ran from Tuesday, Feb. 16 until Sunday, Feb. 28, with the very first day starting during a snowstorm.

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“It is what it is,” said Loucks of the weather to Global News that day, still prepared to serve pancakes for a good cause.

Easter Seals Ontario provides programs and services to children and youth with physical disabilities across the province, with the goal of helping them to achieve independence through integration.

The charity owns and runs two fully accessible summer camps where youth can enjoy a 10-day program away from home to take part in activities like its indoor climbing wall, sailing and kayaking. The Easter Seals also provide funding for accessible equipment of up to $3,000 per year, per child to help with purchases like wheelchairs and ramps.

The management and staff at Smitty’s ended their statement by thanking the residents of Kingston in helping them achieve this goal.

The restaurant has raised a total of $86,000 during the past 23 years of hosting Pancake Days.

Click to play video 'Kingston family turns a fun outdoor project into a local fundraising initiative'

Kingston family turns a fun outdoor project into a local fundraising initiative

Kingston family turns a fun outdoor project into a local fundraising initiative

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

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Town hall planned for Manitobans with disabilities to discuss effect of COVID-19 restrictions – Winnipeg

Although many Manitobans have been excited about the recent loosening of some COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by the province, some people feel they’ve been left behind when it comes to reopening plans.

The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD) will be putting on a digital town hall Tuesday night, where people can raise their concerns about how they’ve been affected by the changes.

Carlos Sosa, a support worker and member of Inclusion Winnipeg and Inclusion Canada, will be co-moderating the town hall, and told 680 CJOB many of the issues facing Manitobans with disabilities go hand in hand with poverty and access to resources.

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“The people I work with, many of whom live in poverty, have had limited options even before the pandemic,” he said.

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“(They’re) not able to access the internet to reserve books or to access the mental health supports, which are all online right now.

“Obviously, the issues of access to space is so critical. Libraries are critical. They provide programming, they allow people to meet, and with that being closed right now, your options are very limited to participate in the community.”

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Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities

Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities – Jan 2, 2021

Sosa said he understands that the pandemic has made it difficult — if not impossible — for those types of in-person programs to be active at the moment, but the situation is a good example of why more funding is needed for people with disabilities in their daily lives.

“This really echoes the need for increased social assistance rates so people with disabilities could afford computers and the internet so they could participate in events like this,” he said.

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“The gaps that exist in the first place are due to the systemic inequalities of poverty — and also added to it, the society. Physical barriers and also systemic biases, and I see that on a daily basis.

“Many people with disabilities are in poverty through no part of their own and in society we need to do a better job of including people in our communities.”

The town hall, co-moderated by Sosa and MLPD chair Whitney Hodgins, takes place online Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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Manitoba commits funding to help health care, seniors and people with disabilities in throne speech

Manitoba commits funding to help health care, seniors and people with disabilities in throne speech – Oct 7, 2020

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Open House: Converting homes to safely age in place

The aging population spread of COVID-19 in care homes has lead to an increase in renovations on current homes to allow aging in place. One local company has been kept busy converting homes and especially bathrooms to safely allow people to stay in their homes longer.

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Alberta researchers want to improve transitional system for people with disabilities

Dr. Chester Ho, professor at the University of Alberta, says for years, patients with spinal cord injuries have been ringing the alarm about not having the same kind of access to disability care as those living in urban areas.

“We hear time after time from our patients that after they leave Glenrose or Foothills, they feel like they are falling off a cliff because although they got excellent services at these two regional centres… once they leave, it’s a whole different story,” explained Ho, who works in the division of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Ho, his assistant professor Adalberto Loyola-Sanchez and his team are looking for ways to make that transition period smoother for outpatients by exploring a model of transitional care that works like a hub and spokes system, akin to Alberta’s system of major and minor airports.

Edmonton and Calgary will primarily act as hubs, providing spinal cord injury specialty services and information to patients on managing their conditions.

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Whereas, health-care providers in communities outside of the two cities will be the spokes, providing ongoing care and support for outpatients in the community.

Ho says health-care providers in smaller communities that don’t regularly deal with spinal cord injuries often don’t have the experience or resources to manage the chronic issues that stem from the condition.

The four-year project was awarded a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s new Transitions in Care initiative. Several other entities have contributed funding for the project, totalling around $1 million.

Marty Rehman is one of Ho’s patients. Rehman, a Red Deer resident, sustained a spinal cord injury after falling and was left paralyzed from the neck down.

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He spent nearly a year at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary before moving back home.

During his recovery process, he experienced some major roadblocks.

“There’s really no applicable therapy or equipment in the Red Deer Hospital,” Rehman said.

“They don’t really have anything as an outpatient for the physiotherapy. There’s nothing there that will help me improve.”

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But then Ho stepped in to find a resolution to help Rehman get the adequate rehabilitation care he needed.

“He got me hooked up with the therapist in Lacombe., Alta. It’s about a 50-kilometre drive from here,” he added.

Rehman has since met others in the same situation, who’ve had to commute from out of town in to receive care, further highlighting the need for more rehabilitation programs and equipment across the province.

Rehman says he received excellent care in Lacombe and is now able to have some movement in his arms, which has allowed him to operate a wheelchair with a joystick instead of having to use a chin-controlled wheelchair.

Ho’s study is expected to be completed by 2023.

Currently, both Lethbridge and Slave Lake are participants in the pilot project, however, the team is hoping to eventually expand the number of spokes to cover the entire province.

The researchers’ plan is to build capacity in spoke communities and constant communication between the hubs and spokes wherein patients with spinal cord injuries will experience a more consistent level of care, along with fewer complications in their lives.

Read more:
Canadians with disabilities struggling financially due to coronavirus pandemic: survey

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The Claresholm & District Transportation Society is a non-profit that has been helping bridge the gap for nearly two decades by helping provide rides to seniors and those with disabilities to their medical appointments.

“We’ve had [a situation]… where they had to discharge somebody and they did it at eight o’clock at night,” said Howard Paulsen, chair of the Claresholm & District Transportation Society.

“They were calling up our transportation service because they had no other way of getting home, so we will pick them up and bring them back home.”

He added that their drivers are qualified professionals who often go out of their way to offer clients personal safety and comfort.

Paulsen says with doctor appointments being daunting enough, those using their services have expressed gratitude for the drivers being there for them in support.

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

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People with disabilities request priority for COVID-19 vaccine in N.B.

The New Brunswick Coalition of Person with Disabilities is calling on the province to prioritize people with disabilities in its vaccine rollout schedule.

The group’s vice-president, Murielle Pitre, said people with disabilities often have other health conditions that leave them more vulnerable to the coronavirus which should be taking into consideration in the province’s vaccine plan.

“I think that we should figure somewhere on the schedule and the reality is that we are just not,” said Pitre.

Read more:
Coronavirus — Parents of Quebecers with developmental challenges call for vaccine priority

She said the coalition supports the decision to have health-care and senior-care workers and seniors at the top of the list to receive the vaccine. But she says people with disabilities should be included among the vulnerable population.

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“Many people with disabilities have lung issues. For example, I have scoliosis and my lungs don’t function at 100 per cent.”

Mike Parker of Moncton was born with cerebral palsy and also suffers from a heart and lung condition, which he said leave him more vulnerable to COVID-19.

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“In my case, it is a heart and lung disorder, which scares the heck out of me and that is why I don’t go out that much,” he said.

He said that as a person with a disability, he feels overlooked in the province’s vaccine rollout plans.

“Us the disabled, we are not even mentioned, so it is upsetting,” he said.

Click to play video 'COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims'

COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims

COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims

People with disabilities are also not specifically listed in Nova Scotia’s vaccine rollout plans.

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Pitre said many people with disabilities have been housebound for months, which is impacting their mental health.

“Many people have been isolating since last year, I mean, since the beginning of the pandemic because they are afraid to go out,” she said.

Pitre said has spoken to her local MLA several times on the matter but hasn’t heard back yet.

“We are waiting on a response,” she said.

Read more:
People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say

On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, Shawn Berry, said in an email to Global News that long-term care workers and residents and health-care workers are the priority and the province “will be providing more details in the coming weeks about the next groups in its vaccination roll out plans.”

Meanwhile, Parker said his shot cannot come soon enough.

“I am afraid that if I get (COVID-19) chances are I can’t say if I would survive or not. It is 50/50 with me,” he said.


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Waiting list ‘abyss’ in N.S. for care and housing of people with disabilities: doctor

A Nova Scotia family doctor says people with intellectual disabilities can develop illnesses ranging from diabetes to stroke when forced to live in unsuitable housing without expert help.

Dr. Karen McNeil told a legislature committee today many families feel like they’re experiencing “an abyss” because their loved ones languish on a 1,698-person waiting list, either to begin receiving care or in hope of being transferred to a more suitable living arrangement.

McNeil is a founding member of the Dalhousie family medicine adult developmental disability clinic in Halifax, where since 2010 she has supported primary care doctors who care for adults with intellectual disabilities

She told the committee that larger, so-called “congregate care” facilities that house about 525 of the 4,979 adults receiving care are unsuitable and that it’s well established they should be living in smaller, community homes.

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McNeil says that’s particularly true during a pandemic when sharing bedrooms and bathrooms “is a recipe for disaster.”

The doctor says she sees people who are frustrated by living amid too much noise or who lack specialized care, leading to undiagnosed needs.

“When people with intellectual and development disabilities are forced to live in unhealthy situations, they try to communicate, and this is difficult when you have few words or no words,” McNeil told the Department of Community Services legislature committee.

“Sometimes they communicate very loudly, sometimes they get physical, sometimes they beat on themselves, sometimes out of desperation they beat on others.”

“I feel that they are telling us their environment is not suitable and in some cases it is oppressive,” she added.

The physician says family doctors often prescribe psychotropic medication because the province hasn’t created multidisciplinary teams of doctors who can probe the root causes of frustration. “There’s no reason we can’t create these teams,” she said. “And by not having this we are using more drugs. What do those drugs do? They create side effects such as diabetes and put them at risk of heart attack and stroke.”

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McNeil is part of the advocacy organization, Community Homes Action Group, which is urging the province to move more swiftly toward transferring people out of their congregate facilities – referred to as adult residential centres or regional rehabilitation centres – to small options homes where up to four people live with caregivers.

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Joyce d’Entremont, the chief executive of Mountains and Meadows Care Group, noted that a plan to shift 27 residents from Harbourside adult residential facility in Yarmouth to community homes – the first in the provincewide plan to phase out the institutions – has shown the process must take place at the pace that families and residents are comfortable with.

The Harbourside move, d’Entremont said, is happening over 12 to 18 months.

The hearing heard that Nova Scotia is the last jurisdiction in Canada to undertake the closure of institutions, after a moratorium on the construction of small options facilities occurred through the 1990s, as other provinces forged ahead with smaller residences.

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Maria Medioli, executive director of the disability support program, told the committee the advantage of being last is that the province has learned about the downside of shifting people into the community without adequate support.

“We have to set people up for success,” she said. “Some of these people have lived in an institution their whole lives. They’ve been told when to eat, when to sleep and who they have to live with. So to move to a community can be scary.”

The government has said in earlier news releases that it has budgeted $7.4 million in 2020-21 to create 50 new community placements, with plans to expand this transition “over the next several years.”

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Tracey Taweel, the deputy minister of Community Services, noted during today’s hearing that the department’s budget for the disabilities support program has grown $70 million in five years, to $389 million annually, with $75.5 million going toward the large congregate facilities.

She noted in her presentation that the province “remains fully committed to phasing out” the large facilities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.

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