Category: Health

Alberta spends $3M for 30 nurse practitioners for remote, specialized areas

EDMONTON – Alberta is hiring up to 30 new nurse practitioners to work in remote areas or places where it’s difficult for patients to see a family doctor.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the new hires will work with family physicians and others in primary care networks.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have taken advanced education and can perform tasks such as setting broken bones, doing checkups, ordering tests and prescribing medications.

Alberta has 600 nurse practitioners, but Shandro says almost all of them work in hospitals or outpatient clinics.

He says the goal is to have them work in areas like Bonnyville, where the primary care network there has 600 patients on a wait list for a doctor.

“We’re delivering on our campaign commitment to add more nurse practitioners, to give people in underserved communities more access to primary care and other health services,” Shandro said. “Nurse practitioners are valuable, skilled health-care professionals, and we look forward to working with them to strengthen our publicly funded health system.”

Anne Summach, with the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta, says she doesn’t see any problem finding 30 practitioners to work away from the major centres given they will have more opportunity to do a broader range of work.

“Any day that the government announces funding for more nurse practitioners is a good day for Albertans. However, today’s promise of more nurse practitioners is just a drop in the bucket compared this government’s panel recommendations for deep cuts to health care funding and Americanization of services,” said David Shepherd, NDP Official Opposition Critic. “Nurse Practitioners are a great addition to our health care system but the UCP is going to make it harder for them to deliver care by making a 20 per cent cut.”

Recruitment begins soon for new nurse practitioners across Alberta, including:

Aspen Primary Care Network in northern Alberta, to provide services for many Treaty 8 First Nations in the area (such as Driftpile and Bigstone Cree) and Metis Settlements (including Peavine and Gift Lake).

Bow Valley Primary Care Network, to provide services in the areas of Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise, where patients currently have to seek care through hospital emergency departments.

Bonnyville Primary Care Network, where 600 patients are currently on a wait-list for a doctor.

Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network, to increase services for foster children at the Covenant Health Foster Care Clinic.

Sherwood Park-Strathcona County Primary Care Network, to provide services in the hospital’s opioid dependency clinic.

(With file from Government of Alberta, NDP media releases)

14 Utah students suffer concussions each week; know the signs

SALT LAKE CITY — Fourteen Utah students suffer a concussion each week, according to new data from the Utah Department of Health, and most of them occur from September-November.

“A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury – or TBI – caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. A person injured from a concussion may experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe which may include headaches, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, double or blurry vision, feeling “sluggish” and “foggy,” or suffer from poor memory recall and concentration. Symptoms can linger for weeks or even months,” a news release from UDOH said.

UDOH gathered concussion data for the 2016-2019 school years and found 1,521 students suffered concussions while at school. More than half of those occurred among male students. Of the cases recorded, male students accounted for 59 percent of concussions and 37 percent of theme occurred during recess or physical education classes.

The concussions most often occurred as students were running (17 percent), playing football (10 percent) or walking (10 percent).

“A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury – or TBI – caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. A person injured from a concussion may experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe which may include headaches, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, double or blurry vision, feeling “sluggish” and “foggy,” or suffer from poor memory recall and concentration. Symptoms can linger for weeks or even months,” a news release from UDOH said.

Students who sustain a concussion may:
• Appear dazed or stunned
• Seem confused
• Lose memory of just before or after the injury
• Have balance, coordination, or gait problems
• Show a change in personality
• Respond slowly to questions
• Lose consciousness for any length of time; however, losing consciousness is not a requirement for a concussion diagnosis

If you or a loved one has experienced a concussion and want to determine if you qualify for services such as a neuropsychological evaluation, please contact the UDOH Health Resource Line at 1-888-222-2542 or

Provincial funding to continue for School Nutrition Program

Some great news for local school districts regarding a program that provides daily nutritious meals for thousands of Alberta students.

The provincial government has announced it will continue funding the School Nutrition Program first implemented by the NDP as a pilot in 2016 and continued over the past two years.

For Red Deer Public Schools, the funding will continue to boost programs already in place at Fairview Elementary School and Normandeau School.

Superintendent Stu Henry says Fairview Elementary School received over $150,000 from the grant in each of the last two years, while Normandeau received roughly the same amount last year after the government increased its investment in the program.

Nicola Golby, associate superintendent for Red Deer Public Schools, says they’re pleased the renewed funding will continue to make healthy foods available to students in hopes of supplementing what they may or may not be able to bring from home.

“At Normandeau, the students will have access to breakfast foods before the bell and then during the morning if students are hungry, they can walk down and pick up muffins between classes,” she explains. “Then lunch will be available for any student in the school daily, so they will have milk, fruits, vegetables and some kind of a hot lunch or sandwiches every day of the week.”

At Fairview, Golby says a grab-n-go breakfast will be available for students after the morning bell.

“They’ll have fruits and vegetables fresh every day, milk fresh every day, kind of special days where they’ll have their smoothie days, special days where they’ll have ‘try something new on your toast’ days,” explains Golby. “Then they’re going to try partnering with the Mustard Seed this year for lunches. We want to see what we can do in terms of expanding our partnership with the Mustard Seed and see if we can get even more students from different schools and the ability to have some extra food before lunches if its needed.”

However, despite the renewed government funding Golby says many schools will likely continue their search for additional community support to help keep the program sustainable.

“With a government grant being year-to-year, we never know if it’s going to come the following year or not,” says Golby. “So any support that we can get to help provide some sustainability for future years is really appreciated.”

At Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, associate superintendent of faith development and division support, Ryan Ledene, says they are happy Alberta Education will continue to fund the program.

“In the 2018-2019 school year, the school nutrition grant was utilized by St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds and St. Teresa of Avila School in Red Deer,” says Ledene. “This year, we will expand the usage of the school nutrition grant to include St. Patrick’s Community School in Red Deer.”

Alberta Education’s School Nutrition Program saw an initial investment of $3.5 million in the 2016-2017 school year as a pilot project, with 14 school authorities across the province benefitting.

A further $10 million was invested in the program through Budget 2017 and another $15.5 million in 2018 for a total of $29 million over the last three years.

Provincial officials have confirmed the School Nutrition Program will once again be funded with $15.5 million in 2019-2020, with each school district receiving the same amount of funding as last year.

Medical cannabis tweaks expected as Utah lawmakers meet in special session Monday

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers will meet for a special session Monday, and medical cannabis is expected to be a major focus.

Gov. Herbert called the session earlier this month and said he wants the state’s medical cannabis program to be off the ground by March 2020.

Lawmakers are expected to make changes to the medical cannabis bill passed to replace the voter-approved Proposition 2.

Those changes include eliminating dispensaries run by county health departments, changing packaging requirements and other adjustments. 

The “central fill” plan where health departments would distribute the medical cannabis ran into trouble in Davis and Salt Lake counties after attorneys for both recommended against the plan.

The legislature will also discuss census funding, the governor’s press release stated, “and making several other technical adjustments.” See below for the other topics on the agenda:

  • Issues to be addressed during the special session include the following:
  • Amendments to medical cannabis laws to repeal requirements regarding a state
    central fill pharmacy and other amendments necessary to ensure the efficient and safe implementation and operation of the state’s medical cannabis program;
  • Amendments to the Utah Election Code regarding the date of the 2020 primary election and technical amendments;
  • Amendments to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act regarding the transportation and storage of certain heavy beer prior to November 1, 2019;
  • Legislative approval of and appropriations for the settlement of lawsuits against the state;
  • Amendments to certain tax incentives regarding the review required by an independent certified public accountant and technical amendments;
  • Appropriations for the 2020 United States Census and “[f]or the Senate to consent to appointments made by the Governor.”

Red Deer girl over the moon to meet astronaut hero

A young Red Deer girl can soon check another item off her bucket list.

In late August, 11-year-old Magdalena Kehler emailed Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian female astronaut to go to space.

The question and wisdom-packed message was written after it had been decided that she would unfortunately not be able to attend an upcoming event featuring Bondar, and hosted by the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation, on Sept. 23.

“What does it feel like to take off into space?” Kehler ponders.

“What classes should I take in high school,” and, “Can I still be a mom, spend time with children and be an astronaut?” also grace the email along with a question about joining the military.

Kehler wrote that she was curious about that aspect because she’s scared about the prospect of having to fight.

In conversation with the foundation regarding what she was going to speak about during The Lunch Box Experience event, Bondar noted the communication she’d received from Kehler. When the foundation became aware, they went to work with sponsors to find a way to provide Kehler and her mother Chantel with two tickets, each worth $125.

“To see her mom’s face is so heartwarming (knowing that) her daughter’s dream can come true to meet Dr. Bondar,” said Manon Therriault, foundation CEO, after surprising Kehler with the gift.

“I work in an environment where our faith in humanity is continuously inspired and restored, but at the same time, to read the questions Magdalena had for Dr. Bondar was just mind-blowing. It’s not really something an 11-year-old normally thinks about. Its really great to have those questions answered for her.”

Not only will Kehler attend the event with her mom, but she will get some one-on-one time with Bondar, who is also a photographer, neurologist and owner of a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

“I think as long as she’s been able to express what she wanted to be when she grows up, she’s always said she wants to be an astronaut,” says Chantel. “I’m so grateful that she’ll have the opportunity to meet Dr. Bondar; she can talk to a person who’s gone through those experiences and had those achievements. Then she’ll know that if she wants it, she can do it.”

More details about The Lunch Box Experience are on the foundation’s website.

Doctors at U of U Health say oily droplets in lungs a common factor in vaping-related illnesses

SALT LAKE CITY — With nearly three dozen cases of recent lung illness related to vaping and counting in Utah, doctors and scientists here at University of Utah Health say we may be on the front line of the issue.

There are dozens of similar cases popping up all around the country, and in some instances people have died as a result of the severe pneumonia-like symptoms.

Scientists at the U of U are trying to lead the charge and sound the alarm about the dangers of vaping.

They said they are now seeing something called macrophages, essentially oily droplets, that accumulate on the lungs.

So far all six patients they have observed here, folks who admitted to vaping, have this condition.

“We are finding very high levels of macrophages that contain oil or lipid-like material—which is not normal, not something we see in the lung with infection or other forms of lung injury,” said Cheryl Pirozzi, a doctor and assistant professor at University of Utah Health.

Sean Callahan, a doctor and assistant professor at University of Utah Health, said people should be wary of vaping in the meantime.

“We still have a lot of work to do to understand this better and get the message out that it’s just not safe to vape right now,” he said.

The good news here is now that scientists have identified these oily droplets, they believe it will allow doctors to better diagnose vaping patients and more quickly provide proper treatment.

The bad news: These cases of severe respiratory illness due to vaping have only been surfacing over the past couple of weeks and doctors expect that number to grow.

Local vape shop says business is ‘steady’ despite alarm over the consequences of vaping

SANDY, Utah — The controversy over vaping continues as store owners react to legislators and the research they presented.

Michael Berry, owner of the Blackhouse Vapor Company, said they initially saw a dip in sales, but this week has been steady.

The claims made by legislators that illegal drugs or opiates were found in E-juice are false, at least for Berry’s business.

“All of our e-juice is regulated by the state health department,” Berry said.

Blackhouse is compliant with FDA and Utah’s rules, Berry said, and he’s not afraid to prove it.

“We’ll be testing our own e-juice and we’ll release those tests,” Berry said.

While they wait for results, business continues as usual.

One customer, Ashton Scarlett, has been vaping for four years as an alternative to smoking.

“I know what it is that I’m putting into my body,” Scarlett said. “I’ve done my research, and it honestly just feels like a knee jerk reaction.”

First generation of bone marrow transplant recipients return to Primary Children’s Hospital

SALT LAKE CITY — Primary Children’s Hospital celebrated the 25th anniversary of its bone marrow transplant program Thursday.

Patients, parents, doctors and nurses all attended the special event.

In the 25 years since that first operation, more than 700 people have received bone marrow transplants at the hospital.

Ian Dahl of Sandy was one of the very first young patients to undergo the life saving procedure.

‘It`s been a huge miracle for our family,” Dahl said. “It`s really added to our life, my family, my parents and my family`s life.”

Primary Children’s participates in the worldwide “Be the Match” program. It was created to maximize the chances of matching donors and recipients.

Hilary Saunders was one of Ian’s nurses and has seen how the program and most importantly the donors have saved so many lives over the years.

“It`s a beautiful thing that you can do to save a life of a child or adult and we need you,” Saunders said.

You can check out and sign up for the “Be the Match” program here.


Planning continues for Red Deer Dream Centre

One of the people behind the Red Deer Dream Centre – a proposed 49-day treatment facility – hopes the community will recognize how badly the project needs to happen.

The proposed centre is described as a faith-based organization, committed to alternative treatment options for alcohol and drug addiction in Central Alberta.

Wes Giesbrecht and his team held an open house this week at the former Lotus nightclub (4618 50 Ave.) where they plan to offer a program giving former drug users the confidence and skillset to integrate back into society in a healthy way.

Part of the open house’s focus was to clear up some perceptions about what the facility will and won’t be.

“It’s not a mat program, it’s not an injection site, it’s not a safe consumption site, it’s not a needle program, it’s not a soup kitchen. It’s recovery,” Giesbrecht says.

“When clients come to us, they are detoxed for three days, then they come into the dream centre and spend seven weeks in an intensive program to rehabilitate and bring them freedom so they can start living a different way, and while you’re there, you’re there.”

While money for capital and operating is a hurdle, Giesbrecht says that isn’t their biggest concern right now.

“It’s the population downtown, especially the business owners, who have their backs up. What we’re seeing is that it’s all painted with the same brush, so if you’re in recovery, you’re part of the safe injection site (overdose prevention site),” he states. “There are certain aspects of the injection facility that I had no idea how bad we actually need something like that for the present circumstances. It (the OPS) is not the answer, but it will help mitigate the chaos. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a bleeding artery.”

Giesbrecht described comments he heard at Tuesday’s supervised consumption town hall as ‘venomous,’ specifically one suggesting it would be a good idea to lock up a store’s life-saving naloxone kit even if someone is overdosing.

Meantime, the provincial government has announced they will fund 4000 new treatment spaces over the next four years. Giesbrecht says they will look into possible taking advantage of that money for their facility.

“The reality is that every one of the people at the (supervised consumption) symposium the other night, I heard very clearly from a lot of them about recovery. Even ones that were totally uncalled for, the heartbeat is that they’re hurt, the heartbeat is the city has been floundering for the last couple years and we haven’t had the right approach, but I feel like this is,” he says.

“Sobriety is not the opposite of addiction, community is, so when we can get these individuals back into community … they can eventually be part of the system that helped them recover and they can start helping others.”

The City’s Municipal Planning Commission will consider approving the Red Deer Dream Centre application on Oct. 2.

Snuffing out vaping at Red Deer schools

The City of Red Deer, in partnership with Red Deer Public Schools, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and cole La Prairie, is enforcing vaping at Red Deer high schools.

Officials say local schools are seeing an increase in the number of students that are vaping – or using electronic cigarettes – on school property.

Under The City’s Smoke-Free Bylaw, vaping is prohibited in public spaces and workplaces, and within 10 metres of playgrounds, seasonal skating rinks, skate parks, sports fields, water spray parks, or toboggan hills.

“Community peace officers will enforce the Smoke-Free Bylaw at high schools in Red Deer which prohibits all forms of smoking including the use of e-cigarettes,” said Scott Tod, Municipal Policing Services Manager. “People in public spaces including workplaces are entitled to a safe environment and vaping puts others at risk.”

“We are seeing students from all grade levels using vaping products. With all high schools in Red Deer partnering with The City of Red Deer, we hope it will continue to educate our students on the health implications of tobacco and vaping,” said Rose McQuay, Principal at cole Secondaire Notre Dame High School.

“Student vaping has reached epidemic proportions among Red Deer youth. Not only have our schools seen a significant increase in students using vaping products, it now ranks as the number one reason for student suspensions,” added Darwin Roscoe, Principal at Hunting Hills High School.

“With the use of The City of Red Deer Smoke-Free Bylaw, it gives us another tool to help enforce the no vaping policy at our school. We are grateful that all high schools in Red Deer are taking the same approach,” said Jean Doyon, Director at cole la Prairie.

As per the bylaw, city enforcement will issue tickets to anyone (including students) caught violating the bylaw. Students caught vaping on school property by a bylaw officer or RCMP member will receive a ticket for violating The City’s Smoke Free Bylaw, with the following fines:

– $200 for the first offense

– $500 for the second offense

– Up to $2500 for the third offense

In addition to the fine, students at Red Deer Public Schools and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools will also receive suspensions from their schools. Parents with questions are asked to contact their child’s high school administrator.

(media release)