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Health

Expanding Coverage of Insulin Pumps

In 2014 the Ministry of Health made an important decision to fund insulin pumps for British Columbians under the age of 25, with Type 1 diabetes. I recently wrote the Minister of Health, urging him to go farther and eliminate that age requirement in order to cover all British Columbians with the disease.

This is a policy that could greatly increase the quality of treatment for thousands of people. Insulin pumps reduce the likelihood of serious medical complications which can include kidney failure, blindness and amputation. These complications are not only devastating to individuals and their families, they are also incredibly expensive for our health care system. Funding insulin pumps is a cost effective policy that would increase accessibility of treatment and quality of life for thousands of British Columbians. I look forward to the minister’s response.

Below I reproduce the text of my letter and I will share the response when it is forthcoming.


Text of the Letter


January 29, 2017

Honourable Terry Lake
Minister of Health
PO Box 9050 Prov. Govt.
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2

Dear Minister Lake,

I’m writing to ask that you extend BC Pharmacare coverage of insulin pumps to all British Columbians with Type 1 diabetes.

This technology can be life altering for those who deal with diabetes. I’ve heard stories from a number of constituents, all of whom outlined just how significantly their quality of life improved due to the technology. They were not only afforded greater freedom and a peace of mind, they also attribute a number of important health benefits to the devices.

This belief is backed up by a compelling amount of scientific literature. Insulin pumps have a demonstrable correlation with greater metabolic control for people with Type 1 diabetes. This greater metabolic control lowers the chance of serious complication occurring, including blindness, amputation, heart disease and kidney failure. I recognize that the pump is not the appropriate treatment for everyone but it is an important tool to have available for patients and doctors as they work to manage the disease.

Despite the significant benefits which can be derived from the devices, the financial hurdle is simply too high for many. An insulin pump which typically lasts four to five years can cost an average $7000. This is simply too high a price for many to pay. I’ve heard stories of people forced to choose between obtaining the medical treatment they need to manage paying for food or rent.

I recognize the difficult decisions which need to be made in prioritizing drugs for the Pharmacare budget but this therapy has the potential to reduce long term health care costs. As stated earlier, the better insulin management afforded by pumps reduce the chance of associated complications. The loss of sight, of a limb, or of kidney function can have devastating effects on an individual and their family. They are also incredibly costly to our health care system. Studies have indicated that the introduction of an insulin pump program could mean net savings for the health care system, when the decrease in complications is taken into account.

Alberta, Ontario, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories have already made the decision to cover Insulin Pumps for all residents with Type 1 diabetes. In both provinces, government funding supplemented the coverage already provided by private medical insurance, a move which reduced the cost of the program.

Insulin pumps not only an effective tool for patients manage a very dangerous disease, they’re also a preventative and cost effective measure our health care system could implement. This is a forward thinking policy which could lead to better treatment of diabetes for thousands of British Columbians.

In 2014, your ministry made the decision to provide insulin pumps to residents who needed them and were under the age of 25. This was move which gave a great number of people the tools they needed to manage their disease. I urge you to eliminate the age requirement for coverage, and make these benefits accessible for British Columbians of all ages.

Sincerely,

Andrew Weaver
MLA, Oak Bay-Gordon Head

Bill M217 — First Responders Act, 2017

Today in the legislature I introduced a private member’s bill titled First Responders Act, 2017. This Bill amends the Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act to include paramedics and emergency dispatchers.

As it stands now, paramedics are not considered to be an essential service. By including them in the collective bargaining act, we would eliminate labour disputes and the use of strikes or lockouts. Instead, this bill would give them the ability to resolve disputes through binding arbitration.

It would help paramedics and dispatchers – and it would help the public. In fact, BC paramedics have been asking for this change. Elections BC recently approved their petition for the Initiative to Amend the Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act to include ambulance service paramedics and dispatchers.

Below are the video and text of the introduction of my bill together with our accompanying media release.


Video of Introduction



Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled First Responders Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the First Responders Act, 2017. This bill amends the existing fire and police services Collective Bargaining Act to also include paramedics and emergency dispatchers, giving them the same collective bargaining rights as other first responders.

As it stands now, paramedics are not considered as an essential service. By including them in the Collective Bargaining Act, we would eliminate labour disputes and the use of strikes or lockouts. Instead, this bill would give them the ability to solve disputes through binding arbitration. It would help paramedics and dispatchers, and it would help the public.

As citizens, we owe the first responders sincere gratitude for helping us in times of crisis. As members of the Legislative Assembly, we are shamefully indebted to them for leaving them to shoulder the weight of a horrific drug overdose epidemic. We allowed them to become overworked while under-supported. I hope that this bill will begin to repair that strain, and it represents a proactive attempt to deal with the initiative that has been brought forward by Elections B.C.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M217, First Responders Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Media Release


VICTORIA B.C. – “Paramedics and emergency dispatchers are an essential service, and should be treated as such,” says Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party.

“As citizens, we owe first responders sincere gratitude for helping us in times of crisis.
We are indebted to them as they’ve had to shoulder the additional weight of a horrific drug overdose epidemic. We allowed them to become overworked while under supported. I hope that this bill will begin to repair that strain.”

Today in the B.C. Legislature MLA Weaver will table a bill intituled the First Responders Act, 2017. The bill amends the existing Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act to also include paramedics and emergency dispatchers, giving them the same collecting bargaining rights as other first responders. It fulfills the changes called for in a petition issue by paramedics through Elections B.C.

“As it stands now, paramedics are not considered as an essential service. By including them in the collective bargaining act, we would eliminate labour disputes and the use of strikes or lockouts. Instead, this bill would give them the ability to resolve disputes through binding arbitration.

“The amendments in this Act would help paramedics and dispatchers – and it would help the public.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Comments on the Representative for Children and Youth Report

Weaver Comments on the Representative for Children and Youth Report
For immediate release
February 6th, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – Today’s report by the Representative for Children and Youth, “Broken Promises: Alex’s Story”, tells the story of Alex, a youth under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development who took his own life at age 18.

“The report speaks clearly of the gravity of the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s failure to provide basic supports, in keeping with their duty under the law,” says Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head. “The Ministry denied Alex the chance to be taken care of by his extended family, and failed to provide him with desperately needed mental health services or the chance to find a meaningful connection to his culture.”

“It makes me sick to read that the government often referenced his ‘challenging behaviour’ as they cycled him through 17 placements, as if they were not complicit and aggravating all the challenges he faced.”

“That an abused and neglected 18-year old spent the last 49 days of his life in a hotel room, mostly alone, while the government waited for him to age out of care at age 19, is a horrific testament to the ways in which the Ministry is failing in its duty to protect and care for our most vulnerable children in BC”.

“The government’s subsequent news release claiming they intend to follow the report’s recommendations strikes me as horribly self congratulatory, considering many of the recommendations centre around the ministry neglecting to follow their own legislation to begin with. This isn’t something they should be telling us they plan to do, it has been their legal and moral responsibility to do so from the beginning.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Time for funding on home and mental health care

Time for funding on home and mental health care
For immediate release
January 30, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – Home care and mental health are at a crisis point in B.C. and the provincial government continues to play politics with the wellbeing of British Columbians.

“The federal government has put new money on the table for mental health services and home health care,” said Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head. “Rather than sitting down and negotiating a deal like Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the three territories have, British Columbia is watching the health care money be given away.”

Since Health Accord negotiations between the provinces and federal government broke down in December, four other provinces and three territories have since returned to the table and have reached bilateral funding agreements. Last week, Saskatchewan became the fourth province to reach a bilateral deal with the federal government on health care transfers. British Columbia has not resumed negotiations.

“Island Health is struggling with a budget deficit of between $10-million and $12-million dollars and our hospitals, designed to deal with acute care, are being used inefficiently for chronic care for which the federal home care money is targeted,” said Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party.

“We are struggling to respond reactively to the fentanyl crisis, an approach that has come with a staggeringly horrific human cost. We need to be proactively supporting mental health and recovery services for which, once again, Federal money is already being offered.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Touring Vancouver’s downtown east side to learn more about the ongoing opioid overdose crisis

Today I visited Vancouver’s downtown east side to learn more about the overdose crisis plaguing British Columbia.

Earlier in the day, shocking statistics were released by the B.C. Coroners’ Service. Over the period January 1 to November 30 2016, there have been 755 overdose deaths in British Columbia with 128 of those fatalities occurring in November. Year-to-date statistics reveal a 70% increase from last year.

Those following my blog will know that we have written previously on this subject. On December 2 we outlined some of the steps that individuals could take if they encounter someone experiencing an opioid overdose. On December 15, we provided a more comprehensive analysis of the problem, and pointed out the need for a comprehensive, proactive approach to dealing with it.

During our tour today, Jonina Campbell, the BC Green candidate for New Westminster in the upcoming provincial election, and I were profoundly moved by what we experienced and the stories we heard. As Jonina noted in the statement we released after our tour (reproduced below), we witnessed “a grassroots effort of downtown eastside community members who have come together, because it is their friends and family who are suffering and dying.”

Thank you to Sarah Blyth, who is working with the Overdose Prevention Society, for taking the time to tour us around the downtown east side and educating us on the overdose crisis.

Later in the day I appeared on CBC’s On the Coast (starting at the 52:48 mark) in an attempt to convey what we learned from our visit.


Media Statement


Media Statement, Dec. 19, 2016
Statements from Andrew Weaver and Jonina Campbell following tour of pop-up safe injection site in downtown east side
For immediate release

VANCOUVER B.C. – B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and New Westminster candidate Jonina Campbell released the following statements after touring a pop-up safe injection site near East Hastings and Columbia streets in Vancouver:

“I have been deeply moved by the dedication and commitment of those working at Vancouver’s pop-up safe injection sites – volunteers who are working with few resources to save lives that would otherwise likely be lost,” Weaver said. “Sarah Blyth, Anne Livingston and others who have acted so selflessly are to be commended for taking action in an incredibly desperate situation.

“Today, the B.C. Coroners Service reported that a staggering 755 people died from illicit drug use from January 1 to November 30 this year. The opioid crisis is out of control. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott needs to immediately declare a national health emergency, which would give chief medical officers the power to deal with this crisis as a health issue. It is also critical that the federal government immediately repeal aspects of the Harper-era Bill C-2 that make it extremely difficult for cities to open safe-injection facilities like Vancouver’s InSite. Community members have been forced to pull together scarce resources to provide life-saving services on their own. It is unconscionable that our communities are barred from responding with the most effective, life-saving measures. The consequences are simple – the more we dither, the more people die.”

“The approach of the past, to treat drug use as a criminal issue, does not work. Drug use is a public health issue. Lack of treatment facilities has been a major contributing factor, while the systematic underfunding of mental health services has had broad reaching consequences. The scale of this tragedy forces us to ask some very difficult questions, including the question of decriminalizing illicit drugs. The Portugal model, where use or possession of illicit drugs was changed from a criminal to administrative offence, has proven to dramatically reduce STIs and drug-related deaths. These deaths can happen to anyone. As a society, we must respond accordingly.”

“I would like to call on all provincial leaders to come together on this issue,” Campbell added. “Andrew is the only party leader to tour a pop-up safe-injection site. While Premier Clark and John Horgan have stated that they will not visit one, I urge them to reconsider. We must put humanity above all else. The fentanyl crisis is a community health issue and therefore, local politicians must learn firsthand about what is occurring and what can be done to stop these tragic deaths.”

“We must not forget our responsibility to support first responders, frontline workers and volunteers, who are trying to cope with insufficient resources and the trauma of being on the ground. This is a grassroots effort of downtown eastside community members who have come together, because it is their friends and family who are suffering and dying. What I witnessed today was a tragedy of epic proportions. Few British Columbians understand the scale of what is happening. We must support those who put themselves in the middle of it, hoping to save one life at a time.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary, Office of Andrew Weaver, MLA
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca