Saskatchewan | RQHR asks unimmunized visitors to mask for 2014-15 flu season

On December 1, visitors who have not been immunized against the influenza virus will be asked to wear masks while in Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR) facilities.

“Our primary focus during the influenza season is trying to ensure our population is protected from influenza virus as much as possible,” said Dr. Tania Diener, RQHR’s Medical Health Officer. “Our free public influenza immunization clinics have been very busy to date, but we know not all visitors to our health care facilities will have received the immunization by December 1.”

“During the influenza season, which begins December 1 and is expected to continue until April, we are asking those members of the public who have not yet received an influenza immunization to wear a disposable mask while in our facilities, to help protect our patients, staff and other visitors from the influenza virus,” she said.

Disposable masks will be available for visitors at all public entryways to RQHR facilities.

In addition, a new Influenza Immunize or Mask Policy for RQHR staff comes into effect December 1.

“We are very encouraged by staff uptake for influenza immunization to date, with nearly 75% of RQHR employees already immunized,” said John Paul Cullen, Executive Director of RQHR’s Workforce Strategy, Safety and Wellness branch.

“However, we know some staff cannot or choose not to receive the immunization for a number of reasons. We want our patients to understand and appreciate why their caregivers may be wearing a mask, and also encourage visitors to join them in wearing a mask while visiting our facilities if they have not been immunized against influenza,” he said.

“Influenza can be serious and causes extended illness, hospitalization and even deaths each year in Saskatchewan,” Diener said. “Patients in health care facilities, including long-term care facilities, are particularly at risk of influenza infection. We would encourage all residents of the RQHR to help protect themselves, their families and their neighbours and friends by getting immunized against influenza, or wearing a mask while in RQHR facilities.”

Influenza immunizations continue to be offered free of charge. In Regina, drop-in clinics will be offered at Dieppe School, 145 Dorothy St. (Off Dewdney Ave. West), today from noon until 7 pm, and at the same location on Mondays in December (December 1, 8, 15, 22) from noon until 7:00 pm.. To book an appointment at another time in Regina, please call 306-766-7700. Immunization appointments can still be booked in rural RQHR communities as well; click here for the correct contact number for your community.


Saskatchewan | Influenza A outbreak confirmed at Cypress Lodge Nursing Home in Maple Creek

A respiratory illness outbreak at the Cypress Lodge Nursing Home in Maple Creek has been confirmed as influenza type A (H3N2) by the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory in Regina. This particular strain is one that is included in this year’s influenza immunization.

As of the morning of November 26th, a total of 18 long term care residents have been identified as having the signs and symptoms associated with the illness.  These symptoms include but are not limited to fever, coughing, and congestion.

Visitation to the facility is restricted until further notice.  The only exceptions will be in the event of an ‘end of life’ situation, where the nurse in charge at the facility can be contacted to discuss the options that are available for the family members to visit their loved one.

“We do appreciate the challenges with visitor restrictions at the facility,” stated Dr. David Torr, Consulting Medical Health Officer for Cypress Health.“However, this is one of the best practice strategies that can be used to reduce the risk of movement of the illness between the facility and the community.We do appreciate the understanding and patience of families and the public.”

Dr. Torr added that due to the early confirmation of influenza activity within the health region, the planned December 1st implementation of the ‘immunize or mask’ policy will be put into effect several days early.“Effective immediately, I have requested all facilities and sites in the health region to implement the policy which means that staff and the general public will have to wear procedural masks in the facilities if they have not received their influenza immunization,” stated Dr. Torr.“Masks and hand hygiene measures will be available at each facility’s main entrance to assist the public in preventing the transmission of disease in and out of the facility.”

Due to the Cypress Lodge currently serving as a temporary location for a variety of community health and home care services, it is suggested that members of the public phone ahead to their respective health provider to see if their scheduled appointment will still occur.Some services will be available off-site.

Alberta | STARS and Alberta Snowmobile Association partner to spread awareness on snowmobile safety

STARS air ambulance is looking to prevent injuries involving snowmobiles for the upcoming winter season. In 2013, the helicopter air ambulance service responded to 20 serious snowmobiling and related incidents.

It’s about mass times velocity and the potential for injury with these machines now is huge,” agreed Chad Hegge, flight paramedic with STARS. “They are so powerful, and so fast. We need a hyperawareness around safety.”

Joel Wasnidge, director at the Alberta Snowmobile Association, explains that there are many way you can keep yourself safe while participating in the activity. “Let someone know where you plan to go and when expected back, check and re-check all safety gear, ride within your abilities, recognize any hazards, minimize the risk, and keep others in the group in mind and sight if possible,” he said. “I have ridden a snowmobile in BC every year for the last 20+ years – education, equipment, awareness keep me coming home.”

• STARS air ambulance responded to 20 serious snowmobiling and related incidents in 2013;
• Injuries are suffered through incidents involving collisions with vehicles, other snowmobiles, people and geographical objects. Incidents can also develop from winter conditions, such as hypothermia;
• As of October 2014, STARS has already responded to 12 snowmobiling incidents this year.

Safety messages

• Personal protective equipment can help snowmobilers prevent or reduce injuries;
• Riding without protective gear is a risk never worth taking;
• Let someone know when you leave and your expected arrival back;
• Important items you should carry include GPS, emergency beacon, avalanche airbag, radio, first aid kit, tow rope, saws, extra clothing and rations;
• Never ride alone – always have support;
• Properly maintain equipment in good working order;
• Ride within your abilities, recognizing hazards;
• Keep yourself educated by participating in appropriate courses.

Alberta | Influenza has arrived

Influenza has arrived in Alberta, and Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reminding Albertans who have not yet been immunized this season that without immunization, they are at risk.

“Cases we had seen initially were what we considered sporadic. This has now changed,” says Dr. Gerry Predy, AHS’ Senior Medical Officer of Health. “The level of influenza activity in the community we’re seeing now – including reported outbreak activity – tells us that influenza season has begun.”

As of November 15, there have been 219 individual cases of influenza confirmed in Alberta, including 69 hospitalized cases and seven deaths. Three outbreaks have been reported in Alberta in November.

More than 926,500 doses of influenza vaccine have been administered to Albertans this season, as of November 15. While this is a good start, thousands of Albertans remain without protection.

“Uptake of influenza vaccine has been impressive so far, but we’re certainly not where we want to be yet,” says Dr. Predy. “It takes two weeks after being immunized to be fully protected. With the virus already circulating, Albertans need to act now: get immunized to protect yourself and reduce the further spread of disease in our province.”

Through AHS influenza immunization clinics, as well as pharmacies and physician offices around Alberta, vaccine remains easily accessible, free of charge, to all Albertans six months of age and older.

For complete AHS influenza immunization clinic schedules, Albertans can visit or call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-5465. Albertans intending to visit a pharmacy or physician office for immunization are reminded to call ahead, before visiting, to confirm vaccine availability.

“To those of you who have been immunized – thank you”, says Dr. Predy. “To those of you who have not yet been immunized, do not delay. Get immunized and get protected today.”

Alberta | Don’t risk life and limb putting up lights, researchers warn

New research that looks at traumatic injury cases treated at Foothills Medical Centre underscores the need to exercise caution while installing Christmas lights.

At least 40 people in Calgary have sustained life-threatening injuries over the last 10 years as a result of falling while installing Christmas lights, according to the study. Two people ultimately died of their injuries, while others suffered traumatic brain injuries, spinal fractures, broken ribs and broken limbs.

“We were actually quite surprised at the number and the severity of the injuries we tracked,” says Dr. Chad Ball, a trauma surgeon at Foothills Medical Centre and senior author of the paper.

“Forty might not seem like a very big number when spread over 10 years, but we were looking for cases that specifically involved Christmas lights – and only the most severe injuries. Forty is actually quite high.”

Researchers only included cases that involved severe injuries to more than one area of the body. Someone whose only injury was a broken leg, for example, would not figure in the study.

The average age of those injured was 55 and all but one of the 40 patients was male. The average length of stay in hospital was slightly more than 15 days. One-third of patients required a major operation and 13 per cent were discharged to a long-term rehabilitation facility.

The study shows two-thirds fell from a ladder and about one-third from a roof.

“In Canada, falls now account for about 40 per cent of overall trauma volumes, as well as 40 per cent of injury-related deaths,” says Dr. Michael Driedger, a surgical resident at Foothills Medical Centre and lead author of the paper. “Every winter, when conditions worsen, there is an increase in injuries due to falls.”

Minimize the risks of falling while installing Christmas lights by observing these safety precautions:

  • Understand the risks involved in what you’re undertaking and make a plan to manage them.
  • Work with a partner.
  • Ensure footwear has a good grip.
  • Avoid installing lights in icy or inclement conditions.
  • Use a high-quality, sturdy ladder appropriate to the height.
  • Move the ladder as required rather than overreaching.
  • Make sure the ladder is securely positioned at all times and braced by a partner.
  • Be aware of maintaining your balance at all times and take care while moving up and down ladders or on rooftops.

The research will be published in a forthcoming edition of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.

Alberta | Patient being tested for several illnesses including Ebola Virus Disease

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is managing a patient with an unknown illness at South Health Campus, right now.

Due to this individual’s travel and symptom history, AHS has decided to test this individual for several illnesses, including Ebola Virus Disease.

The risk of this patient having Ebola is very low; however, testing is being conducted out of an abundance of precaution.

We understand that this may make Albertans feel anxious.

Be assured: Alberta is prepared to manage any potential case of Ebola.

This case is an example of our proactive preparedness, in action.

AHS staff implemented all protective protocols, ensuring that patient and staff health was protected from any potential risk.

Patients and staff were not, and are not, at risk of contracting Ebola.

Our facilities are safe, are open, and continue to provide high quality care.

Updates on this case will be provided to public, as available.

To watch AHS Medical Officer of Health discuss this potential case, please see video here:

For more information on Ebola, please see

British Columbia | BC police officers honoured for valour, meritorious service

Police officers who braved armed suspects, flames and icy waters to save others, and whose remarkable work enhanced safety in their communities, were recognized tonight at Government House.

At B.C.’s 34th annual Police Honours Night, Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon and Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton presented awards to 87 outstanding officers, who include:

  • Eight officers who helped workers escape their maze-like, smoke-filled office after an armed ex-employee set a fire and created additional hazards by wrecking furniture and equipment.
  • An officer whose first-aid efforts likely saved the life of a man whose femur had been shattered by a rifle shot at close range.
  • Two officers who waded into an ice-cold, fast-moving river to save a suicidal, hypothermic woman.

In all, 19 officers received the award of valour, the highest award for a police officer in B.C. These officers made a decision to place themselves at substantial risk to save others.

Sixty-eight police officers were awarded meritorious service honours. This recognizes exemplary performance that exceeds expectations and enhances the public image of police officers.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton –

“The depth of commitment, clear-headedness and skill demonstrated by these officers – in perilous moments, and over longer periods of service – are examples to their colleagues and those who aspire to policing and other first responder roles. Officers like these directly contribute so much to the safety of our communities, and their accomplishments are worthy of recognition and celebration.”

Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon –

“As British Columbians, we are fortunate to have such outstanding members of our police agencies delivering exemplary service to our communities. I extend my thanks and congratulations to these men and women for their commitment to the safety and care of our citizens.”

British Columbia | BC sets standards for police dog use, deployment

  • B.C. has finalized a set of standards for police dog use, which are now posted online at:
  • These provincial standards – the first of their kind in Canada – are designed to ensure police handlers and dogs continue to further public safety while minimizing bites and injuries. The standards include:
    • Guiding principles – including that police dogs must be well-trained, always under their handler’s control, and deployed only when appropriate to the situation.
    • Handler responsibilities – such as taking reasonable steps to prevent accidental and unwarranted bites.
    • Deployment and bite guidelines. Police dogs may bite only if someone is causing or about to cause bodily harm, or is fleeing or hiding and in the circumstances there are reasonable grounds for immediate apprehension by a police dog bite. The standards further set out what factors would determine reasonable grounds, such as the seriousness of the offence, whether lesser force would be effective and the age of the suspect. Under the standards, verbal warnings must precede deployment, unless this would place anyone at further risk.
    • Standards for bite treatment, reporting and review. Police agencies will be required to complete a detailed report for each bite incident and provide related data to the Province.
    • Requirements for annual testing of every dog handler team. Notably, dogs must demonstrate their continued ability to be called off, remain under control while biting, and promptly release a bite upon hearing their handler’s command.
  • A planned effective date of Sept. 1, 2015, is expected to give B.C. police agencies sufficient time to adjust their existing policy and training requirements.
  • Each B.C. police agency with a dog squad had a representative on the working group that deliberated and drafted the standards. In turn, the draft standards were refined through consultation with the Advisory Committee on Provincial Policing Standards and other stakeholders.
  • Police dogs are important policing tools and can be used for a variety of tasks, including locating and apprehending suspects, searching for evidence, protecting their handlers, searching for missing people, controlling crowds, searching for drugs or explosives, and community relations and other demonstration events.

British Columbia | CPR saves lives

Health Minister Terry Lake issued the following statement during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) awareness month:

“As November and CPR awareness month comes to a close, it is a good reminder of the importance of learning this lifesaving skill. With every minute that passes without treatment in a cardiac situation, the patient’s survival rate decreases by 10%. CPR is easy to learn and is something people of all ages and walks of life can do to save a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s life.

“I know this first hand. During a soccer game several years ago, a friend playing on another team experienced a sudden cardiac arrest. I, along with several others, came to his aid and started CPR while paramedics and first responders were en route.

“Statistics show that each year in B.C. over 2,000 British Columbians die from sudden cardiac arrest, and it remains one of the leading causes of death among adults in the province, but for me, it was the experience of applying CPR and then seeing this person out of hospital and recovering shortly thereafter, that truly conveyed to me the importance of CPR.

“When CPR and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are used together in the first few minutes during a cardiac arrest, survival rates increase up to 75%. AEDs are portable, easy-to-use devices that read the heart’s rhythm and only deliver a shock if needed.

“Since 2013, the provincial government has invested $2 million in the BC Public Access to Defibrillators (PAD) Program, which has been matched by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The BC PAD Program will ensure 750 community AEDs are installed in public venues, such as recreation centres, arenas and parks, throughout British Columbia, by 2017.

“Additionally, BC Emergency Health Services today launched a registry of public AEDs within B.C. in order to make these lifesaving tools more accessible during a sudden cardiac arrest.

“Now, businesses and organizations that have a publicly accessible AED can register their unit and contribute to the Province’s efforts to reduce mortality rates from sudden cardiac arrest. The BC AED registry means that during a sudden cardiac arrest, a caller can be directed to the closest public AED, provided with instructions how to use it, while another bystander performs CPR as paramedics are on their way to the patient.

“Together, the BC AED Registry, the BC PAD program and bystanders who learn CPR are strengthening the chain of survival for sudden cardiac arrest patients, which is to call 911, do CPR, and use an AED. This can mean more lives are saved and we are improving the health and safety of communities throughout the province.

“I encourage all British Columbians to learn CPR – for their families, friends, team mates, co-workers or a stranger who is suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. Each of us can have the ability to save a life in our hands.”

British Columbia | Beginning Dec. 1 2014, health-care visitors should be vaccinated

As of Dec. 1 2014, all visitors to provincial health-care facilities – including long-term care homes – are asked to be vaccinated against influenza, or to wear a mask while visiting, to help protect those most vulnerable from influenza.

This policy first took effect last year, to help protect patients and seniors who are most at risk of complications from the flu. Anyone who enters a hospital, long-term care facility or any other health-care facility will be expected to wear a mask if they haven’t been vaccinated against influenza. Masks will be available, free of charge, for those who have not been vaccinated.

Visitors join health-care workers, volunteers and contractors in their efforts to protect patient safety through this comprehensive influenza prevention strategy. The best way for visitors to help protect their loved ones in hospitals, long-term care facilities and other health-care facilities is to get vaccinated.

If you do plan on visiting someone in one of these facilities, or if you take family members to outpatient appointments, you are eligible for a free flu shot. Flu shots are available at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and public health clinics. Visitors will be asked to comply with this policy on the honour system.

Flu shots are also offered for free in B.C. to a number of individuals, including children, seniors, pregnant women, Aboriginal people, individuals with chronic health conditions, and those who work or come in close contact with higher-risk groups.

Each year, about 3,500 Canadians die from influenza or its complications – it can be a very serious illness, particularly for people at an increased risk of complications (like those who are patients or residents in health-care facilities).

The influenza vaccine is safe and effective at preventing illness when used in conjunction with other infection control practices, such as hand washing and remaining home when sick.

For more information about influenza and vaccination clinics, visit:

Be well. Practice big medicine.