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Archive for December, 2011
Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quit Smoking!

Quit Smoking!




Quit Smoking!  One of every two smokers will die from smoking and about 2000 Manitobans will die each year due to tobacco use.  People who smoke say they know this but for many quitting is just too hard.  The Brandon Regional Health Authority (Brandon RHA) can help you with their Tobacco Dependence Program which is available to anyone FREE of charge.


Erin McDougall is the Tobacco Dependence Counsellor for the Brandon RHA she says the program is here to help people who are thinking about quitting or even reducing the amount they smoke.


“We want to help people who maybe have tried to quit in the past or if this is their first attempt at quitting we are here to help,” say Erin.




Richard Whelpley started smoking when he was 12 years old he’s now 42.  He had his first heart attack when he was 39 years old followed by a second one six months later. He has been coming to see Erin since April of 2010.


“I used to smoke roughly a pack and a half a day, now I’m down to a couple a week,” says Richard.




Richard’s journey hasn’t been an easy one.  He used to be a labourer but is not able to work now.  He has also fought with depression and is working on staying healthy not only physically but mentally.  Erin has been there to help him.


“I come once a week and we talk about how I can relieve stress in my life and how I can avoid situations where I want to smoke, break old habits,” says Richard.




Erin tells people to look at smoking as a way of saying goodbye to a constant companion in your life, one who has been then through the good times and stressful times but one who is just not good for you. She says think of the relationship this way; how many minutes of the day do you spend with this companion?  If you are smoking a pack a day , five minutes per cigarette that would be like spending 125 minutes a day with your bad companion.   




But even more harmful is the effects this constant companion has on your health.  There are over 3000 harmful chemicals in a cigarette, toxic chemicals you inhale daily. 






McDougall says there are medications that can help and it’s important to follow what Health Canada recommends as safe.  Currently approved is a drug called Champix, it’s a pill you take twice a day that blocks the area of the brain that makes you want to smoke and results have shown that it quadruples your chances of quitting. The NDP government has just announced that Manitoba is now covering the cost of this drug to help smokers quit.  When a prescription is written by the doctor, the cost of Champix is eligible for benefit coverage through pharmacare once the income-based family deductible has been met.




Health Canada has authorized for sale in Canada a number of smoking cessation aids, including nicotine patches, gum, inhaler, lozenges and now lollipops which are all nicotine replacement therapies that double your chance of not starting up again.




McDougall says you must be aware of other delivery device such as the electronic cigarette that is currently being marketed but not recommended by Health Canada.  It is a battery-powered device that vapourizes and delivers a liquid chemical mixture.  This mixture may be composed of various amounts of nicotine, propylene glycol (the main ingredient in antifreeze), and other chemicals. (Source:




The Tobacco Dependence Program encourages people who are thinking about quitting to call and set up an appointment. Erin says often people wait until something is wrong.


 “We see a lot who’s disease process has entered the alarm bell stage, like people who have already had the heart attack, people who have COPD or cancer.  Instead we want to see a person in their 20 and 30’s to stop the damage done and start living a smoke free life.”


She says their program tries to help people but not overwhelm them; slow change over a period of time is the best way to do it.


“You need to make some life changes by changing the way you see cigarettes in your life and the impact they have then you can be successful.”


That is how Richard has been able to cut back, slowly and with Erin’s guidance and support.  He says over time he has noticed a big difference.


“I am able to move better and I am feeling better so I will keep at it.”




If you are ready to take that step call 578-4207 and make an appointment today.




 Some good sites to visit for more information:
  (quitting smoking, lung diseases)
   (help to quit smoking)
  (quit program for teens)




Helpful phone numbers




Smokers’ Helpline  1-877-513-5333







Filed under: Education,  Health,  Smoking

Posted by Regional Health Authority @ 12:52 | E-mail this blog entry to a friend | PermaLink

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Facts on Waiting Times

The Facts on Waiting Times 




I thought it would be appropriate to share with you, the public, some information on one of the most challenging areas within the Brandon Regional Health Authority and that is with wait times.  Hopefully I can provide a bit of background on why wait times exist and how we are attempting to reduce the wait times.  Specifically, I will be speaking to four areas –

  1. Surgical Wait Times (particularly hip and knee replacements and cataract surgeries),
  3. Diagnostic Imaging Test Wait Times (specifically MRI, Ultrasounds and Bone Density testing),
  5. Gastrointestinal (Endoscopy) Procedure Wait Times and
  7. Home Care Wait Times.



First of all I would like to inform you on how the Brandon RHA calculates wait times for surgeries and other procedures.  The calculation begins with the date when the booking form and required information is received from the surgeon’s or referring physician’s office and ends with the day on which the patient has his/her surgery/procedure. Consequently, there could obviously be a significant amount of time from when the patient originally saw their family physician, surgeon, etc. until the time when information was sent to the health centre. As well, these wait times represent the times for ‘elective’ surgeries/procedures.  Wait times for ‘emergent’ (highest priority) or ‘urgent’ surgeries/procedures are much, much shorter.  In fact, in the case of emergent surgeries there is a daily OR theatre assigned specifically for that purpose.  With respect to the Diagnostic Imaging Department, emergent procedures have either daily dedicated spaces assigned or are ‘fit in’ as required amongst the daily booked cases, depending on the type of test.


The Brandon surgical wait time for hip and knee replacement surgeries is currently at 51 weeks.  The expectation is that we should never have a wait list any longer than 26 weeks and even at that, the ideal is to have it within a few months.  Why is the Brandon RHA struggling?  First of all, we only have three orthopedic surgeons, with one of these who does not do hip and knee replacement surgeries (one is a spine orthopaedic surgeon).  We are attempting to increase the number of cases that each of the remaining two orthopedic surgeons can perform.  However, due to various reasons such as OR nursing staff vacancies and lack of sufficient anaesthetist coverage in the past, we are not able to perform the same number of surgeries in the OR consistently each week.




Our long term goal is to hire a fourth orthopedic surgeon - but a number of changes would be required prior to that becoming a reality. 




1.  Nursing staffing in both the OR and the inpatient surgical ward would have to stabilize; this is probably the hardest component to achieve.  You are probably wondering why we are still having trouble with recruiting nursing staff considering the efforts that have been put in place to increase the number of nursing students.  While this has definitely helped, vacancies can still occur particularly with respect to term position vacancies (i.e. maternity leaves etc.).  As well, the number of retirements is increasing.




2.  We would also have to acquire additional instruments to perform the surgeries (one of the easiest components to achieve). 




3.  We would need to ensure that there is sufficient anaesthetist coverage, which may be difficult to achieve.




4.  One of the clinics in Brandon would have to recruit an additional orthopedic surgeon (this again is also one of the easier components to achieve).




Finally, Manitoba Health would have to provide additional funding to accomplish all of this.  The Government of Manitoba is aware of our wait time issues and is supportive of us moving in this direction; however, as mentioned above, there are a number of pieces to the puzzle in order to make this happen.




With respect to cataract surgery, our wait times are approximately 16 weeks.  The wait times have been rising gradually over the last while.  We have and will continue to try to take steps to ensure that wait times do not go beyond 16 weeks.




For Diagnostic Imaging (DI), I mentioned a few areas where we have had difficulty with respect to wait times - the worst being MRI. Since the MRI was first installed here in 2004, our wait lists have been climbing steadily.  We realized a while ago that there would be difficulties in recruiting another MRI technologist.  Accordingly, the region financially supported an existing staff member to attend college to obtain the MRI training almost a year ago.  This individual will complete their schooling in January, 2012 and consequently we hope that within one year, we will have the wait times decreased from 20 weeks to 9 weeks.




The main reason for increasing wait times for all diagnostic procedures is staff vacancies or recruitment issues for the other DI departments that have waiting lists (such as Ultrasound) we are taking steps to reduce the wait lists by supporting students in their final years of school (covering their tuition and book costs) in order to obtain a return to service agreement.  We have been taking similar steps in many areas within the region where we have staff vacancies such as nursing, pharmacy, etc.  Our staffing in these other DI departments are beginning to stabilize, for now, which should help decrease the waiting lists.






For Gastrointestinal procedures (Endoscopy) such as colonoscopies, gastroscopies, ERCPs, etc., we have taken a number of steps by making better use of our time which has increased the number of procedures that can be done in a day.  As well, Manitoba Health has provided, as part of their Cancer Reduction Strategy, additional funds to increase the number of colonoscopies per year.  The additional funding from Manitoba Health also included dollars for purchasing additional scopes.  Having the correct number of scopes is imperative since they have to be re-sterilized between each and every procedure.  With all these steps taken we have reduced our GI wait list by 35%.  Within the next year our wait times will be in a very respectable position.




Finally, I would like to speak briefly about Home Care.  Some of you may have noticed that the time it takes to get Home Care services in place for a client have been somewhat tardy.  The primary reason for this is again due to a lack of staffing, not nursing, but in this case, Health Care Aides (HCA).  A number of steps have been taken to try to increase the number of HCAs in Brandon such as the great program that is currently being offered at Crocus Plains High School.  Grade 12 students receive their training and graduate with a HCA certificate. However because of the type of shifts staff are required to work in Home Care (e.g. split shifts) many staff hired into Home Care subsequently leave to other positions within the region where the hours are more stable.  Over the next several months, we will be working to change a good majority of the HCA Home Care positions into permanent positions which will hopefully alleviate much of the problem.




So as I mentioned earlier, the purpose of this article, is to let the community know first that we are working very hard in trying to alleviate the wait list problems and secondly, that there are a number of factors causing them, and that it is not always about insufficient dollars. 




Should you should ever have a concern about the time you are waiting for a procedure, please feel to contact either our Comment Line at (204) 578-2104 (toll free at 1-800-735-6596) or our Patient Representative at (204) 578-2155 who would be pleased to help you with your concerns.









Brian Schoonbaert, CA




Brandon Regional Health Authority



Filed under: BRHC,  Waiting Times

Posted by Regional Health Authority @ 10:46 | E-mail this blog entry to a friend | PermaLink

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