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About 45,000 Canadians treated abroad in 2015, but experts question study

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Oct 13th, 2016

Tens of thousands of Canadians left the country last year for non-emergency medical procedures, the Fraser Institute says, but some health experts are challenging the way researchers at the think tank crunched the numbers in its new study.

The Fraser Institute released a report on Wednesday suggesting 45,619 people sought health-care services abroad in 2015 and pointed to wait times as the principal culprit.

“We have some good data from physicians that point to a general estimation of how many Canadians are travelling abroad,” said Bacchus Barua, a senior analyst of health policy at the Vancouver-based institute.

A by-the-numbers look at Canadians who received medical treatment abroad

The study used results from the Fraser Institute’s annual survey asking physicians to assign a percentage to the number of their patients who reported receiving treatment abroad. Those values were then applied to the total number of medical procedures carried out in Canada, as recorded by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

About 45,000 Canadians who sought out-of-country care in 2015 make up about one per cent of the patients of those physicians who responded to the survey, the document says.

The results indicate there was a slight decrease in 2015 from the previous year when an estimated 52,513 people left the country for medical treatment, but a jump compared with the 41,838 in 2013.

Valorie Crooks, a health geographer at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., challenged the findings, describing the numbers as inaccurate because of the lack of any definitive record of how many Canadians cross the border for treatment.

“Surveying a limited number of specialists to get some information on Canadians accessing care abroad actually really doesn’t reflect a true sense of Canadians’ involvement in medical tourism,” said Crooks.

Barua acknowledged the imperfection of the study’s research methods, but described the approach as “the best estimate we have.”

Crooks said there are many reasons people might receive treatment outside Canada, from immigrants returning to their country of origin because of a family support network, or so-called snowbirds who flock to warmer climes over the winter and may access health care abroad out of convenience.

“We know that Canadians are going abroad (for treatments), so the Fraser Institute telling us this is happening is not new,” she said.

The study came out days after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took a swipe at the Canadian health-care system during a town-hall debate with Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton in the United States. Trump said when Canadians need a big operation they go to the U.S. because of what he called a “catastrophic” Canadian system.

Ron Labonte, a scholar of health sciences, also critiqued the methodology of the Fraser Institute’s report, calling the findings “really quite a leap in terms of an estimate,” before describing the number of medical tourists from Canada as very small.

“The whole issue of medical tourism, or Canadians leaving the country, is a bit of a tempest in a thimble,” said Labonte, who teaches at the universities of Ottawa and Saskatchewan, and at Flinders University of South Australia. “It’s not something that I think puts into serious question the Canadian health system.

“Even looking at the Fraser Institute’s numbers. … One per cent. One in 100. Even that’s not terribly large.”

Barua stood by the results, calling for wait times to be considered in the discussion on health-care reform.

“Whether it’s the chief motivator for why patients are travelling abroad or not we can’t definitively say,” he said, but added that lengthy wait lists are likely at least part of the problem.

Virginia Walley, head of the Ontario Medical Association, also fingered wait times as the reason Ontarians leave for medical procedures. It’s the result of government continually underfunding health care, she added.

Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth won’t say ‘Indians’ in ALCS

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2016

Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth won’t be using the word “Indians” when he calls the American League Championship Series between Toronto and Cleveland, and he says he hasn’t uttered the team nickname on the air for nearly 25 years.

Howarth told The Fan 590 on Tuesday that he stopped using team names like Indians and Braves and terms such as tomahawk chop and powwow on the mound after receiving a letter from an aboriginal fan after Toronto defeated Atlanta in the 1992 World Series.

He called it “one of the best fan letters I’ve ever received.”

“He said ‘Jerry, I appreciate your work but in the World Series, it was so offensive to have the tomahawk chop and to have people talk about the powwows on the mound and then the Cleveland Indians logo and the Washington Redskins.’ He just wrote it in such a loving, kind way. He said ‘I would really appreciate it if you would think about what you say with those teams.”’

Howarth wrote the man back, promising he would stop using Indians, Braves and other offensive words.

“I haven’t from that point on,” he said.

Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell, who hosts “Blue Jays Central,” said he will be following Howarth’s lead.

“Like Jerry Howarth, I will attempt to avoid using the name of Cleveland’s baseball team during our broadcasts,” Campbell tweeted.

The issue was also gaining steam on social media Tuesday, a day after Cleveland beat the Boston Red Sox to advance to the AL championship series against Toronto, with many praising Howarth and using the hashtag notyourmascot.

There have been demonstrations at Cleveland’s home opener every season for decades with protesters calling on the team to change its nickname and abolish the Chief Wahoo logo, an image of a smiling, red-faced character with a feather on his head.

Similar calls have been made for the NFL’s Washington Redskins and CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos to change their nicknames.

The Indians have said they understand there are passionate views about the logo but will keep using it on uniforms and caps.

But Howarth said he has no intention of changing his approach.

“It’s always interesting to see things in black and white but when you get a fan letter from someone who has lived it and breathed it, and said in a very eloquent way ‘It’s just so offensive and we don’t like it’ … it was my way of saying ‘I agree with you and your feelings and that’s how I’m going to honour that and your entire native American culture.”‘

The ALCS starts Friday in Cleveland.

Samsung sends fire proof boxes for Galaxy Note 7 returns

Youkyung Lee, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2016

Samsung Electronics said Wednesday it is sending fire-resistant packages to its customers in the U.S. as a precaution against possible fires or explosions from Galaxy Note 7s they return to retailers.

Samsung is offering prepaid shipping boxes as an option for U.S. consumers who purchased the phones on its website, Samsung.com. It said consumers who purchased their Note 7 phones from mobile carriers should visit the carriers’ websites for recall instructions.

On Tuesday, Samsung said it was discontinuing the Note 7 phones just two months after their launch, after two recalls and many reports of fires. Samsung must now deal with receiving back more than 1.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones, both the original ones and those issued as replacements. Most were sold in the U.S. and South Korea.

A video on YouTube dated Tuesday shows a man it says is at the XDA Developers office in the U.S., unpacking a kit containing a static shield bag, thermally insulated boxes, gloves and instructions for ground shipping only.

“We have just received this crazy Galaxy Note 7 return kit,” the person said in the video.

According to the XDA Developers forum, Samsung’s packing instructions say the Note 7 should be put in the static shield bag and then in a box labeled “OEM Replacement” to be put inside an “Inner Box” and a “Recovery Box.” Shipping companies reportedly had complained they did not want to handle Note 7 returns because of fire concerns.

Samsung said the packaging kits conform with U.S. requirements for shipping lithium-ion batteries or devices containing them that are subject to a recall.

Related stories:

Samsung halts sales of Galaxy Note 7; Canadian says he will keep using his phone
Samsung halts all sales of Galaxy Note 7 after new troubles surface
Samsung changes Note 7 output schedule after fire reports

Canadian customers can start returning their devices on Thursday, Samsung Canada said.

Samsung Electronics Canada Inc. said in a statement that people with “either an original Galaxy Note7 or replacement Galaxy Note7 device should power down and stop using the device.”

Beginning Thursday, “at their point of purchase, Samsung Note7 owners can bring their device in for an exchange to a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge device. Alternatively, consumers are entitled to a full device hardware and Note7 specific accessories refund.

For customers who purchased their Samsung Note7 on Samsung.com, a device refund will be offered upon return receipt of the recalled devices. Samsung Canada will be in touch with our online customers to provide them with details regarding the return process.”

Boy with autism reunited with ‘Bear,’ his safety toy

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2016

Two-year-old Lucas has been reunited with his best friend — a stuffed teddy bear.

Lucas has autism and “Bear” is his safety toy, which helps him calm down when he gets upset.

Around 2 p.m. Saturday, his family went to a park near Britannia and Creditview roads in Mississauga and that was the last time they saw Bear.

“I created the habit of always looking in the stroller for the teddy bear,” his mother Jessica Hoffart said. But when she went to check for Bear she couldn’t find it anywhere.

“I looked in the trash bins, on the road,” she said. “I still didn’t find it.”

In an effort to find Bear, Hoffart created a Twitter account. At least four people sent stuffed bears to her, including the same type of bear as Lucas’.

A woman named Sandra said she found the stuffed animal only hours after it went missing.

Sandra said she was stuck in a line of cars a she was trying to leave a Costco parking lot close to where the bear was last seen, when she noticed an object on the ground.

“I asked my son Daniel to go and grab the bear,” she said. “At that time we didn’t know it was a bear, and it was really dirty.

“We came back home, we just washed the bear and I kept it with me. And we saw the news this morning.”

CityNews was there when the little boy and his beloved Bear were reunited on Tuesday afternoon.

Hoffart said she has been thinking up ways to ensure Bear finds his way back home, should he go missing again. She’s thinking of making a T-shirt for the stuffed animal with her contact information on it.

Fleet of youth, speed and skill coming to the Maple Leafs this season

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2016

Just over two months after Brendan Shanahan was hired to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club used its top draft pick on small but skilled Swedish teenager William Nylander.

The selection back in 2014 quickly established the direction of the club under Shanahan, which will be evident this season when a group of speedy, talented young players join the Leafs.

Nylander will be one of six rookies on the opening day roster (all but one acquired under Shanahan) and one of 11 players aged 24 and younger. Two teenagers are in that mix: Auston Matthews, the first player picked No. 1 overall by the club in 31 years, and Mitch Marner, a shifty first-round pick from 2015.

Just how quickly that youth acclimates to the NHL will likely define the trajectory of Toronto’s season.

“I think as the year goes on, with how many young guys we have, I think we’re just going to get exponentially better than just your average team just because we have so much youth,” said James van Riemsdyk, a veteran at 26. “Guys that are just going to get that experience and get better when they get that kind of experience.”

Leafs head coach Mike Babcock expressed caution about the flood of youth during training camp, wondering aloud about the effects of that many young players in the same lineup at once. The Edmonton Oilers remain the NHL’s cautionary tale of that approach, going too young too fast (with limited defence and goaltending) to the point of dysfunction.

Babcock said his youngest players needed to learn how to play and compete, that chasing points and ferreting around the puck for fun wouldn’t work in the NHL.

“That’s something that everyone kind of struggles with when you’re younger,” said forward Nazem Kadri.

Nylander seems aware of challenges the NHL presents.

“There’s more skilled guys, smarter guys,” he said. “They try to beat you more than players down in other leagues. They’ll always try to beat you in any way they can.”

Related stories:

Sportsnet: Youthful Maple Leafs roster has a fairly unusual dynamic

Sportsnet: Marner, Matthews to lead Maple Leafs youth revolution

Former Blues defenceman Roman Polak recalled how 40-goal-scorer Vladimir Tarasenko needed a year or two to figure out the league. Polak said the young Leafs weren’t going to be home run hitters right away. It would be a process and, as van Riemsdyk pointed out, maintaining a high level of consistency for 82 games is a real challenge, especially in those first NHL seasons.

Babcock is the right coach to lead the group. He almost instantly instilled structure and discipline in his first season as Leafs coach as Toronto ranked 17th in puck possession (a good indicator of quality coaching) despite having the NHL’s weakest pool of talent.

The Leafs are all but certain to eclipse last season’s NHL-worst 69 points with a significantly more entertaining product.

“Younger, faster, more skilled,” Polak said of differences in the team.

Kadri led the Leafs in scoring last season with 47 points, a mark that Matthews, Marner, Nylander, van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak (a returning veteran), and even Kadri could all surpass this year. This Leafs squad will hang onto the puck a whole lot more and surely find the back of the net more frequently too.

Babcock might not even have room to fit everyone he’d like on the power play in the coming months after struggling to assemble two fear-inducing power plays last year.

Perhaps a bigger question mark than Toronto’s youth is Frederik Andersen, the club’s new No. 1 goaltender.

Andersen, who struggled in the pre-season, split time in the Anaheim crease over his first three NHL seasons, offering flashes of superb play and also inconsistency for one of the league’s top teams. How will he perform behind a lesser group in his first season?

Toronto once acquired Jonathan Bernier only to learn that he wasn’t quite as capable without the Los Angeles Kings’ stingy safety net. The Leafs made the biggest bet of Shanahan’s tenure when they signed Andersen for five years and US$25 million before he’d even played a game with the Leafs.

The club also penned six-year deals with Kadri and 22-year-old Morgan Rielly, the leader of an inexperienced defence. Toronto is counting on continued advancement from the duo as well as van Riemsdyk, who performed well for Babcock prior to a season-ending foot injury.

The Leafs will sport new uniforms inspired by the past in their centennial season, complete with a logo mirroring the Stanley Cup-winning sweater from teams of old. Despite the old-school look, the club is leaning new-school on the ice. What that product looks like no one can really say.

“You try not to make these bold, crazy predictions at this time of year because again, it’s all talk,” van Riemsdyk said. “We’re not going to limit ourselves with predictions of that nature, but I definitely expect us to be a much better team as the year goes on.”

Blue Jays turn to Marco Estrada to start Game 1 of ALCS

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2016

Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada set the early tone for the American League Division Series in his start last week in Texas.

The Blue Jays are hoping for a repeat performance in the AL Championship Series on Friday in Cleveland.

Manager John Gibbons confirmed Tuesday that Estrada will be the Game 1 starter at Progressive Field.

“I think he was the logical choice,” Gibbons said. “We could have gone with anybody and felt good. But he’s been so good in that role and then we’ll just shape it after him in these next couple days.”

Estrada, who had a 9-9 record and 3.48 earned-run average in the regular season, was dominant over 8 1/3 innings in a 10-1 Game 1 victory last Thursday. He held the top-seeded Rangers to one earned run and four hits and didn’t issue a walk.

The 33-year-old native of Sonora, Mexico was also strong in the playoffs last year. He posted a 2-1 mark and 2.33 ERA over three starts.

The Blue Jays enjoyed an off-day Monday after capping their 3-0 ALDS victory with a 7-6, 10-inning win on Sunday night. They had a light workout Tuesday afternoon and some players took batting practice.

The break before the next series gives the team a chance to recharge and allows some injured players to rest. It also allows for some potential tinkering of the starting rotation.

The rest of the series hasn’t been confirmed after Estrada, but Marcus Stroman is a good bet to start Game 2 on Saturday. He came through with a quality start in Toronto’s wild-card game victory over Baltimore on Oct. 4.

Chances are good that 20-game winner J.A. Happ would get the nod when the series moves to Toronto for Game 3 on Monday with Aaron Sanchez the likely choice for Game 4 on Tuesday.

“Our real big strength for us this year is our rotation,” Gibbons said. “Any of them could do the job and do it well. They’ve been doing that. There’s no automatics, no guarantees, but they’re all pretty good.”

Related stories:

Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth won’t say ‘Indians’ in ALCS

Toronto Blue Jays sweep American League Division Series

Blue Jays to face Indians as Cleveland sweeps the Red Sox

The Indians also swept their way to the ALCS, wrapping things up Monday night with a Game 3 victory in Boston.

“A tough ball club to shut down and they’re hot like us too,” Gibbons said. “They ended up finishing really strong in winning the home-field advantage and then they swept Boston so they’re playing really good too right now.”

If a fifth game in the best-of-seven series is necessary, it would be played Oct. 19 at Rogers Centre. Cleveland would host Game 6 on Oct. 21 and Game 7 on Oct. 22 if required.

Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano, who suffered a concussion last Friday, is improving and hopes to be ready to return Saturday once he completes Major League Baseball’s seven-day concussion protocol.

However, Gibbons said right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit will not play in the ALCS. He’s still recovering from a torn calf muscle.

Second baseman Devon Travis said his sore right knee is feeling better and he expects to be ready for Game 1.

Toronto is unbeaten in October and will take a six-game winning streak into Cleveland. The Blue Jays survived an 11-16 September and closed out the regular season with two key victories in Boston, the wild-card win and then a series sweep.

Pitching has been key but the bats have returned with a vengeance. Slugger Edwin Encarnacion has led the way with three homers in four games and he’s been supported with contributions up and down the lineup.

“Everybody is in a good mood, everybody is feeling good and confident,” Gibbons said. “It was a battle there at the end just to get in and really I think that’s helped us to this point.

“But as far as the mindset and the confidence and all that, that’s never wavered in these guys. Even through our struggles through September. But that’s kind of the makeup of this group anyway.”

Samsung halts all sales of Galaxy Note 7 after new troubles surface

Brandon Bailey and Audrey McAvoy, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 11th, 2016

Samsung said it is halting sales of the star-crossed Galaxy Note 7 smartphone after a spate of fires involving new devices that were supposed to be safe replacements for recalled models.

Separately, South Korean safety authorities said they found a new product defect in the Note 7 and urged consumers to stop using them. The officials did not publicly identify the defect.

In a statement issued late Monday, Samsung Electronics Inc. said consumers with original Note 7 devices or replacements they obtained after the recall should turn off the power and seek a refund or exchange them for different phones.

Officials from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission echoed that advice in their own statement, adding that they are continuing to investigate at least five incidents of fire or overheating reported since a formal recall was announced Sept. 15.

“No one should have to be concerned their phone will endanger them, their family or their property,” said Elliot Kaye, chairman of the safety commission, in a statement. He called Samsung’s decision to stop distributing the device “the right move” in light of “ongoing safety concerns.”


The announcement follows several new incidents of overheating last week and deals a further blow to the world’s largest smartphone company. Leading wireless carriers have already said they would stop distributing new Note 7 phones as replacements for the earlier recall.

Samsung said it would ask all carriers and retailers to stop selling the phones and providing them as replacements for recalled devices. It said consumers should return their phones to the place where they purchased them. They can also get information from the company’s website .

Analysts say the new problems pose a crisis for the South Korean tech giant, which is locked in fierce competition with Apple and other leading smartphone makers.

“This has been a real black eye on the product,” said Ben Bajarin, a consumer tech industry analyst with the Creative Strategies firm.


The new reports also raise questions about the cause and extent of the problem. Samsung blamed the battery problem on a manufacturing defect, although the company hasn’t said which of its two battery suppliers made the faulty batteries or clarified whose batteries are used in which Note 7 smartphones.

“What’s happened in the last few days just complicates things enormously,” said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research. “It calls into question their ability to manage quality control and everything else that goes into that.”

Samsung gave no indication that it knows what caused the latest problems.

“We are working with relevant regulatory bodies to investigate the recently reported cases involving the Galaxy Note7,” the company said in its statement, adding that “consumers’ safety remains our top priority.”

Earlier, a spokesman for the U.S. safety commission said his agency is investigating five Note 7 incidents reported since Sept. 15, although he said investigators had not confirmed whether all five involved recall replacements. But four consumers have told the Associated Press that their replacement phones caught fire – including two in Kentucky, one in Minnesota and one in Hawaii.


Dee Decasa of Honolulu had just visited the Samsung website on her new Galaxy Note 7 when it began smoking Sunday morning. She was double checking that the replacement phone she received was OK. She took a screen shot of the page confirming her new phone was fine.

“Then boom, there was like a pop. I had it in my hand and then smoke started spewing out, this green yucky thing,” said Decasa, a bookkeeper.

She screamed for her husband and ran out of her bedroom. He grabbed an aluminum pan from the kitchen and told her to the put the phone in there. They called 911, and the phone was still sizzling when a policeman came about 20 minutes later.

Decasa said she thought “What happened? We were reassured these were the replacement ones.” No one was injured.

Her husband said the plastic protective case his wife had around her phone may have protected her. Part of the plastic case appeared to have melted and got stuck to the aluminum pan.

The Decasas said Samsung is sending a representative to Honolulu Tuesday to meet them and examine her phone.


The Note 7 is not Samsung’s most popular device; Samsung sells far more units of its Galaxy S7 phones than the more expensive Note 7 device. But analysts say the issue could hurt the company’s reputation and overall standing with consumers.

Samsung sells about a third of all high-end smartphones priced above $400, while Apple sells slightly more than half, according to Credit Suisse investment analyst Kulbinder Garcha. He predicted in a report Monday that the new Note 7 problems will help Apple increase its share of the market.

For more information, Canadian consumers should contact 1-800-SAMSUNG.

Fiat-Chrysler and Unifor reach tentative agreement

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 11th, 2016

A last-minute tentative agreement has averted a threatened strike by 9,750 workers at Fiat-Chrysler’s operations in Ontario.

Unifor president Jerry Dias announced the four-year deal just minutes before a strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday night.

He said the deal, which followed what he called “one very difficult set of negotiations,” mirrors the one reached with General Motors on Sept. 20.

Related stories:

Unifor and Fiat-Chrysler to meet, after union’s GM success
GM workers ratify new agreement with auto giant
Five things to know about contract negotiations between Unifor and GM

That deal, since ratified by GM workers, includes a two per cent wage increase this year and another two per cent increase in September, 2019. There is also a $6,000 signing bonus plus lump sum bonuses of $2,000 in each of the next three years to most employees.

It also included improvements to benefits, hiring practices and a GM commitment to invest $554 million in its Canadian operations.

Dias said the agreement with Fiat-Chrysler includes a $325 million investment at an assembly plant in Brampton, Ont., and a pledge to upgrade an old paint shop at the facility.

“We were deeply concerned with the fact that the paint shop in our Brampton assembly plant that builds the 300s, the Chargers and the Challengers is over 30 years old,” said Dias.

“If you don’t have a paint shop … it creates incredible uncertainty.”

Dias also said the agreement also includes a measure to protect jobs at the automaker’s casting plant in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke that are threatened by the company’s discontinuation of the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart.

“That decision will lead, candidly, to the layoff of up to about 150, potentially 200 of our members,” said Dias.

“So what we have found is a solution to make sure that our members will not be laid off and will have employment opportunities in the Brampton assembly plant.

Dias said the automaker has committed to upgrades at the casting plant “to refurbish, to rebuild, to update the machinery, the equipment in order that we are prepared to solidify our strength as a die-cast operation.”

The union leader did not say how would be spent to achieve this end of the agreement.

Unifor said the Fiat-Chrysler workers will vote on the tentative agreement on Sunday, and if approved, the union said it would immediately hold talks with Ford — the last of the so-called Big Three automakers.

Fiat-Chrysler employs 9,750 workers in Brampton, Windsor and Etobicoke.

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