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Doc in your pocket: would you pay for a healthcare app?

Amanda Ferguson | posted Thursday, May 31st, 2018

You can order your dinner online. And a ride. Well how about an app that replaces going to a doctor’s office?

That’s what Maple is all about — an online service where you can pay to see a doctor online and even get a prescription. The app’s Toronto-based creator says it’s the future, while others say it’s another example of two-tier healthcare.

“The total wait time, from the time you decide you want to see a doctor to that prescription in your hand, is often less than an hour,” said ER doctor and Maple co-founder Brett Belchetz. “What I see is about half of the patients in the emergency room they don’t actually have an emergency, they just have nowhere else to go.”

So Belchetz created Maple, a website and app where — with just a tap of the finger — you can see a doctor online, have an examination by phone or by video, and even get a prescription sent to your pharmacy. The fees: $49 per visit on a weekday and $79 for weekends and holidays.

Belchetz says that Maple can conduct about 70 per cent of exams online, without having to touch you. He says they would still refer patients to a doctor’s office if it’s an ailment they can’t diagnose virtually.

Health Canada says telemedicine is not something it regulates — rather it pointed us to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). They told us they govern the physicians, not the service.

In a statement, CPSO says it “has robust policies governing the practice of telemedicine. Physicians are expected to comply with the expectations set out in these policies and utilize their own professional judgment when determining both the course of care and the modality for a patient interaction. If we receive a complaint about the conduct of a specific physician, we will investigate.”

Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), does not support the way Maple operates. “Overall it’s not a good thing. It’s not the technology that’s the bad thing, it’s really the fees that are the dangerous thing.”

The Canada Health Act guarantees all Canadians access to medically necessary physician and hospital services, free of financial or other barriers. OHIP, meanwhile, does not view telemedicine as a medically necessary service.

Mehra says the method of care shouldn’t matter. “They are delivered to everyone equally, the rich don’t get to jump the queue, so if you say you just change a little piece of technology and you’re allowed to charge fees then there will be no public health care in Canada,” she said.

Dr. Belchetz says it’s his hope that the government will bring virtual health care into the fold.

Toronto police investigating music video that takes aim at TTC

Ginella Massa | posted Thursday, May 31st, 2018

The TTC said it has filed a complaint with Toronto police over a controversial music video that appears to take aim at transit workers.

The video, posted earlier this month by GTA-based 6ixreacts, appears to be shot on subway cars and platforms. The rapper makes gunshot gestures and references TTC fare collectors while saying “two-shots to your dome” and “I’ll shoot you in your chin.”

The TTC said the video was brought to their attention by employees and customers.

“The TTC condemns this video and lyrics in the strongest possible terms,” it said in a statement. “The content threatens extreme violence against TTC employees, which is a criminal act. This is completely unacceptable.

“The individuals depicted in the video did not seek authorization to film on the TTC, nor would they have been granted permission based on the violence promoted in the video.”

The TTC said it has asked YouTube to remove the video from its platform.

“At least once a day TTC employees are assaulted or threatened for simply doing their jobs. The courts and police take these matters very seriously, as does the TTC.”

The 6ixreacts Instagram page, which has over 6,700 followers, includes mostly comedic videos meant to provoke a reaction.

“6ixreacts is fictional parody character influenced by the various cultures and languages seen throughout urban locations across the city,” the man behind the account said. “6ixreacts does not reflect the views and opinions of myself, nor do I advocate any form of assault against TTC workers. The song was nothing but a joke and parody, and shouldn’t be taken as a serious immediate threat to TTC workers.”

Toronto police confirmed they are investigating, but said it’s too early to say what charges, if any, could result.

1 dead, 3 injured in Scarborough house fire

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

One person is dead and three others were taken to hospital following a two-alarm fire at a home in Scarborough.

Crews were called to Haida Court and Lash Court, near Morningside Avenue and Ellesmere Road, around 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Fire officials are not sure what caused the fire but say they believe it started in the basement.

The body of a woman, believed to be in her 20s, was found in a bedroom on the second floor of the home. Officials had originally classified her as unaccounted for.

Fire officials said all four people in the home are believed to be tenants and are students who went to University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

One of the four people living in the home had to jump from a second floor window to escape the fire.

Paramedics said a woman in her 20s suffered serious burns and two others were taken to hospital for minor smoke inhalation.

Motorcyclist killed after bike collides with tractor-trailer in Rexdale

News Staff | posted Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

A 22-year-old man is dead after his motorcycle collided with a tractor-trailer in Rexdale.

Emergency crews were called to Martin Grove Road just north of Highway 409 around 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Toronto police say the motorcycle was travelling south on Martin Grove when it struck the tractor-trailer, which was heading north on Martin Grove.

The truck was making a left-hand turn when it was struck by the motorcycle.

The motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene.

Martin Grove is closed between Belfield and Bethridge roads for the police investigation.

CP Rail train operators on strike; signal workers reach agreement

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Canadian Pacific Rail’s more than 3,000 train operators walked off the job late Tuesday night while a second group of workers reached a tentative contract settlement with the rail company.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said its workers walked out at 10 p.m. EDT as negotiations continued with the company with the assistance of federal mediators.

That announcement came just minutes after CP Rail announced a tentative deal had been reached with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for 360 signalling workers who were also poised to walk off the job at 10 p.m.

The Teamsters said the strike by its members began despite “best efforts to reach a negotiated settlement,” adding it is “willing to remain at the bargaining table during the strike.”

It also said commuter train services in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are operated by Bombardier, not Canadian Pacific, and Teamster members who operate trains in those cities are Bombardier employees and will not go on strike.

As a result, said the Teamsters, commuter train services would not be affected by the strike.

Via, however, had already cancelled passenger rail service starting Tuesday morning in Ontario between Sudbury and White River.

CP Rail has said it will use qualified management staff to handle signalling and switching tasks so trains can continue to operate.

However, the strike could force the railroad to shut down its freight service at a particularly bad time for grain farmers. Shippers had said they expected talks would fail, resulting in the third CP Rail strike since 2012.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier in the day that the federal government would not be rushed into introducing back-to-work legislation, preferring instead to employ various levers to motivate both sides to reach a settlement.

Trudeau also said his government would not do as the Conservatives did and favour employers.

“Quite frankly, we have companies that have gotten used to the fact that in certain industries, the government in the past was very quick to legislate against unions,” Trudeau said during a conference in Toronto.

“We are not going to do that.”

If eventually forced to intervene, said Trudeau, the Liberal government won’t be giving the advantage to employers.

Even before the strike began, the livelihoods of Canadian grain farmers were already threatened because shipping was severely disrupted over the past winter due to extreme cold.

“You always hope for a miracle but we’re pretty sure there’s going to be a stoppage,” said Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, which represents the country’s largest exporters.

He said there was little that could be done to prepare other than to notify farmers that deliveries will have to be rescheduled and tell overseas customers they could receive late shipments.

“We’re just coming off of a year where we had poor rail service even though we didn’t have a work stoppage and we are trying to maintain relationships with our customers,” he added.

The train operators voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action to back their contract demands in early April and voted 98 per cent to reject CP’s final offer last Friday.

Both unions gave the railway notice over the weekend that they plan to walk off the job to support contract demands.

Another busy day for Ontario’s main party leaders as election draws closer

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

It’s another busy day Tuesday for Ontario’s main party leaders with the provincial election a little more than a week away.

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne will be in Oakville for a morning announcement, and will then head to Toronto to meet with the Globe and Mail editorial board before visiting a children’s play centre in the city’s east end.

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is scheduled to visit a retirement home in Port Colborne in morning before attending an evening rally in nearby Welland.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will visit a co-op building in northern Toronto, then has local campaign events planned in Brantford, Stratford and Chatham-Kent later in the day.

Ford and Horwath are in a virtual tie atop most opinion polls, with Wynne a distant third.

Ontario voters heads to the polls on June 7.

Stratford Festival reopens after bomb threat

News Staff | posted Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

The areas around the Stratford Festival and Avon Theatres have been reopened after a bomb threat forced the closure of the official opening night of its 2018 season.

Police in Stratford, Ont., say on Twitter that at about 6:45 p.m. Monday, they received a call that explosives had been placed at the theatre festival.

They say festival officials were immediately advised and the Avon and Festival theatres were evacuated as a precaution.

Officers conducted searches for suspicious items or packages.

Just after 6 a.m. on Tuesday, police tweeted that the area had been cleared and that all buildings had been turned back over to the Stratford Festival staff.

There has been no word on if officers located anything suspicious.

On Monday, Ann Swerdfager, publicity director at Stratford Festival, said in a statement that patrons, staff and artists for a performance of “The Tempest” left the theatre quickly.

She said all ticket purchases would be honoured and ticket holders for Monday’s performance would be contacted by festival staff.

Swerdfager said all of Tuesday’s performances, including the opening of “The Music Man,” will go on as scheduled with increased security.

Construction season ramps up in Toronto

Stella Acquisto and News Staff | posted Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

As the weather warms up, construction in Toronto does as well.

“In Toronto, we really have two seasons: winter and construction,” said city councillor Jaye Robinson, who is also chair of the City’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

Currently, there are 60 major construction zones across the city, including 181 major road restrictions.

In addition, there are 166 moderate road restrictions and 206 minor road restrictions.

A few of the spots expected to cause major traffic delays include Gerrard Street East and Parliament for TTC track repairs, construction at Eglinton Avenue West between Islington and Jane Street, and Jarvis Street from Dundas Street East to Queen Street East.

All the roadblocks you may run into in the next few months can be found here.

If it seems like road work has increased this year in comparison to last, Robinson says it hasn’t.

“We have the same level of construction for major road repairs and watermain work this year as we did last year, but the kicker is that we haven’t had more complaints about potholes like we did this year. We had a very long, very difficult winter,” Robinson said.

“A lot of freeze and thaws cycles and that creates a perfect culture for potholes. So, as of today, we’ve repaired in 2018 already 166 thousand potholes. So, this year we do anticipate breaking records on the pothole front.”

Robinson says the city has committed $720 million to road and watermain repairs this year alone.

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