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UPDATED: Alberta Medical Association and doctors raise concerns with TELUS Babylon App

However, “notwithstanding these safeguards, while outside of Canada, personal data may be accessible by foreign government agencies under applicable law.”

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AMA president Christine Molnar released a statement Saturday saying the AMA was not involved in consultations and is receiving information at the same time as the general public.

TELUS Babylon released its app March 19 in partnership of the Alberta government.

“Alberta is pleased to partner with TELUS to deliver physician services in a new way. This app is now available and ready for use in Alberta thanks to an alternative relationship plan, and it comes at a time when our health system is actively asking people to self-isolate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a release March 19.

“Using this app is an alternative to visiting physicians face-to-face when you’re not sure if your symptoms are related to the novel coronavirus or at any other time.”

The Alberta government also offered to compensate family physicians providing virtual care in the province on March 18 – at $20 per consultation – a rate the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMSA) says is the lowest in Canada.

“On March 18, 2020, the government first allowed doctors to provide broad virtual cary by telephone, email and videoconference when possible, to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” read a statement by EZMSA on social media.

“The fee is capped at $20 per patient/ per doctor/ per day, for all doctors, regardless of the time spent.”

In Alberta, family doctors bill $41 for an in-person visit under 15 minutes and up to $59 for longer visits, according to EZMSA, who also charted virtual care rates in other provinces and found Alberta’s rate is anywhere from 16 per cent to 88 per cent less.

The new $20 rate is also $18 less than Alberta government agreed to pay TELUS Babylon physicians – who are to receive $38 per virtual patient consult.

A request was sent to the Minister of Health seeking clarification regarding the contract rates for physicians through TELUS Babylon and the differential for physicians already established in Alberta communities.

In a letter posted on Facebook, a physician from Peace River said theat she was “beyond frustrated”.

“Family physicians have been begging the health minister to allow us to provide virtual care to our patients so that we can keep our vulnerable patients at home and promote social distancing. We want to be able to provide high quality care even if our patients or ourselves are in self-isolation,” Dr. Heather Shonoski wrote.

Shonoski said doctors at the clinic in Peace River contacted TELUS to ask about access to the system and were told they cannot see their own patients.

“We want to provide continuity of care, which has been proven to save lives and minimize resource use… If we could see our own patients we could do our own follow-up or arrange cross-coverage with proper handover to a colleague in our own community. This would minimize the risk of medical error.”

At this time, physicians using the TELUS Babylon platform do not have access to provincial medical records.

A further potential issue with the Babylon project comes from the terms and conditions.

Dr. Amir Pakdel, an Edmonton area medical doctor, posted screenshots of the terms and conditions on Twitter.

Dr. Pakdel states that users “should be aware that Babylon is a multinational conglomerate corporation, funded by foreign countries – most notably Saudi Arabia – who owns a large part of the app.”

“There are alternative Canadian” options available, he said, that are not being marketed by the Alberta government such as Maple, a Canadian owned and operated app “that delivers the same virtual care services.”

“The Bablyon app records your video consultation and saves it on their servers. When was the last time you allowed a doctor to record your office visit where you share your most confidential personal information?” He asked.

“By using Babylon, you also agree to allow Babylon Health software developers to use your ‘medical record’, ‘transcripts’, and ‘recordings of your consultations'”.

The terms say that Babylon “may share your personal data with members of our corporate group and our partners” as well as “companies we have hired to provide services on our behalf”. It also states that such “data processors are bound by strict confidentiality and data security provisions and they can only use your data in the ways specified by us.”

However, “notwithstanding these safeguards, while outside of Canada, personal data may be accessible by foreign government agencies under applicable law.”

Alberta’s Ministry of Health did not return a request for comment before publication.

UPDATE: Premier Jason Kenney said during a press conference on Monday afternoon that the U.K. and British Columbia have been using TELUS-Babylon without privacy issues for longer than Alberta.

The Alberta government also added new billing codes to assure doctors are paid equally for virtual visits, including established physicians in Alberta communities.

“We’re helping physicians provide care to Albertans during this critical time while also keeping them as safe as possible,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

“Virtual care codes will facilitate patient care while making it possible to follow public health guidelines of maintaining social distance and self-isolation.”

The services available for billing include telephone or through a secure form of video conferencing by all Alberta physicians.

“These new virtual care codes will make it possible for physicians to deliver care safely and effectively to patients during the pandemic,” said president of the Alberta Medical Association Dr. Christine P. Molnar.

“These codes apply not only for COVID-19 care but for all the physical and mental health needs of patients as they present every day.”

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

News

Calgary cops seeking suspects in three hate crime attacks

“It is shocking to see anyone targeted for a crime because of a personal characteristic, but it is extremely disturbing to see the same community targeted three times in one weekend,” said Sgt. Arlene Padnivelan,

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Calgary cops are hunting for two men who attacked a same sex couple as they strolled down a northwest street.

It was one of three attacks over the weekend against members of Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

The incident occurred around 5:30 p.m., on Monday, as a same-sex couple was walking near the intersection of 9 St. and Memorial Dr. N.W., when two men and two women on electronic scooters approached them, police said.

“An altercation occurred and it is believed the two men on scooters assaulted the couple because of their sexual orientation. A belt, rocks and a recycling bin were used as weapons and then the group fled,” said police in a press released.

Suspects wanted in connection with a same sex attack
Courtesy Calgary Police Service

“Our officers arrived shortly after and searched the area but could not locate the group. The victims received medical care for non-life-threatening injuries.”

The two suspects are both described as being about 30 years old, average height and build, with trim black beards and short black hair. The one was wearing black framed glasses, white polo shirt, dark pants, brown loafers, and white socks. The other was wearing a grey polo shirt with white collar and sleeves, grey pants, and white runners.

The first incident happened when man was assaulted near the intersection of 17 Ave. and 12 St. in the middle of the day on Friday. It is alleged that a group of men attacked the victim while calling him homophobic slurs and then fled.

The second incident occurred around 1 p.m. on Saturday on the Rainbow Crosswalk at the intersection of Centre St. and Stephen Avenue Mall. A Drag King recording a video was spat on by an unknown man walking past. The incident is now being investigated and video and CCTV footage is being collected by us to help identify the man responsible, said police.

“It is shocking to see anyone targeted for a crime because of a personal characteristic, but it is extremely disturbing to see the same community targeted three times in one weekend,” said Sgt. Arlene Padnivelan, with the Calgary Police Service Diversity Resource Team.

“It is unacceptable that this is happening and we will absolutely investigate anytime a crime is motivated by hate or bias.”

Police encourage anyone who has been targeted for ill treatment or a crime because of their sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or some other similar trait to report it.

“We fully recognize that sometimes people do not want to involve the police or don’t feel comfortable coming to us for help,” said Padnivelan.

“We respect the wishes of those who are most affected by the incident and never force a victim to participate in a police investigation. However, if there is a way we can help make a person feel safe enough to come forward, we want to try do that.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Mountain guide trashes Alberta litterbugs

“There was more trash left on the ground after every weekend than ever before,” said guide Michael Vincent

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A Lake Louise mountain guide is trashing Albertans for the amount of garbage they are leaving behind in the mountain parks.

Michael Vincent, a 25-year veteran guide, said in a Facebook post he has noticed the problem has been getting worse, with the tipping point coming the last weekend with the Heritage Day holiday.

“As you all may know, long weekends in summer are traditionally VERY busy at the most famous lake in Canada,” he tweeted.

“This years is no exception…even with COVID there are thousands of visitors per day. The difference this year is who they are: 99.9 per cent Canadians because no one else can get here. Of those, 90 per cent are Albertans. At first, I loved the fact Albertans were enjoying their own backyard more than ever before…what a place to be trapped.

“And then we started to notice a change…there was more trash left on the ground after every weekend than ever before.

“Today I was shocked…this is one day of litter from one of the most popular hikes in the area, Lake Agnes. The staff at the tea house gave me some gloves and a bag so I could pick it up on the way down. Thanks to my guests for helping me spot all the trash.”

After seeing the picture on Twitter, Alberta Parks Minister Jason Nixon lashed out at the litterbugs.

“This occurred in a nat’l park, but it’s a critical reminder to all Albertans to leave the land better than you found it — in our nat’l parks, provincial parks & public lands. Our backyard is beautiful. Let’s keep it that way,” Nixon tweet.

“We’ve stepped up enforcement and added garbages and portable toilets in parks & on public lands but folks need to make better choices. It would be a shame if a few careless ppl ruined it for the rest of us.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Canada’s cops worried Liberal gun ban will hamper training

“Officers who wanted to frequently practice their patrol carbine skills could purchase their own AR-15 and practice on their own time, beyond the once or twice a year mandated qualification,” Rob Welsman wrote.

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Canadian cops are worried the Liberal government’s new gun grab will hamper their training with their automatic rifles.

Writing for the police’s Blue Line website, Rob Welsman, a police officer and a firearms and defensive tactics instructor, said prior to the ban, most of the patrol rifles in use in Canada were classified as restricted firearms and those models could be purchased privately by anyone holding a restricted firearms licence.

He wrote with the passage of the new law, all private sales of these firearms have stopped. The most common firearm in Canada that appears on the list of banned rifles is the AR-15 (Armalite Rifle model 15) and its variants, which also happens to be the most common type of patrol rifle in Canada for general duty/patrol use, as well as for many specialty teams.

“During its time as a restricted firearm, officers who wanted to frequently practice their patrol carbine skills could purchase their own AR-15 and practice on their own time, beyond the once or twice a year mandated qualification their police service provides. These officers must now be aware that such privately owned firearms are prohibited and can no longer be trained with,” Welsman wrote.

“Because the ban goes beyond the AR-15, any Canadian police officer who owns firearms, AR-15 or not, should carefully review the list of banned firearms and the ban criteria so as to avoid being in criminal possession at the conclusion of the two-year amnesty.

“With the private ownership option gone, officers will be limited in their ability to seek out additional training from private companies who offer, or at one time offered, patrol carbine training.  With this new legal framework, it will be a difficult proposition for an officer to get approval from their department to take a department-owned carbine out of service to go to outside training that hasn’t been reviewed and evaluated by the department.

“In addition, firearms trainers, many of whom are private citizens but with former law enforcement or military backgrounds, will be unable to use for teaching the very firearms platforms that they instruct on.  In the past, privately-owned patrol carbines removed these road-blocks, and now officers will be much more limited in their training options.”

In early May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced they are banning 1,500 different makes and models of what he called “military-style” and “assault-style” guns in Canada.

The ban came into effect immediately and was ordered by the cabinet without any bill or debate in Parliament.

Previously legal gun owners will be allowed to export the weapon or send them back to the manufacturer.

Guns like the M16, M4, AR-10 and AR-15 rifles will be banned. It is estimated there are now 125,000 of these guns – purchased legally – which are now illegal. Licensed gun owners will no longer be allowed to sell, transport, import or use the guns.

The move comes after the worst mass killing in Canadian history April 18-19 where Gabriel Wortman killed 22 people in Nova Scotia. Thirteen had been shot to death while nine died in fires Wortman set. Critics say the Liberals are using the tragedy to push through their new gun ban.

Wortman used illegal weapons from both Canada and the U.S. including one the RCMP said “could be described as a military-style assault rifle.”

The federal government still has to work out the details of a buy-back program to compensate the owners of previous legal firearms.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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