June 01, 2016 - 6:30 PM
KAMLOOPS - Interior Health is launching two new systems to help track overdoses due to heroin, fentanyl and other opiates.
Emergency room data collection systems are coming online this week, medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema says, while a pilot program was launched last week to track overdoses through community organizations.
Not all of the region’s more than 30 emergency departments will start on the system this week, she says, but the rest to follow over the summer.
“I’m hoping all emergency departments will be reporting data within two months,” she says.
Recording, tracking and monitoring overdoses was a crucial missing ingredient for health authorities and the entire province that was slow to react to a massive spike in overdose deaths in the last two years. The province has never had a system to record overdoses that might have lead to a better and faster response. The only tracking was done anecdotally from social service agencies and were unreliable. Mema says the impetus for creating these systems was the health emergency announcement in mid-April. The province reached a record 476 overdose deaths last year and could double that this year.
Emergency departments in Kamloops, Kelowna and Vernon are part of the initial phase of the project, she says. Part of the reason for staggering the rollout is to make sure the emergency departments are stocked with take home naloxone kits, which can reverse an overdose. She says the health authority isn't experiencing a backlog in receiving the kits, but says there have been concerns about delays and the health authority is looking at building its own kits.
The data from will be collected from non-fatal overdose incidents that make it to emergency rooms in almost real-time she says, and will include a wide range of data including the types of drugs and location of overdose.
The community system is currently in its pilot phase right now, with the first group of organizations going online last week, Mema says. The community system will help track non-fatal overdoses that don’t get taken to emergency rooms, she says, and allows for anecdotal reports from opiate users to be recorded by staff at outreach centres.
Kira Haug, an outreach worker with ASK Wellness in Kamloops, says she’s used the new community system and looks forward to its growth.
“It gives us more information to share with people who use drugs,” she says.
Haug says the community system is important as many overdoses never go reported to hospitals or emergency services, with people overdosing saved by a friend with a take home naloxone kit. She says the new system will help give a more accurate idea of what’s happening at street level.
Fatima Siddiqui, a spokesperson for BC Emergency Health Services says in an email paramedics in Kamloops responded to 203 suspected overdoses and poisonings in the first five months of 2016, up from 107 over the same period last year. However, she says this number is not fully accurate because it refers to suspected cases and includes poisonings, not just drug overdoses. The B.C. Coroners Service has previously said overdose deaths were up 88 per cent this year.
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