The Pulse: April 6, 2022

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  • 8°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the morning then light in the afternoon. High 8. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • $75: Alberta has set a bounty on wild boar ears as part of a one-year pilot program to counter the invasive species. (details)
  • 2-1: The Oilers (41-25-5) defeated the Sharks (29-31-9) in San Jose. Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime with an assist from goalie Mike Smith. (details)

A portrait of Funke Olokude

Ribbon Rouge aims to close gaps in health equity for Black Albertans

By Emily Rendell-Watson

The Ribbon Rouge Foundation has launched a new community initiative that aims to secure health equity for African, Caribbean, and Black people.

Through the Black Equity in Alberta Rainforest (B.E.A.R.) program, the grassroots organization will collaborate with post-secondary institutions (NorQuest College, the University of Alberta, The King's University, and Mount Royal University) to generate the research needed to better understand how anti-Black racism affects access to health, wealth, and well-being. It will also work to understand how the current resources and initiatives across the province could be improved.

"It becomes a challenge when you're confronted with issues, but we also don't have the right information or evidence to figure out how to tackle these issues," said Funke Olokude, executive director of Ribbon Rouge.

There are nine sub-projects through B.E.A.R., explained Olokude, which range from community asset mapping to qualifying and quantifying Alberta's Black-related health inequity. Another will look at mapping the province's justice system and how that extends to immigration, mental health, and other issues.

The final two projects will pull the data together from the first seven projects to develop solutions and policies that can respond to the needs of African, Caribbean, and Black communities.

Ribbon Rouge Foundation and Mitacs also plan to fund 13 interdisciplinary reports that will be informed by the projects, in hopes of creating change.

"A tangible thing that we're hoping for out of one of the reports (on the justice system) is to look at intersectional factors that can impact people's health when it comes to access to services or what kind of services we are providing individuals," Olokude said. "Sometimes not everyone who's going through the justice system needs to be in jail ... there's mental health conditions, trauma."

A province-wide advisory board that Ribbon Rouge is setting up will also provide input for the reports to ensure that what is garnered from the research is accurate.

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By Kevin Holowack

  • Doctors across Alberta are bracing for the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some are worried that hospitals have not recovered from previous waves, CBC reports. Dr. Neeja Bakshi from the Royal Alexandra Hospital tells Edmontonians to expect a surge and says the chance of accessing "effective and efficient health care in a timely manner is very slim right now."
  • City council narrowly voted down a proposal from Coun. Andrew Knack that would have provided financial relief to businesses impacted by construction, including LRT expansions. Coun. Keren Tang, who voted against the program along with councillors Tim Cartmell, Karen Principe, Joanne Wright, Sarah Hamilton, Erin Rutherford, and Michael Janz, said the city should consider policies that prevent these issues rather than a "band-aid solution." Puneeta McBryan of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association expressed disappointment at the outcome. Council voted down a similar program, also pitched by Knack, in 2018.
  • City council approved $1.8 million for the Bissell Centre, to be paid out of its emergency COVID-19 fund. The funding will allow the centre to stay open at least eight hours a day for six days a week and offer food, clothing, showers, and laundry, as well as Indigenous cultural services and housing referrals. City manager Andre Corbould is expecting further requests for support from shelters and says he is trying to meet with the provincial government to secure funding.
  • Council also asked staff to look into options for a drug-checking program, which would allow people to confidentially find out what is in the drugs they intend to take. Coun. Erin Rutherford called the idea an "easy and cheap" harm-reduction strategy to prevent drug poisoning. "We're talking about people dying on the streets, and this is absolutely something that can prevent that," she said.
  • The idea for a pedestrian bridge over McDougall Hill Road dates back to the 1980s, said Cyril Balitbit, lead project manager for the proposed 100 Street Pedestrian Bridge after the city released three design concepts and opened a survey for public input until April 24. The project remains dependent on whether council decides to fund it. Hear more about the pros and cons on Episode 172 of Speaking Municipally.
  • The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 569 (ATU), which represents local transit workers, has agreed to a new collective agreement with the City of Edmonton, which includes no general wage adjustment for 2021, 1% for 2022, and 2% for 2023.
  • Teamsters 362, which represents about 7,000 workers in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, has renewed its efforts to unionize workers at the Amazon fulfillment centre in Nisku, after campaigning there in September. The union told Reuters it has enough signed cards to meet the 40% threshold for a vote.
  • The Archbishop of Edmonton says his archdiocese is prepared to act on the Pope's apology to Indigenous Peoples in Canada, with education and open dialogue. "We've got to be really careful, it seems to me, to avoid a perpetuation of a colonial mentality whereby we would say to them, 'OK, here's your problem, we know how to fix it, and here's what we will do for you,'" said Richard Smith, who was among a small group of bishops who joined the Métis, First Nations, and Inuit delegations that travelled to the Vatican last week.
A newspaper clipping headlined "New General Hospital Wing Planned To Cost $1,900,000 and a photo of the construction headlined "Hospital Wing To Provide 200 More Beds

A moment in history: April 6, 1951

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1951, the foundation had been laid for a $1.9-million expansion of the Edmonton General Hospital.

Before the Edmonton General opened its doors in 1896, Edmonton was without a hospital. Anyone in need of treatment would need to travel to St. Albert, where the Grey Nuns operated a facility. But with the construction of a railway linking Calgary to South Edmonton in 1891, more people came to live on both sides of the river. Soon, the travel between St. Albert and Edmonton was deemed a hardship for both physicians and patients, writes Pauline Paul in her thesis on the history of the General.

A handful of doctors petitioned Bishop Grandin of the Diocese of St. Albert to build a hospital in Edmonton. Initially, he opposed the idea, but he changed his mind a few months later. Around 850 people, representing more than 80% of Edmonton's population at the time, signed a petition calling for the town to provide some funding towards a new hospital.

The Hudson's Bay Company sold the Grey Nuns a patch of land on Jasper Avenue for the original hospital, which cost about $30,000. The three-storey facility included an operating theatre, employee quarters, isolation rooms and two seven-bed wards. The land also contained a small farm, with at least one hospital cow, to provide food.

The hospital's early years were marked by tension between the religious and medical sides of the hospital. The Grey Nuns had final say over all hospital matters. However, many of the doctors demanded more control, particularly over the admission of patients. It led to a very public battle, leading to the eventual resignation of some doctors and the establishment of the Edmonton Public Hospital.

As the city grew, so did the General. It was expanded in 1907, and the hospital added a School of Nursing the following year (it would stay until moving to Grant MacEwan College in 1972). A second expansion and renovation happened in 1921.

In the 1930s, tuberculosis cases were on the rise. Soon, the number of TB patients at the Edmonton General left few beds for those who needed acute care. In 1940, a five-storey expansion added another 100 beds. Still, within a year, patients were being turned away due to lack of space. A temporary 60-bed ward was established in 1948. The 1950s expansion added another 200 beds and provided more modern care than some of the older wards in the hospital.

The building's time as a hospital came to an end in 1989, after the construction of the Grey Nuns Hospital south of the river. The acute care beds at the downtown facility were transferred to the new hospital, and the General was converted into a continuing care centre. It continues to offer long-term and hospice care under the administration of Covenant Health.

Edmonton now has nine hospitals, offering different types of care. However, the need to expand to meet rising demand is still an ever-present concern — the Misericordia Community Hospital is building a new emergency department that is slated to open next year. Construction is also underway on an additional continuing care centre in Norwood, also planned for 2023.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.