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MS patient in hospital since 2017 finally goes home

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An Ottawa woman confined to hospital because of a care worker shortage is finally being allowed to go home, months after doctors first said she could.

Christine Benoit, 44, has multiple sclerosis and uses a motorized wheelchair. She’s been a patient at Saint-Vincent Hospital since having an operation for leg spasms in October 2017.

Nearly a year later, in August 2018, doctors told her she was healthy enough to be discharged, but the support she needed at home wasn’t available.

Before going into the hospital, Benoit required two personal support workers (PSWs), three times a day, to help her get out of bed, get dressed, make meals, and get back into bed each night.

However, changes made to her wheelchair in November cut that requirement down from two PSWs to just one.

Even that initially appeared to be too many. But over the holidays, the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) — which oversees health care in the Ottawa area — called Benoit and said they’d found enough workers.

That meant Benoit would finally be going home.

Christine Benoit headed home from hospital on Thursday, approximately five months after doctors said she could be safely discharged. A shortage of home care workers had prevented her from leaving. 0:39

PSW shortage to blame, LHIN says

“I’m free!” she said Thursday afternoon, as she was getting ready to leave the hospital.

“I’m beyond over-the-moon ecstatic. I would rip off my clothes and go do the polar bear swim [if I could], just to match my energy.”

That excitement has been a long time coming. Just weeks ago, Benoit had considered filing a human rights complaint if she wasn’t released from the hospital this year.

Benoit said she’s still mulling the possibility of filing the complaint, but right now she plans to focus on enjoying being in her own apartment and bed.

She said she’ll be receiving help from one PSW three times a day: in the morning, at supper and in the evening.

In a statement, the Champlain LHIN blamed a province-wide shortage of PSWs for delays in getting people out of hospital and back home.

As of Thursday, there were currently 11 people still waiting in hospitals across the region because of a lack of PSWs to meet their needs, the LHIN wrote. Nine of those people had been waiting between three and 14 days.

“We deeply regret the problems this has created for clients and their caregivers,” the statement said.

Benoit previously required two personal support workers to care for her in her home, but modifications made to her motorized wheelchair mean she now only needs one. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

‘Be the squeaky wheel’

Benoit believes she wouldn’t be headed home if it wasn’t for the public pressure that came after CBC News first aired her story.

“I had to micromanage my entire exit, pretty much,” Benoit said, adding she doesn’t want people in similar situations to give up hope.

“Make sure that you’re on top of it, and don’t rely on anybody else. Keep strong and keep on them,” she said. “You’re not bothering them. Be the squeaky wheel.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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