Schools not be­ing com­pelled to stock life-sav­ing medicines

Waterloo Region Record - - FRONT PAGE - Jeff Outhit, Record staff

WATER­LOO RE­GION — It frus­trates Marty Kings that schools won’t stock and use med­i­ca­tion that might save his di­a­betic grand­daugh­ter Grace in an emer­gency.

A former teacher and school prin­ci­pal, he cas­ti­gates the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem as a bu­reau­cracy that re­sists change un­til tragedy forces it.

“Is some­one go­ing to have to die be­fore we deal with this?” said Kings.

“My con­sis­tent ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion was that un­less there’s a real prob­lem, un­less some­thing man­i­fests it­self in a very, very dis­tinct way, we’re go­ing to let it go un­til we re­ally have to make a change.”

His crit­i­cism res­onates be­yond con­cern for Grace, a Grade 2 stu­dent in Kitch­ener.

On­tario schools have been slow to em­brace emer­gency med­i­ca­tion that might save stu­dents.

Glucagon is a hor­mone to re­store blood sugar, in­jected to save a di­a­betic in an emer­gency.

Un­like some other prov­inces, On­tario re­fuses to com­pel school staff to in­ject it.

Lo­cal schools are to call 911 and wait for paramedics.

Nalox­one is a med­i­ca­tion that by in­jec­tion or nasal spray tem­po­rar­ily re­verses the ef­fects of an over­dose of an opi­oid drug such as fen­tanyl or heroin.

Lo­cal schools don’t stock it, but in­stead call 911 and wait for paramedics.

Ad­vo­cates claim both med­i­ca­tions are easy to store and use, with min­i­mal or no side ef­fects if wrongly ad­min­is­tered.

Teach­ers say they don’t want to be blamed if an emer­gency goes wrong.

It’s why some teach­ers look to the gov­ern­ment to com­pel in­ter­ven­tion and ab­solve them of li­a­bil­ity, their unions say.

“When it comes to ad­min­is­ter­ing medicine in an emer­gency, even the best of in­ten­tions to as­sist can some­times not re­sult in a pos­i­tive health out­come,” Sam Ham­mond, pres­i­dent of the El­e­men­tary Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion of On­tario, said in a state­ment.

“Our mem­bers are more likely to come for­ward for train­ing where there is provin­cial leg­is­la­tion in place to pro­tect them from li­a­bil­ity such as with Ryan’s Law or Sab­rina’s Law.”

Ham­mond said teach­ers want to keep stu­dents safe and “it is up to the school boards and prin­ci­pal to stock ap­pro­pri­ate emer­gency kits and train as­signed staff to use them.”

“It’s al­ways con­cern­ing for teach­ers when it comes to ad­min­is­tra­tion of any med­i­ca­tion, be­cause we’re not med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers,” said Liz Stu­art, pres­i­dent of the On­tario English Catholic Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

She said teach­ers have be­come fa­mil­iar with asthma and al­lergy med­i­ca­tions, but other med­i­ca­tions are dif­fer­ent and “there is a sense of un­ease” about teach­ers be­ing asked to ad­min­is­ter more of them.

“We used to have school nurses. Maybe the time has come to make sure that we have ac­cess to those re­sources within our schools,” Stu­art said.

On­tario has en­acted two laws on emer­gency med­i­ca­tion in schools. Both fol­lowed tragedies.

Ryan’s Law com­pels schools to let asth­matic stu­dents carry in­halers, au­tho­rizes staff to ad­min­is­ter med­i­ca­tion, and ab­solves them of li­a­bil­ity. It fol­lowed the death of a 12-year-old asth­matic boy whose school would not let him carry his in­haler.

Sab­rina’s Law com­pels schools to train staff about deal­ing with life-threat­en­ing al­ler­gies, al­lows schools to store anti-al­lergy in­jec­tors and to use them, and ab­solves staff of li­a­bil­ity. It fol­lowed the death of a 13-year-old girl who suf­fered an al­ler­gic at­tack af­ter lunch in a high school cafe­te­ria.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has not pledged leg­is­la­tion on glucagon. It has is­sued mixed mes­sages while re­fus­ing to com­pel schools to ad­min­is­ter the med­i­ca­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Mitzie Hunter called for con­sis­tency across school boards but her min­istry points to a patch­work, say­ing sup­port for di­a­betic stu­dents will vary “based on a range of fac­tors, in­clud­ing their needs, their ca­pac­ity for self-man­age­ment, and the school board’s poli­cies.”

Pub­lic school trustee Cindy Wat­son wants emer­gency nalox­one kits stocked in ru­ral schools and in high schools, with staff trained to use them. It’s un­der re­view by the Water­loo Re­gion Dis­trict School Board.

“We’ve been told that it would take four min­utes for po­lice to show up. That’s a long four min­utes to watch some­body over­dose,” she said.

Catholic schools don’t stock nalox­one kits, but have said they are re­search­ing the is­sue.

Wat­son would wel­come nalox­one leg­is­la­tion but knows leg­is­la­tion is a slow process and ar­gues that schools should de­velop pro­to­cols to ad­min­is­ter the med­i­ca­tion. “The wheels of democ­racy move very slowly,” she said.

The ed­u­ca­tion min­istry says it’s up to school boards to de­cide on pro­vid­ing nalox­one and some have ob­tained nalox­one kits.

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