Dr. Fry voices concern about fentanyl crisis

Dr. Hedy Fry

OTTAWA – Trinidad-born Dr. Hedy Fry, longtime  Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, is concerned about the slow response by her own federal government to the crisis of fentanyl, a potent opioid linked to more than 500 overdose deaths last year in British Colombia and Alberta alone.

“I feel it’s something we need to be doing something about faster than we are doing it,”  Dr.Fry said in a recent interview.

The number of Canadian deaths from fentanyl — often used to cut other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine or oxycodone — is highest in British Colombia. and Alberta, prompting Fry to suggest that a regional bias, albeit unintentional, might be at play.

“I think that it is that the whole country isn’t suffering from the same problem — it’s B.C. and Alberta,” Fry said. “It’s now starting in Ontario, and I would suggest to you that once it gets bad in Ontario, we will notice action being taken.”

The Coroners Service of British Columbia reported 374 illicit drug overdose deaths linked to fentanyl between January and Oct. 31 last year. Alberta reported 193 fentanyl-related deaths between January and September of last year.

Ontario, which has a population about three times the size of either of those provinces, reported 166 deaths linked to fentanyl in 2015, according to preliminary data for 2015 from the chief coroner’s office.

Andrew MacKendrick, a spokesman for Health Minister Jane Philpott, said the federal government has been working hard to tackle the issue.

“We have been working throughout the year to pull as many levers as possible to address this public health crisis, but certainly recognize that more needs to be done,” MacKendrick said.

“She certainly recognizes the impact this has on families and the communities regardless of where it happens in the country, so this is something the minister is deeply concerned about — disturbed about — and is committed and determined to work with the partners across the country to address it properly.”

Dr. Fry said she would like to see public health officials in every province co-coordinating efforts to help keep it under control.

“I think it’s time for the whole country to pull together.”