Opioid overdoses killed dozens in Manitoba this year: Manitoba health minister
Manitoba has recorded "at least" two dozen deaths from opioid overdoses in 2016 -- nine confirmed to be caused by or related to fentanyl, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen told the legislature Tuesday afternoon.
The confirmed deaths occurred in the first five months of 2016, Goertzen said.
"This number is expected to go up," he said. "Sadly, we know as the toxicology reports come back from other overdose cases, this number will almost certainly be higher than in previous years."
Goertzen dismissed demands from NDP health critic Matt Wiebe to declare a provincial public health emergency and to open up safe injection sites for addicts.
He did, however, agree that the situation is an emergency.
"Many (users) are unaware it is the drug they are taking, and of its deadly consequences," he said, adding the problem does not recognize provincial borders.
"We need national action on this issue," he said. "It is not a problem that can be legislated away."
Wiebe told Goertzen that Manitobans can't wait for Ottawa to act. He and other New Democrats called on Goertzen to take immediate action.
The NDP's James Allum accused Goertzen of procrastinating: "When will he put money into harm reduction? Families are asking this government to show leadership," he said.
Goertzen said that the province is educating first responders in the use of opioid antidote naloxone, but cautioned that the kits can't save every life.
"We are committed to providing specialized education for service providers and parents," the health minister said. "Having a naloxone kit is not a safety net; it can mitigate, but not eliminate."
Wiebe said British Columbia has declared a public health emergency, which he said "opens up the flow of resources to the front lines."
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