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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | Nov. 11, 2016

  • A Harvard University study found 11 proposed hydroelectric sites in Canada will expose nearby Indigenous communities to dangerous levels of methylmercury. The affected communities stand to suffer long-term neurocognitive problems in children and “potential population-level impacts on endocrine health and cardiovascular health,” the report concludes.
  • Alberta amended its compensation agreement with doctors to include financial penalties if the cost of physician services exceeds a pay ceiling in the next two years. Doctors will pay the difference from their retention benefits and cost-of-living adjustment, and stand to lose up to $28 000 each if costs greatly exceed funding levels.
  • Saskatchewan plans to amalgamate its health regions to address a larger than expected deficit. A provincial panel will issue a report in the next few weeks on how to transform the health system for further savings.
  • Manitoba appointed new regional boards for the province’s five health authorities after launching an external review of the cost of services. The health authorities have also created local health involvement groups made up of residents from each region to provide advice to the new boards.
  • More than 20% of adults on the Ontario Drug Benefits Plan are taking opioids prescribed by a doctor, according to a study by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto. People covered by the publicly funded plan, which covers seniors and people on social assistance, were prescribed opioids at a slightly higher rate than the general population (17%).

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  • Absenteeism among Quebec hospital workers has spiked in the past 18 months following cost-cutting reforms to the public health care system. Sainte-Justine hospital in Montréal is among the hardest hit. More than 7% of workers are on long-term leave and haven’t been replaced, and medical accidents have tripled in the hospital’s birthing centre.
  • Eleven Montréal colonoscopy clinics warned they will be forced to close when Quebec abolishes extra billing of patients for services covered by the public health system. The government pays doctors $160 for each colonoscopy and the clinics charge an extra $550 to cover operating costs.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador hospitals are overcrowded, reporting a 90% occupancy rate, according to a provincial audit. Occupancy rates over 85% can result in cancelled surgeries; patients having to wait in the emergency department, recovery room and hallways; and the use of co-gendered rooms or inappropriate rooms and wards.
  • Fifty doctors protested Vancouver Coastal Health’s plan to replace two government owned long-term care homes with a single private facility. In a letter to Health Minister Terry Lake, the doctors complained that the new 128-bed facility falls short of the 370 beds that will be required by its completion in 2018. They also warned that making the switch to private delivery may erode the quality of care.
  • An employee at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg may have been exposed to Ebola after working with pigs infected with the virus. The man has been offered a vaccine used in trials in Africa and will remain in isolation and monitored by public health officials for 21 days.

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