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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | March 24, 2017

  • The federal budget invested more than $4 billion in health programs on top of $200 billion in health transfers to the provinces and territories. Mental health, home care, and Indigenous and veterans’ care led the investments.
  • Canada’s smoking rate dropped slightly. According to Statistics Canada, 17.7% of Canadians aged 12 or older smoked daily in 2015, down from 18.1% in 2014. More men were daily smokers (20.4%) than women (15%).
  • Saskatchewan’s budget allocated $5.2 billion to health, up $38.6 million from last year, including $3.4 billion for regional health authorities, $170 million for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and $15.5 million for continued construction of a children’s hospital. However, the province will increase long-term care fees for wealthier individuals, and phase out parent mentoring and pastoral care services in hospitals.
  • Manitoba introduced legislation to freeze wages for public sector and health care workers for two years, followed by a 0.75% increase in the third year and a 1% increase in the fourth. Although wages are off the bargaining table, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said the province will discuss concessions such as unpaid days off, wage rollbacks, pension changes and more when new collective agreements are negotiated.
  • Quebec will invest $29 million a year for five years as part of a new autism plan, with a focus on increasing services for preschoolers and halving wait times for behavioral therapy. However, parents of school-aged children were disappointed that the government-funded therapy won’t be extended to kids over age 5.
  • A Torstar News and Ryerson School of Journalism investigation raised concerns about boutique medical clinics in Toronto that charge patients as much as $4500 in annual fees for reduced wait times for primary care and extra testing that may not be medically necessary. Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said that the ministry is “monitoring very closely” billing practices in this “legal grey area.”
  • Thoracic surgeons in Nova Scotia won’t be taking patients from New Brunswick, where the only thoracic surgeons in Saint John and Moncton are on leave. Internal emails from Horizon Health Network described the situation as a crisis, but the network’s vice president of medical, academic and research affairs stated that all patients have been referred to other surgeons.
  • A CBC investigation found that many chiropractors’ websites contain anti-vaccine statements and dubious treatment claims for autism, Tourette’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and more. The investigation reviewed the company websites and Facebook accounts of some 275 chiropractors in Manitoba and found health misinformation linked to more than 30 offices.
  • Nova Scotia health officials are trying to contact a few hundred people who may have been exposed to measles from one person on a flight to Halifax, at a church in Caledonia and an emergency room in Bridgewater. Health authorities say the case is not linked to an outbreak that affected seven people in the province last month.
  • Health Canada warned people not to use health products sold by EPCA Shipping Inc. through the website, after the regulator seized a number of unauthorized drugs from the company. “The products are promoted to treat cancer, infertility, respiratory diseases, enlarged thyroid and erectile dysfunction and are labelled to contain various prescription drugs that may pose serious risks to the health of Canadians,” Health Canada stated.

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