Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | April 21, 2017

  • Manitoba scientists say they have discovered the first new antibiotic in three decades, although it may take 5-10 years before the drug is available to the public. The new antibiotic, PEG-2S, inhibits a sodium pump that at least 20 different types of bacteria need to survive, but still needs to be tested in clinical trials.
  • Marijuana companies raised concerns about Health Canada’s ability to ensure the quality and safety of the drug once it becomes legal, citing a lack of inspectors among other issues. Health Canada also faced criticism from members of Parliament for not disclosing the cost of a proposed cannabis tracking system.
  • Canada has one of the highest rates of pediatric inflammatory bowel disease in the world; the condition affects an estimated 3000 children under age 16, according a study by Ontario’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and other institutions. The number of children under age 5 diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease increased by 7.2% every year between 1999 and 2010.
  • Alberta became the second province to promise universal coverage for the abortion medication Mifegymiso. New Brunswick pledged to cover the drug earlier this month; other provinces are waiting for the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance to finish price negotiations with the drug distributor, Celopharma Inc.
  • Saskatchewan and the federal government pledged $63 million for a new patient-oriented research centre that focuses on mental health and Indigenous care. The centre’s executive director says the investment will provide some independence from pharmaceutical industry funding to focus on patients’ research priorities.
  • Ontario hospitals are struggling to keep up with unusual levels of overcrowding, with patient capacity ranging from 100% to 130% at about half the province’s hospitals. To accommodate the overflow, hospitals have opened at least 1100 “unfunded” beds, including more than 250 beds in unconventional spaces, such as patient lounges and storage rooms.
  • Quebec should have held out for a better federal health funding deal, according to a public finance think-tank. Ottawa’s share of Quebec’s health care costs will peak at 27% between now and 2019 but decline thereafter to 25.5%, “forcing Quebec to disproportionately bear the burden of the additional health care costs,” the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy reported.
  • Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen came under fire for refusing to release the report of a $750 000 health care sustainability audit. The minister claims the information is owned by KPMG, the consulting firm contracted to conduct the audit, though the government previously promised to release the report with redactions to protect privacy.
  • Two emergency rooms in Quebec City are increasingly going unstaffed by doctors. Saint-Marc-des-Carrières hospital had 26 emergency room shifts without a doctor present in 2015, 54 in 2016 and already 26 in the first three months of 2017. The Jeffery Hale hospital didn’t have a doctor present for eight emergency shifts so far this year, up from only three shifts last year.
  • Two reports highlighted social disparities in access to health care. One study of community health survey data showed that poor Canadians face significantly longer waits for care than wealthier peers, particularly in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Another report showed that northern Ontarians wait longer for primary care and die 2.5 years sooner than others in the province.

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