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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | July 14, 2017

  • Health Canada is seeking feedback on proposed updates to assisted reproduction regulations, including clarifying the rules for reimbursing sperm and egg donors and surrogates. The public consultation will run until Sept. 9.
  • Several technology companies recently launched apps for private telemedicine services via text, phone or video chat. However, some experts are concerned the apps breach the “universality” principle of Canada’s health system, which requires access be based on need, not ability to pay.
  • Health Canada may soon launch a national trial of prescription heroin as a form of maintenance therapy for drug users for whom other treatments have failed. More details about the study and the sites participating are expected soon.
  • Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette met with unions and a patients’ committee after more than half of the McGill University Health Centre board resigned claiming that Barrette was ignoring their concerns. Hospital employees have repeatedly complained of higher burnout rates and longer wait times due to funding shortfalls, but Barrette has insisted the hospital’s funding is sufficient.
  • Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman cancelled funding for a nurse-practitioner led clinic run by the private health foundation Pure North after the CBC revealed the clinic offered an unproven alternative treatment. Hoffman said the clinic was intended to “demonstrate an enhanced role for nurse practitioners,” but “the possibility of overlap between this program and other Pure North initiatives is becoming a distraction.”
  • Changes to cervical cancer screening guidelines to no longer recommend Pap tests for women under 21 were followed by a 26% drop in chlamydia testing among Ontario women aged 15-19, according to a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine. Previously, doctors had done Pap tests and chlamydia tests at the same time.
  • Quebec recommended breast cancer screening for transgender women between the ages of 50 and 69, as well as for transgender men, unless they have their breasts removed. The province’s screening program will now send mammogram reminders to anyone between the ages of 50 and 69 whose health card indicates gender as female.
  • The HIV infection rate for men who have sex with men is increasing in British Columbia, particularly among visible minorities, while the province’s overall rate is declining.  According to a study presented at the 2017 Canadian Association for HIV Research conference, visible minority men who have sex with men were more likely to test positive for HIV the first time they were tested, and were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced infection.
  • Residents of supportive-living facilities in Alberta report widely different experiences of care, according to a survey conducted by the Health Quality Council of Alberta. Residents’ ratings of the overall care at 146 supportive-living facilities ranged from 6 to 9.6 on a scale of 10; just 11 facilities were rated 7 out of 10 or better.
  • Ontario will invest $175 million in repairs and upgrades to 131 hospitals this year. The province will also spend an extra $9 billion on new hospital projects.

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