Roger Collier | CMAJ | August 11, 2017

  • Physician groups and small business associations are protesting the federal government’s proposal to restrict the tax-saving benefits of private corporations. Groups that have expressed concern so far include the Ontario Medical Association, Doctors of BC, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Federation for Independent Business.
  • British Columbia will audit three clinics over concerns of overbilling. The audits will help determine “the extent to which extra-billing and user fees have been a barrier to care” in BC, stated Dr. Jane Philpott, the federal health minister.
  • The meat and dairy industries appear concerned about potential changes to Canada’s Food Guide. A new version of the guide is expected to be released next year, and Health Canada’s preliminary recommendations include eating less red meat and more protein-rich foods made from plants.
  • Canada should consider following Portugal’s approach to drug policy to combat the country’s opioid crisis, stated Dr. Perry Kendall, BC’s provincial health officer. Portugal has decriminalized personal possession of drugs in limited amounts and focuses on public health, education, social supports and destigmatizing drug use.
  • Advocates for robotic surgery for prostate cancer in Ontario are worried the province is abandoning the technology. The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee has recommended against publicly funding the procedure, suggesting there is insufficient evidence of superiority to traditional open surgery to justify the cost (an extra $6000 per patient).
  • Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s health minister, announced an online tool for checking wait times for surgeries and procedures that allows users to compare hospitals. The tool, developed with Health Quality Ontario, includes time between referral and first appointment with a specialist, and the time between the booking of a procedure and when it is performed.
  • To help address the opioid crisis in BC, the province’s coroners service has a new mandate to collect comprehensive information on all people suspected to have died from a drug overdose. Alberta has also taken a step to better understanding the opioid problem, hiring a medical analyst to examine the records of the province’s chief medical examiner for all suspected overdose victims to identify trends and propose possible solutions.
  • Ontario physicians are raising concerns over the shortage of doctors and health services in northern Ontario. A recent report from Health Quality Ontario found that people in the province’s two northern Local Health Integration Network regions have shorter lifespans than the Ontario average, have less access to primary care providers when sick, and are more likely to die prematurely from suicide, heart disease or other causes.
  • The University of New Brunswick announced it will hire a health research chair in cannabis, who will focus on pharmacological sciences and conduct preclinical pharmacology studies. St. Thomas University, also in New Brunswick, announced in May that it had hired someone in that position to study policy development and health-related issues related to marijuana.
  • Hospitals in BC have seen a spike in visits due to extremely dry conditions and wildfires. There are up to 125 wildfires across the province, and more people are visiting hospitals for respiratory conditions and other health problems associated with smoke and heat.

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