Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | December 22, 2017

  • Health Canada nearly doubled the number of marijuana production licenses it issued in the second half of 2017 in the rush to meet demand ahead of legalization next July. As of May, the regulator had granted 44 production licenses in four years, but since then, that number almost doubled to 80.
  • Thirty-nine percent of cannabis users report driving within two hours of smoking the drug, according to a Health Canada survey of 3600 people across the country. Cannabis users were also split on whether the drug impairs driving – 50.2% said yes, but most respondents were unsure how long to wait to drive after using pot.
  • The BC Centre for Disease Control will dispense opioids without a prescription to registered users in a bid to reduce overdose deaths from drugs laced with fentanyl. Starting in March, the centre plans to distribute the synthetic opioid hydromorophone in supportive housing projects, supervised injection sites or pharmacies, and possibly, through vending machines.
  • Alberta will merge medical laboratory services into a public corporation under Alberta Health Services, and the province committed $20 million for initial work on a “superlab” at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the merger will speed up processing of lab tests, which are currently handled by a mix of public and private providers.
  • Quebec Health Minister Dr. Gaétan Barrette said the province probably won’t meet its end-of-year target of providing access to a family doctor for 85% of patients. Earlier this year, the province threatened financial sanctions on doctors if the target wasn’t met, but Barrette said the government will allow a two-year “transition period” to meet the mark.
  • Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard intervened in negotiations with medical specialists who were preparing to take their case for better working conditions to the province’s Superior Court. According to the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec, a new round of talks about the regulation of specialist practice in hospitals will exclude Health Minsiter Gaétan Barrette, and negotiators will report directly to the premier.
  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research granted $2 million to expand a HIV program designed by and for Saskatchewan First Nations, who have infection rates more than seven times the national average. The Know Your Status Program develops primary care in Indigenous communities in combination with traditional practices, including mentoring by elders and spiritual care.
  • Nova Scotia emergency rooms were closed for 25,124 hours in the past year, up from 22,505 in 2015-2016. Most of the closures were designated as scheduled, but some 5,417 hours were “temporary,” meaning they were caused by staffing shortages or other unanticipated events.
  • New Brunswick hospitals reported high and increasing numbers of infants admitted to neonatal intensive care units, with nearly a third of babies in Horizon Regional Health Authority admitted within the first 28 days of life last year. Admissions varied by hospital; in 2015-2016, 53.7% of babies born at Chaleur Regional Hospital were admitted to intensive care compared to 16.3% of babies at Edmunston Regional Hospital, up from 36.7% and 14.6%, respectively, in 2011-2012.
  • Doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador are concerned that the government is planning a major overhaul of health spending without consulting them. Robert Thompson, executive director of the province’s medical association, said the government has indicated it plans to save up to $450 million over the next several years, but hasn’t shared clear fiscal targets or timelines, or consulted key parties, including doctors.

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