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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | January 5, 2018

  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta is broadening its regulations on “boundary violations” to require doctors to avoid financial, legal and other “close personal” relationships with patients, in addition to sexual interactions, which are already banned. The change has been controversial, particularly among rural physicians who may be unable to avoid personal and business relationships with patients in small communities.
  • Since Quebec cut funding for in-vitro fertilization (IVF), more women are choosing the cheaper option of intrauterine insemination, running a higher risk of multiple pregnancies, which come with increased health risks and higher costs to the health system. From 2010 to 2015, when the province fully covered IVF, the multiple birth rate was around 5%, but after the cuts, that rate increased to 10% in 2016.
  • Manitoba New Democrats called on federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor to investigate whether the province is violating the Canada Health Act by allowing a private clinic to charge patients $650 for echocardiograms. A statement from Health Canada in December said the heart ultrasounds are medically necessary and “should be covered by provincial and territorial plans.”
  • Nova Scotia continues to face dire physician shortages, with 60 or more doctor vacancies due to retirements and other issues, and some 42 000 residents actively seeking a family physician. Premier Stephen McNeil said that governments, including his own, have been slow to implement collaborative primary care practices to span the gap; 50 of more than 70 planned practice teams are in various stages of development.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Dr. John Haggie came under fire from doctors in the province for stating that “80% of a general, normal day’s work for a family practitioner can be managed perfectly well and in some respects with a better outcome by nurse practitioners.” Dr. Lynn Dwyer, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, said Haggie, a surgeon, “misunderstands the role that family doctors play in the health care system or he has a complete disregard for the value of this profession.”
  • New laws came into force in Ontario on Jan. 1 mandating free prescription drugs for people under 25 and abolishing the right of workplaces to request doctor’s notes for absences due to illness. Among the new laws is the creation of a “personal emergency leave” bank, which allows workers 10 days off including two days paid leave, in a move that’s hoped to stem the spread of infections.
  • British Columbia will pay for the abortion medication Mifegymiso starting Jan. 15, becoming the sixth province to provide free access to the drug. Currently, the drug costs $300, a price women’s health advocates say is prohibitive.
  • A New Brunswick judge denied an injunction to stop the Liberal government from turning over management of its home care and telecare programs to Medavie Health Services, the private company that already runs the province’s ambulance service. Égalité Santé en français was trying to block the deal, which has been kept under wraps from the public, until the group had the chance to present legal arguments against it on Jan. 9, including concern that the change will disadvantage francophones.
  • Assisted deaths in Alberta have stabilized after increasing by more than a third in early 2017. In the first six months of last year, 103 Albertans received assistance to die, up from 63 in the last six months of 2016. However, the number of deaths has since plateaued, with 102 in the past six months.
  • BC Health Minister Adrian Dix promised to make primary care access a top priority for 2018. As part of that effort the province will focus on developing urgent care centres and ensuring all health professionals “work to the full extent of their skills and work in teams,” he said.

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