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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | March 2, 2018

  • The federal government will ask a group of advisers to study options for a national pharmacare plan and report back by 2019. The federal budget also earmarked $231 million for initiatives to address Canada’s opioid crisis, $80.5 million over five years to reduce tobacco use and $62.5 million over five years for public education about cannabis.
  • Dr. Eric Hoskins resigned as Ontario Health Minister to lead a federal committee tasked with studying how to implement national pharmacare. Helena Jaczek, Ontario’s former minister of community and social services, took over as health minister for the province.
  • Eleven publicly funded home care organizations in Ontario are suing the government to stop the creation of a new provincial home care agency. The organizations, which provide about 95% of home care services in the province, allege that the province is putting patients at risk by centralizing services under an untested agency.
  • More than 250 Quebec doctors and medical residents urged the government to cancel raises for family doctors and specialists in the province, arguing the money would be better spent on resources for nurses and other health professionals who are overworked and underpaid. Under recent deals, compensation for specialists will increase 1.4% a year until 2023, while compensation for family doctors will rise 1.8% per year for the next eight years.
  • Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrete met with nurses to discuss working conditions, amid growing concern that forced overtime is compromising patient care. Nurses warned that their profession is in crisis, as more than 1200 nursing students have been unable to find internships because senior nurses are too busy to offer training.
  • The British Columbia Health Coalition raised alarm over reports of doctors charging patients for referrals to specialists. Rick Turner, who cochairs the coalition, says this type of billing is illegal since the public system already pays doctors to see patients and referrals provided within that appointment should be covered.
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC will discontinue its online database of doctors accepting patients in March. The college explained it is pulling the tool, which emergency physicians used to connect patients to family doctors, because many doctors are not accepting new patients or updating their availability in the database.
  • Alberta Health will save $150 million over the next two years through a new funding deal with pharmacists that will cut dispensing fees and cap fees for patients with a high number of prescriptions. The plan will also see seniors pay 30% of the cost of each prescription, up to a maximum of $25, with the government covering the remainder.
  • Ontario’s chief medical officer of health warned of growing health inequities in the province in an annual report. Although Ontarians are living longer on average, Dr. David Williams found that health gaps between the richest and poorest people in the province have grown considerably.
  • Emergency physicians and airlines published new recommendations to help doctors respond to inflight emergencies. An increasing number of people flying each year may have led to an increase in inflight medical emergencies, and many doctors are unprepared for handling these situations despite being asked to respond.

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