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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | March 23, 2018

  • Health Canada will launch a public consultation on whether to restrict the sale of high-sugar, high-alcohol drinks. Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says she is “deeply concerned” by the increasing number of young people being admitted to hospital after drinking the beverages, which Quebec recently moved to ban from supermarkets and convenience stores.
  • The federal government proposed packaging rules for legal marijuana, including mandatory warnings, restrictions on the color of packaging, and a ban on packages designed to appeal to young people. The government also released the results of it public consultation on marijuana regulation. Among the findings: Canadians support growing outdoors on a commercial scale, and are concerned that criminal organizations will find loopholes to invest in the legal cannabis industry.
  • Ontario announced an extra $2.1 billion over four years for mental health and addictions care, and will increase annual operational funding to $3.8 billion, in what the government said is the largest provincial investment in mental health in Canadian history. The funding will go toward expanding access to publicly funded psychotherapy and community-based services, creating new supportive housing units, and providing withdrawal management and treatment services for people with addictions.
  • Ontario’s government announced major investments to expand pharmacare for seniors (at an annual cost of $575 million) and boost hospital funding (by $822 million) in the next year. The investments were criticized by opposition parties as an attempt by the government to bolster its chances of re-election ahead of the spring vote.
  • British Columbia’s premier said the province will facilitate an extra 4000 hip and knee replacements in the coming year to reduce long wait times for the surgeries. The province will invest $175 million over the next two years, with targeted funding thereafter, to increase the average number of surgeries performed per day from 40 to 50.
  • Ontario has recovered $1.1 million in illegitimate billings by doctors since 2016, when the auditor general found that the province had paid $6 million in fees inappropriately billed by doctors. Over the last two years, the ministry of health obtained 48 voluntary refunds, and reported six potential causes of fraud to the police, but did not follow up on whether charges had been laid or doctors were convicted.
  • Nova Scotia announced a $39.6-million pay and incentive package for family doctors, with $13.9 million going toward increasing amounts paid for fees-for-service. The incentive package will also see doctors receive a one-time payment of $150 for every new patient they take on, $7.50 per patient that they see regularly at their practice, and $8.5 million to adopt or update electronic medical records systems.
  • The union representing Alberta’s paramedics warned that the province is not prepared for a large-scale emergency and is already struggling to keep up with increasing emergency calls. According to the Health Sciences Association, there were 390 511 emergency calls in 2016–17, up 19.4% from 2012–13, while fewer than 10 ambulances were added to meet increased demand, and the number of paramedics increased by only 3.4%.
  • Quebec Anglophones complained that they are unable to access mental health services in English since the province stopped covering the cost of treatments in Ontario. In one case, a young man has been forced to attend a French inpatient facility until his family can raise funds for private treatment.
  • Nova Scotia Health Care Council of Unions will hold a strike vote after more than a year of bargaining with the province. The bargaining unit, which represents thousands of health workers, including lab technologists, in-hospital paramedics and child psychologists, is particularly concerned about the government’s proposal to allow employers to reassign health workers wherever needed.

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