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Roger Collier | CMAJ | March 29, 2018

  • The number opioid-related deaths in Canada from January to September of 2017 (2923 deaths) was almost the same as for all of 2016 (2946 deaths), according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency estimates that opioid-related deaths for 2017 will exceed 4000.
  • An external review of federally funded pan-Canadian health organizations found “serious gaps, redundancies, and misalignments that cannot be remedied without retooling.” The review calls for a complete overhaul of the suite, including the shuttering of three organizations, to refocus on efficiency, innovation, engagement and equity.
  • To improve access to treatments for opioid addictions, the federal government plans to ease restrictions on prescription heroin and methadone. Prescription heroin will be made available outside of hospitals (in addiction clinics, for example), and an exemption from federal drug law will no longer be required to prescribe methadone.
  • The British Columbia government announced $11 million in funding to increase the number of MRI exams performed in the province by 20% in 2018-19. The goal is to complete 225 000 MRIs and reduce wait times, which exceed 41 days for half of patients.
  • A group of 500 doctors, residents and medical students in Quebec held a march to protest inequities in the province’s health care system. Médecins québécois pour le régime public is calling for the Quebec government to divert money earmarked for physician pay hikes toward increasing access to health services and improving working conditions for health care professionals.
  • The Alberta government will spend $22.1 billion on health care in the coming year, which is almost 40% of its budget. The government plans to slow the annual growth in health care spending, limiting the increase to 3% over the next year.
  • Doctors Nova Scotia released six recommendations to the Nova Scotia government to help minimize the harm associated with cannabis use ahead of upcoming national legalization of the drug. The recommendations include distributing cannabis only through government monopolies, establishing a pricing and taxation structure that will curb demand, and implementing a public education campaign to promote responsible use of the drug.
  • As part of its budget, the Ontario government announced a program that would provide drug and dental coverage to Ontarians without workplace health benefits. If approved, and if the Liberal government is re-elected in June, the program could benefit around 4 million people and cost $800 million for its first two years.
  • The Quebec government announced a 4.6% increase in its budget for spending on health care and social services. The new money will go toward upgrading hospitals, hiring more nurses, and increasing support for seniors living at home or in seniors’ residences.
  • A new supervised drug-consumption site is set to open in Edmonton. The Alberta government said it will be the first hospital-based supervised drug-consumption site in North America.

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