Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | Nov. 25, 2016
- Canadians waited a median of 20 weeks for medically necessary care in 2016, more than double the time reported in 1993, according to a Fraser Institute survey. According to the institute, New Brunswick had the longest wait time at 38.8 weeks, and Ontario reported the shortest at 15.6 weeks. The survey was criticized by one health-policy analyst, however, for its small sample size and lack of external peer review.
- Federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott said a number of legislative changes are coming to “turn the tide” on Canada’s opioid crisis, including measures to improve access to safe injection sites and suboxone, a substitute painkiller. Chinese and Canadian police forces will also work together to stem the flow of illegal fentanyl into Canada. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia is investigating 10 doctors for unusual opioid prescribing after a monitoring system identified 5000 patients receiving higher-than-recommended doses.
- Canada will phase out coal power by 2030, accelerating the timetable for Saskatchewan, Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to adopt technology to capture carbon emissions or shut down coal-fired electricity plants. The phase-out could prevent more than 1000 premature deaths, avert hundreds of emergency room visits and generate billions of dollars in health benefits by 2035, according to the Pembina Institute.
- The federal government will update tobacco rules to include separate e-cigarette regulations in order to ensure adults have access to vaping products as an alternative to smoking while protecting young people from nicotine addiction. The proposed amendments include restricting sales of e-cigarette sales and flavoured products to youth, as well as requiring child-resistant packaging.
- Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr said the federal government will scale back reimbursement for medical marijuana for veterans from 10 grams per day to three. According to Hehr, more than 3000 veterans claimed $31 million in medical pot from April to September this year, often for amounts double the safe limit of five grams per day recommended by Health Canada.
- Quebec Health Minister Dr. Gaetan Barrette dismissed reports that long-term care facilities were limiting the number of adult diapers provided to patients, arguing that 84% of seniors would rather sleep through the night in dirty diapers than wake up to be changed. He also hosted a $4000 media dinner catered by long-term care kitchens to refute stories that the facilities were cutting corners to provide meals at $2 per plate.
- Ontario’s electronic health information system now saves the province at least as much as it costs – about $900 million a year – according to a report by business and privatization advisor Ed Clark. Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said the province will not sell its digital health assets, and committed to act on Clark’s recommendation to give patients access to their electronic medical records.
- Saskatchewan will cut $63.9 million from its health budget, including $22.2 million through a province-wide hiring freeze and reducing the use of temporary and casual staff. Another $22 million will come from cuts to programs and grants.
- Health Canada tapped Dr. David Creery, a pediatric physician, and Maura Davies, a health administrator, to lead a review of the cases of four indigenous men switched at birth at the Norway House Indian Hospital in Manitoba. Creery is a pediatric intensive care doctor and medical director of patient safety at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, and Davies is the former president and CEO of the Saskatoon Health Region.
- British Columbia health officials warned about the infection risks of microblading, a kind of semi-permanent tattoo to make eyebrows look fuller. Unlike commercial tattoo and body piercing shops, microblading is often performed in home-based salons that don’t have to undergo health and safety inspections, and infections from the procedure can be serious if allowed to spread because the eyebrows are close to the eyes and brain.
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