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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | Feb. 3, 2017

  • A proposed update to Canadian opioid prescribing guidelines for chronic pain called for the maximum daily dose to be halved to 90 mg morphine equivalents and discouraged prescribing to people with substance use disorders and serious mental illness. Some patient advocates called the draft guidelines too restrictive and discriminatory.
  • Prince Edward Island signed a health deal with the federal government that would provide an additional $24.6 million for home care and related infrastructure, as well as $20.5 million for mental health initiatives, over the next 10 years. The province joins the other Atlantic Provinces, Saskatchewan and the territories in striking side deals with Ottawa, while Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia are still holding out for a pan-Canadian agreement.
  • Delivery of refugee health services is still inconsistent a year after the federal Liberals restored funding under the Interim Federal Health Program. For example, refugees are eligible for 10 counselling sessions during their first year in Canada, but despite the fact that the number of people requesting the service in Nova Scotia tripled to 1620 in 2016, only two have actually received counselling.
  • More than a year after Health Canada approved the sale of the abortion pill Mifegymiso, it is only available in three clinics located in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. Celopharma, the Canadian distributor, couldn’t explain why it has received so few orders, and is asking Health Canada to allow pharmacists to dispense the drug.
  • An attempt to oust top executives of the Ontario Medical Association failed. Although a vote of non-confidence in the association’s leadership passed with 55% support, individual motions to remove the president and five other executives didn’t earn a two-third majority.
  • Alberta Health may impose a physician cap that would limit the number of new positions each year to the number of medical graduates who stay in the province. Physicians raised concerns that the cap may create workforce imbalances, particularly in rural areas, and make it difficult to recruit talent from outside the province.
  • More than half of British Columbia’s doctors don’t use the province’s drug tracking network, PharmaNet, which stores patients’ medication histories to help doctors curb over-prescribing and prescription shopping. A report last year showed that fatal overdoses could be dramatically reduced by mandatory use of the service.
  • A study highlighted gaps in tracking of Indigenous suicides in Saskatchewan which make it difficult to identify the communities in greatest need of support. Meanwhile, a member of parliament for the province’s far north urged increased federal funding for mental health services in Black Lake First Nation, where 30 young people have attempted suicide in the past six weeks.
  • Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins wants to ban hospitals from being renamed after wealthy donors and is proposing that name changes be cleared by him. A draft directive stated that the names of hospitals should “reflect their role as publicly supported organizations.” The rule wouldn’t apply to hospital wings, individual buildings, research centres, treatment facilities or health services programs.
  • Surgeons at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children are using 3D-printed replicas of their patients’ hearts for practice before performing complicated surgeries. The 3D models are costly — about $500 each, and doctors often practice on several — but the hospital attributes its low rates of deaths from atrial switch and ventricular septal defect surgeries (1.7%) to the innovation.


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