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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | February 2, 2018

  • Ontario’s Divisional Court ruled that doctors who object to assisted death must still refer patients to physicians willing to perform the procedure. Groups representing 4700 Christian doctors claimed referrals are morally equivalent to participating in assisted death, but the court ruled that a requirement to refer is a reasonable limit on freedom of religion to provide equitable access to publicly funded care.
  • An agreement between federal, provincial and territorial drug plans and generic drug companies will see the prices of about 70 commonly prescribed drugs discounted by up to 90% compared to brand-name equivalents. Generic companies agreed to the deal, expected to reduce drug spending by $3 billion over five years, in order to avoid public plans shifting to a tendering model that would have companies bid to become sole suppliers of drugs.
  • This season’s influenza vaccine is preventing only 10%–20% of infections of the dominant H3N2 strain in Canada. Last year’s vaccine was 42% effective against the same strain, which health experts say has mutated this year.
  • Anishinabek Nation, which represents 40 First Nation communities across Ontario, is seeking to develop an independent health care system that would provide traditional healing alongside medical care. The move is driven in part by dissatisfaction with the medical system’s treatment of First Nations people and beliefs.
  • More research is needed on how cardiovascular diseases affect women in Canada, according to the Hearth and Stroke Foundation. Women are not being adequately diagnosed, treated or supported for heart disease because most research focuses on men, stated the foundation.
  • Quebec nurses are refusing to take on full-time positions for fear they will have to work overtime regularly. However, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette warned that the problem has become a vicious cycle, as overtime is necessary only because posts are empty.
  • Changes in the way the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority counts critical incidents in personal care homes now excludes many falls that result in injuries, so health officials are no longer obliged to follow up on these cases with patients or families. In 2016, only two unwitnessed falls were reported as critical incidents, compared to 143 in 2013.
  • British Columbia’s Interior Health Authority issued a region-wide alert after nine people died of suspected drug overdoses in five days . Officials warned that highly toxic drugs may be circulating the entire region.
  • Nova Scotia launched an abortion phone line so women no longer need a doctor’s referral to obtain the procedure. Women can call the number during weekday business hours to access information, arrange testing, and set up appointments.
  • The Ontario government announced that hospitals would receive funding to open more hospital beds during flu season “next year and in years beyond.” The province had already provided $100 million to open 1235 temporary beds for this year’s flu season.

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