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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | March 16, 2018

  • Arbitration documents revealed there is still a major divide between Ontario doctors and the provincial government in contract negotiations over compensation, redress for cuts, and the overall physician services budget. Presentations to the board of arbitration begin in May and will continue until October, leaving the task of negotiating a new contract to whichever party wins the June provincial election.
  • Quebec medical specialists defended a controversial pay deal with the government, which will see their compensation increased by 2% annually, in addition to a lump sum payment of $480 million. The Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec say the deal comes at the expense of other health care priorities, but the federation representing specialists says the increase will pay for additional resources, including more doctors, to treat an aging population.
  • Health spending in Ontario isn’t keeping up with added pressure from a growing and aging population, according to the province’s fiscal watchdog. Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office projected “additional spending will be required in order to avoid reductions in health care access or quality,” even with the additional $6.9 billion in planned health spending over the next three years.
  • British Columbia will cover treatment for chronic hepatitis C, even in its early stages. The government also announced it will cover Vosevi, a new hepatitis C treatment approved by the national common drug review in January.
  • Wait times for family doctors in New Brunswick are continuing to worsen, with 44% of patients waiting more than five days to see a doctor, up from 40% in 2014, according to the province’s health council. It’s estimated that about 47 000 people across the province who already have family doctors still use emergency rooms for non-emergency care.
  • Nova Scotia will invest $18.2 million in primary care and add $20 million to the Research Nova Scotia Trust, among other investments, thanks to a $240-million windfall from recalculated offshore revenue. However, opposition parties questioned why no money was dedicated to mental health programs, given that some people are waiting almost a year to access care.
  • Manitoba school boards are considering a motion to lobby the government to make vaccinations mandatory for school children, with exemptions for students who cannot be vaccinated because of allergies or other conditions. The motion advocates for mandatory vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease, pertussis and varicella.
  • Costco is under investigation by the Ontario government after two pharmacy executives with the company admitted to demanding illegal payments from the generic-drug company Ranbaxy. Most provinces allow pharmacy chains to demand payment from a generic drug company to stock its products, but Ontario made the rebates illegal in 2013 to drive down the price of generic drugs.
  • Representatives of four of Alberta’s political parties debated how to improve health care in the province. The Liberal candidate called for greater efficiencies to bring spending under control; the New Democrat candidate defended party support for supervised-injection sites; the Green Party candidate argued in favor of a national pharmacare program; the United Conservative Party did not participate in the forum, but has drafted policies calling for increased private funding and delivery of health care.
  • Quebec plans to ban sales of sugary, high-alcohol beverages in convenience stores and grocery stores to keep them out of the hands of minors, after a 14-year-old was found dead after consuming the drinks. Under proposed measures, beverages that contain more than 7% alcohol will be available only at Quebec liquor commission outlets.

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