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Unnecessary tests, missing narcotics, and privatization worries in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Many Canadians may be undergoing unnecessary tests, according to a C.D. Howe Institute report. The average Canadian receives between 14 and 20 medical tests per year – a number that has been increasing over the past decade – and as many as 30% of those tests may be unnecessary.
  • Health Canada documents show that more than 7800 units of various narcotics went missing in hospitals in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland between 2015 and 2018. Nearly 85% of the incidents were reported as “unexplained,” and only 4% of the incidents and none of those involving staff theft were reported to police.
  • Quebec won’t participate in a working group with the federal government and other provinces and territories to investigate claims about the forced sterilization of Indigenous women. A press attaché to the Quebec Health Minister said the province is already discussing the issue with First Nations in Quebec and health is under provincial jurisdiction.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa will ensure the provinces follow the Canada Health Act as Ontario is set to make sweeping changes to its health system. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the new system will not include two-tier care or allow patients to pay to jump queues.
  • The Ontario government’s plan to centralize health care administration raised concerns across the political spectrum. Some critics cautioned about previous failures of centralization, while others questioned the government’s secrecy and warned that reforms will allow backdoor privatization.
  • Women in British Columbia reported difficulty accessing pap tests because of physician shortages and increasing waits at drop-in clinics. An estimated 700 people were turned away from sexual health clinics in BC last year because of constraints on physician time, including for pap tests.
  • Ontarians living in rural communities are more likely to have or die from a stroke than those living in urban areas, according to a study by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. Rural Ontarians were also less likely to be screened for conditions that increase the risk of stroke, including diabetes.
  • Patient flow remains the biggest challenge facing Nova Scotia’s health system. According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority, more than 20% of the province’s 1700 medical and surgical beds are tied up by people who don’t need acute care and would be better served by home care and long-term care.
  • Quebec’s appeals court ordered the province to restore full coverage of Remicade, an expensive rheumatoid-arthritis medication. The court made its decision on procedural grounds, ruling that the province should have warned the drug’s maker before delisting the product in favour of a cheaper biosimilar.
  • Edmonton will get a $226 million children’s mental health centre, with construction scheduled to begin in 2021. The facility is expected to include crisis services, 101 inpatient beds, specialized outpatient clinics, and a mobile response team, among other programs.

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