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Medicare on trial, cuts to public health, booster shots for adults, and more in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Allowing private clinics to obtain public coverage for private medical services via extra-billing and user fees would “turn back the clock” on equitable health care access in Canada, argued the lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada. The argument was presented as the defence began presenting its case in an ongoing legal battle with Cambie Surgeries Corporation in British Columbia, which is arguing for the constitutional right of patients to choose private health care.
  • The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto closed its Motherisk program that provided helplines for expectant mothers, citing “years of declining grant funding.” Some clinician are concerned about the loss and have begun a petition to save the program.
  • Doctors no longer need to conduct an ultrasound before prescribing the abortion pill Mifegymiso. Health Canada removed the requirement, which some advocates say was a barrier for rural and low-income women with limited access to ultrasound clinics.
  • The Canadian Medical Association called on Health Canada to tighten rules on vaping products. The CMA is concerned about the popularity of vaping among youth and recommended that advertising on vaping products be banned from public spaces and broadcast media.
  • Adults vaccinated in childhood may need vaccine boosters against infectious diseases such as measles, warn some physicians. Immunity can wear off over time, and Canadians born between 1970 and 1996 may need an extra dose of the measles vaccine, especially if they plan to travel overseas.
  • The government of British Columbia announced that nurses, care aids and emergency dispatchers in the province will have easier access to compensation for work-related mental health problems. The province had already changed its Workers Compensation Act to include mental health disorders for other at-risk occupations, including fire fighters and police officers.
  • The $200-million cut to spending on public health in Ontario is a “huge step backwards,” according to the Association of Local Public Health Agencies. The provincial government also announced plans to merge ambulance services across the province and proposed allowing pharmacists to prescribe medication for some minor health problems.
  • The federal government and the government of Manitoba announced details of their bilateral health care agreement. The province will invest $182 million over five years on initiatives such as expanding home care, enhancing supports for palliative care, and increasing access to mental health and addiction services.
  • About a third of the estimated 1 million children in Ontario with mental health issues receive care, according to the Ontario Child Health Study. Mental health services are underfunded in the province, resulting in gaps in “crucial services” and “unacceptable wait times for community-based services,” according to the study’s authors.
  • MD Financial Management, Scotiabank and the CMA announced funding to help seven specialty societies combat physician burnout. The $625,000 will be distributed over three years and used to support research, advocacy, education and training on physician health and wellness.

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