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Expanding prescribing by nurses, lead in drinking water, and emergency service cancellations in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Ontario is seeking public feedback on a proposal to give registered nurses expanded prescribing powers. Under the proposed plan, nurses would be able to prescribe contraceptives, immunizations, smoking cessation drugs and drugs related to wound care and travel health.
  • Alberta’s budget allocated an additional $200 million for health care, half of which will support a mental health and addiction strategy. However, the province also plans to save $140 million, including through public-private partnerships, renegotiating physician pay, delaying some construction projects, and cutting coverage for dependents under the province’s drug program for seniors.
  • Quebec became the first province to adopt Health Canada’s recommended maximum level of lead in drinking water after investigative reports revealed that lead levels in some areas were dangerously high. The province will also require municipalities to develop action plans to reduce lead in drinking water.
  • Rural emergency department services in Manitoba were unexpectedly cancelled for a count of 3,500 days in the last fiscal year because physicians weren’t available, according to health officials. The province has turned the focus of its controversial healthcare overhaul to rural health with the goal of moving more care from facilities into the community.
  • Nova Scotia tabled an amendment to the province’s Health Protection Act that would require all students attending public schools to have proof of vaccination or a medical exemption. The province’s vaccination rate is 71.7%; the national average is 85.7%.
  • Saskatchewan will regulate vaping and vaping products with rules like those for tobacco and alcohol. Alberta is the only other province that doesn’t already regulate the products.
  • The board of New Brunswick’s Horizon Health authority passed a motion calling on the government to fund out-of-hospital abortions. New Brunswick’s only abortion clinic, which provides primary health services for some 3,000 people, is set to close due to financial instability.
  • Doctors are urging Nunavut officials to provide prophylaxis palivizumab to all Inuit babies in remote communities to protect them from serious complications from respiratory syncytial virus. As many as half to two-thirds of babies in some Inuit communities are hospitalized with lower respiratory tract infections, but Nunavut’s chief medical officer said there isn’t enough evidence to support routine administration of palivizumab.
  • Patients with spinal muscular atrophy and their families rallied in British Columbia demanding wider access to Spinraza, a drug that can slow or reverse the rare genetic disease but costs $708,000 for the first year of treatment. About 30 people in BC have spinal muscular atrophy but half don’t meet criteria for coverage.
  • Health Canada reported a second case of serious pulmonary illness linked to vaping in Quebec. Three other probable cases were recently reported in New Brunswick and British Columbia.

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