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Pollution by the health sector, drug shortages, and physician conscience rights in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Canada’s health sector is among the worst in the world in terms of greenhouse gas pollution, according to a policy brief accompanying the latest Lancet Countdown report on climate change and health. Health care is responsible for 4.6% of Canada’s total emissions, resulting in 23 000 years of life lost every year due to disability or early death.
  • Health Canada reported shortages of close to 2000 drugs, including chemotherapy drugs, blood pressure medications and pain killers. An ongoing national shortage of the breast cancer drug tamoxifen has some pharmacies limiting sales and advising patients to take half doses to make supplies last longer.
  • The Ontario government started merging the province’s six health agencies and 14 local health integration networks into a new super agency called Ontario Health. The province laid off the CEOs of nine local health integration networks; five CEOs will stay on until the networks are eliminated entirely.
  • British Columbia announced tougher restrictions on vaping, including limiting both the amount of nicotine in products and the places where flavored products may be sold. So far, Health Canada has confirmed three probable cases of vaping-related illness in BC, as well as five in New Brunswick and two in Quebec.
  • Ontario will adopt a digital-first health strategy by 2021-22 to provide more health services via video and allow patients to book appointments and review health records online. The government also committed to strengthen laws protecting personal health information.
  • A study conducted by Prince Edward Island’s publicly funded long-term care homes stopped or reduced antipsychotic medication use for half of participating dementia patients without worsening aggressive behaviors among those patients. The study combined reducing antipsychotics with alternative activities, including exercise, pet therapy and music therapy.
  • Proposed legislation to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals under Alberta’s human rights act is “unnecessary and inappropriate,” according to Alberta Medical Association President Dr. Christine Molnar. Conscientious objectors can already refuse to provide services and the proposed legislation may further complicate access to care, Molnar warned.
  • Supporters of a New Brunswick clinic that’s facing closure because the province won’t fund it to provide abortions said the new federal government hasn’t taken promised action to ensure the clinic stays open. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed on the campaign trail to contact New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs about the clinic and coverage of abortions in the province.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s health department apologized for a privacy breach after a binder containing the personal health information of some 3300 people went missing two years ago. The binder tracked reimbursement records for a provincial dental care program between 2015 and 2018.
  • Quebec will cap parking fees at all public health institutions, including hospitals, long-term care facilities and community service centres by June 2020. Residents in long-term care facilities can also choose two regular visitors to receive unlimited free parking.

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