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A ban on flavored vaping products and proposals to cut physician compensation and strengthen billing audits in this week’s top health news.

Health News Recap

  • Health Canada is testing samples of the diabetes drug metformin for a possible cancer-causing impurity after some products in Singapore were found to contain N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) above acceptable limits. Health Canada urged patients to continue taking the medication, warning that the risks of stopping diabetes treatment far outweigh any possible effects of exposure to NDMA.
  • Vaping liquids independently tested by CBC News contained potentially harmful chemicals, including pulegone, a suspected carcinogen that the United States banned as a food additive in 2018 and the tobacco industry phased out over toxicity concern. Tests also showed vaping liquids contained benzaldehyde, a potentially toxic respiratory irritant.
  • Nova Scotia became the first province to ban flavored e-cigarettes and vape juices in response to rising concern about youth vaping. The change will take effect in April 2020.
  • Alberta warned unions that thousands of healthcare positions could be eliminated over the next three years, including hundreds of frontline nursing jobs. Patient advocates and health care experts warned the layoffs may endanger patients and stoke demand for privatization.
  • Alberta also proposed cuts to physician compensation, including for complex care planning, patient visits longer than 15 minutes and the mandatory medical exams seniors must undergo to keep their driver’s license. Doctors warned that the proposed changes amount to a 15-30% cut to their income and will jeopardize care for complex patients, especially in rural areas.
  • Six in every 100 hospital patients in Ontario were harmed during their inpatient stay, according to the province’s auditor general. Auditors found that patient safety initiatives varied from excellent to poor depending on the hospital, and nurses who were banned or terminated for incompetence at one institution were able to work at others.
  • Manitoba introduced legislation that would allow the province’s health minister to appoint inspectors to audit physician billing and recover fees if proper paperwork can’t be provided. Bill 10 would also eliminate the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and require health authorities to get the minister’s permissions before buying or accepting donations of medical equipment that increase costs.
  • Quebec is looking into expanding the eligibility for medical assistance in dying to include people who can no longer give informed consent or who will die of an illness in the more distant future. The province commissioned an expert panel on the issue and will conduct a public consultation before the 2020 election.
  • British Columbia nurses are no longer required to wear a mask at work if they do not get a flu shot. The BC Nurses’ Union won their complaint against the province’s vaccinate-or-mask policy, arguing that masks confused patients with mental health issues and led to communication problems with patients who had hearing issues.
  • Suicides in Saskatchewan’s northwest exceed the provincial average by 50%. Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor called for ongoing training of health authority staff in assessing and managing suicide risk and consistent follow-up with patients at risk of suicide.

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