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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | December 20, 2019

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked the new federal health minister, Patty Hajdu, with introducing rules to tackle teen vaping, studying the feasibility of a national dental care program, and continuing to implement national universal pharmacare. Hajdu’s mandate also includes ensuring every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary care team and considering amendments to the Canada Health Act to include new accountability standards.
  • Health Canada said it will start testing the health effects of inhaling cannabis vape emissions after CBC News reported that the federal agency hadn’t tested any of the products coming to market in Canada, despite health and safety concerns.
  • A cyberattack on LifeLabs, Canada’s largest laboratory testing company, may have compromised the sensitive information of 15 million customers in British Columbia and Ontario. The company paid a ransom to retrieve the information, which included customers’ names, addresses, birth dates, email addresses, logins, passwords, health card numbers and lab test results.
  • Ontario’s legislature unanimously passed bill to create a “centre of excellence” for mental health and addictions. The new provincial agency will oversee the province’s mental health and addictions strategy, support frontline mental health services, and monitor system performance.
  • Family doctors should screen every patient annually for alcohol addiction starting at age 12, according to new guidelines from the BC Centre on Substance Use. According to an author of the document, family doctors can manage most alcohol-related issues including withdrawal management, but seldom identify patients who need help.
  • Nova Scotia reported more than double the number of unscheduled emergency room closures in 2018-19 compared to the year before. The province’s emergency departments were closed a total of 48,783 hours, or 9% of the time, with 21 of 38 emergency departments experiencing temporary closures in 2018-19.
  • The federal government committed $2.5 million over two years for mental health and suicide prevention programs for Indigenous youth in Saskatchewan. One Indigenous community in the province recently declared a crisis after three young people, including a 10-year-old girl, died by suicide within three weeks.
  • Manitoba doctors pushed back on provincial legislation that would remove a bill dispute resolution process, leaving them with no option to appeal rulings on over-billing before they’re penalized. Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the province is open to addressing the doctors’ complaints but did not say how.
  • Vancouver’s Community-Based Research Centre publicly apologized to the province’s First Nations people for not telling Indigenous people that federal health insurance has covered the cost of pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment for HIV since 2016. Many Indigenous people and their health providers were unaware of the program.
  • Alberta joined Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador in banning sales of cannabis vaping devices; the three provinces account for 45% of total cannabis sales in the country. British Columbia recently imposed a 20% tax on vape product sales and Nova Scotia will not allow flavored versions of the products.

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