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Physician pushback on billing changes, barriers to accessing homecare, and unproven autism treatments in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada warned travelers to China to avoid contact with animals after dozens of people became critically ill with viral pneumonia of unknown origin, which was first reported last week in Wuhan, a city in central China, and has spread to 59 people.
  • Alberta doctors are considering a legal challenge as the province is set to impose new billing rules based on how long physicians see patients. Currently, doctors can bill a base fee of $41 per visit, plus $18 for complex visits that take longer than 15 minutes, but the new rules will increase that time to 25 minutes.
  • Health professionals in Quebec called for long-term solutions to emergency room crowding, with nurses staging sit-ins to protest double shifts at three hospitals. The nurses’ contract expires in March and union representatives said mandatory overtime and worker health will be major issues in the coming negotiations.
  • A survey of 700 patients discharged from Ontario hospitals found that access to publicly funded homecare topped the list of their concerns. Among 52 factors considered, the top three concerns were about access to home care services, home care supports not being in place on discharge from hospital and having to advocate to get enough home care.
  • A ransomware attack on Saskatchewan eHealth shut down the province’s health records system. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said the attack may cause “slight delays” in some services but, according to eHealth, patient data are still secure.
  • Manitoba will pay Shoppers Drug Mart $2.1 million to provide smoking cessation counselling and nicotine gum to help people quit smoking. The goal of the program is to get at least 12% of people who register for the service to quit.
  • Nova Scotia will end a bonus program that gave family doctors $150 for taking patients off the provincial wait list. Health Minister Randy Delorey said the program was a stop-gap measure until the province struck a new contract with physicians.
  • Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro agreed to meet with healthcare unions – so long as ongoing labour talks are off the table – after union representatives complained on social media that repeated requests for meetings were denied. The government warned unions a month ago that thousands of jobs could be eliminated over the next three years.
  • Physicians and scientists denounced a Vancouver naturopath who is charging US$15,000 to give children with autism fecal transplants at a clinic in Mexico. Experts on autism and the gastrointestinal system warned the unproven treatment could put children at serious risk of infection.
  • Saskatchewan put out a call for proposals to develop an organ donor registry. The province had 14.6 deceased donors per million people in 2017, compared to the Canadian average of 20.6 in 2018.

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