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A ruling on vaccination standoffs, consultations on expanding assisted death, and overcrowding woes feature in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Canadians have until January 27 to weigh in on expanding access to assisted death, after a Quebec court ruled the current law was too restrictive. The online consultation includes questions about changing the 10-day “reflection period”, requiring psychiatric evaluations, and whether doctors and nurses should be obliged to ask to consult patients’ loved ones.
  • All new CMAJ content is now freely available online, with older material becoming available on March 1, 2020. Dr. Andreas Laupacis, editor-in-chief of the journal, says providing immediate free access to content will make the journal more relevant to discussions about improving Canada’s healthcare system.
  • Canadian hospitals are seeing a higher than usual number of pediatric flu cases this season, likely due to an increased presence of influenza B circulating at about the same rate as influenza A. Overall, there have been 370 pediatric hospitalizations linked to the flu in Canada so far this season, and 54% were tied to influenza B.
  • The e-cigarette company Juul will stop selling most of its flavored vaping pods in Canada as Health Canada considers stricter regulation of the industry in response to public health concerns. Juul is not pulling any products from shelves, but will not restock mango, vanilla, fruit and cucumber flavored vaping pods once existing supplies have sold out.
  • British Columbia’s top court ruled that a father has the right to vaccinate his two boys and ensure they receive dental treatment, despite objections from the children’s mother. The case sets an important precedent in adjudicating splits between parents divided over vaccination.
  • Only 22% of Manitobans have received the flu shot this season – a far lower number than the 80% target set by the Public Health Agency of Canada and about half the Canadian average. In some parts of the province, less than 3% of people have been vaccinated.
  • Ontario farmers called on their provincial federation to increase funding for mental health supports citing the rising psychological toll of unpredictable threats to their livelihoods from climate change. Farming is becoming more stressful because of the higher yields required to turn a profit, they said.
  • Three doctors are leaving or significantly reducing their hours at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, Nova Scotia, because of persistent overcrowding in emergency rooms that forced them to treat patients in supply closets and kitchens. The doctors said the Nova Scotia Health Authority isn’t doing enough to remedy the situation and has rejected the recommendations of an external review.
  • Quebec nurses urged the province to scale-up pilot projects to increase nurse-patient ratios to address overcrowding in hospitals. Emergency rooms in the Montreal area and other regions across the province have routinely reported overcrowding since December, with some working at 150% capacity or more.
  • Alberta will delay controversial changes to physician fees pending further discussions with doctors. Doctors are currently allowed to bill the province an extra $18 for appointments that run over 15 minutes, but under proposed changes, the extra fee will kick in after 25 minutes.

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