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Novel coronavirus infections, risks of microplastics, and increased EMR use in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Ontario confirmed two cases of the novel coronavirus – the first in Canada – and is monitoring 27 possible cases. British Columbia has tested 114 people and confirmed one case. Meanwhile, Health Canada is not answering questions on how many health and safety workers, or quarantine officials, are based at Canadian airports.
  • Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada are planning to offer $2.2 million in funding over two years for research on the effects of microplastics on humans and the environment. According to the departments, microplastics are found everywhere in the environment, including in food, drinking water and both indoor and outdoor air, but information on their health effects is limited.
  • About 86% of Canadian doctors now use electronic medical records, up from 37% a decade ago, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. But less than a quarter of records are available to patients or others via email or a secure website, and just 1 in 10 physicians offer online prescription renewals.
  • The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment called for a national moratorium on fracking. In a new report, the group cited evidence linking fracking to adverse reproductive outcomes, low birth weight, birth defects and leukemia in children exposed in utero.
  • Two dozen ophthalmologists accused the BC government of failing to investigate their concerns that cheaper intravitreal injections for age-related macular degeneration used within a province-wide program could be putting patients at risk of severe glaucoma. Last year, the BC Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons hired a lawyer to press the government to halt the use of the cheaper bevacizumab injections until an independent audit of data and supply chains has been conducted.
  • Alberta Health Services added information on its website in the eight languages most commonly requested for medical translation and interpretation. Translations of text and video are now available in Arabic, simplified Chinese/Mandarin, traditional Chinese/Cantonese, French, Punjabi, Spanish, Vietnamese and Tigrinya.
  • Doctors in Alberta are asking their patients to sign petitions to the health minister and members of provincial legislature opposing controversial billing changes. The proposed changes, which have been delayed as Alberta continues negotiations with doctors, including new fees for medical exams for elderly drivers and adjustments to payments for appointments over 15 minutes.
  • Manitoba is investing up to $40 million to support health workers’ proposals for improving services. Health Minister Cameron Friesen said 300 health leaders have identified areas for improvement and the money will be phased in over the next four years.
  • Prince Edward Island will soon lose two medical oncologists, leaving a lone remaining medical oncologist to treat patients until replacements are found. The province said plans are being developed for patients affected by the departures.
  • Public health advocates and doctors in Alberta raised concerns about screenings at public libraries and movie theatres of an anti-vaccination film that promotes debunked claims that vaccines are linked to autism. The Nova Scotia Health Authority also spoke out against a planned screening of the film in Halifax, warning the movie is a marketing tool for misinformation.

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