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Looming health care cuts, increasing waits for imaging services, and female genital mutilation in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Health Canada should reconsider how it funds services for people with opioid use disorder, according to an internal report citing a “lack of progress” on the issue. The report suggests a shift to an “outcomes-based” model where services providers partner with private funders to front the money for a project and the government pays out if it meets targets.
  • Ontario’s opposition leader urged the government to put plans to restructure public health units on hold until the novel coronavirus outbreak is over. There are currently three confirmed cases in Ontario and two in British Columbia.
  • Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann wants to see more doctors in the province perform late-term abortions after a report revealed some are refusing women services. McCann said an “additional team” could be deployed to provide the service, but it would not be a mobile team.
  • A review of Alberta Health Services has identified ways to save up to $1.9 billion annually, although the consultant firm cautioned that their estimate doesn’t represent expected or even achievable savings. The recommendations include cuts to workforce and management, governance, non-clinical services and clinical services, including potential closures of five community hospitals.
  • Family income alone can predict 16 out of 19 types of health inequality in Manitoba children, according to a study published in Pediatric Research. For example, children in Manitoba’s lowest-income neighborhoods were twice as likely to die or to be hospitalized, and 10 times more likely to become pregnant as teens, compared to the highest-income neighborhoods.
  • The Alberta Health Services review sparked debate about whether Alberta should continue to fund procedures that the National Health Service in Britain considers to be of “limited clinical value,” including tubal ligation and breast reduction surgery, raising concerns that the cuts target services for women. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said these procedures won’t be delisted but require “detailed clinical reviews” to assess appropriateness.
  • Saskatchewan’s wait list for MRIs doubled in four years, from about 5,000 people waiting in 2015 to more than 10,000 in 2019. The wait list grew despite the introduction of a new one-for-one system in 2016, which allows patients to pay for an MRI at a private clinic so long as the clinic provides a free MRI to someone on the public wait list.
  • Some 47,000 Nova Scotians are waiting for a family doctor, down 3.7% from January last year. Improvements in access have been limited to central Nova Scotia.
  • New Brunswick will open nurse practitioner clinics in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John in a bid to reduce the wait list for family doctors. The province is hiring 32 new nurse practitioners who will take on 800 to 1,000 patients, starting with those who have been waiting longest.
  • A survivor of female genital mutilation in St. John’s, Newfoundland, called for an action plan to support survivors and protect girls at risk in Canada. According to Maryam Sheikh Abdikadir, doctors need to be prepared to support patients as Canada welcomes more immigrants from places where the practice is common.

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