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Virtual care, paramedics providing palliative care, and overnight emergency closures in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Canada is a long way from providing the same level of virtual care that is available in other countries, according to a national taskforce. The task force called for a pan-Canadian framework to address gaps in standards, licensure, quality of care, payment and medical education.
  • Health Canada issued safety warnings and recalled more than 23 unauthorized health products, including sexual-enhancement and weight-loss products. The regulator warned that the products may include potentially dangerous ingredients, including unlabelled prescription drugs.
  • Ontario will allow paramedics to deliver palliative care to eligible patients in the community instead of bringing them to the emergency room for pain relief and symptom management. The one-year pilot project is part of a push to reduce hospital overcrowding.
  • All of Manitoba’s clinical data will be integrated into a single, province-wide platform. The Manitoba government and the Canadian Institute for Health Research are each investing $600,000 annually over four years to fund the project.
  • Saskatchewan wants an exemption to continue a program that allows for-profit clinics to charge patients for MRI and CT scans so long as they provide free scans to patients on the public waiting list. As of April 1, provinces and territories that continue to allow patients to pay out-of-pocket for the scans will face penalties.
  • Doctors criticized a recent review of Alberta’s health care system which proposed targeted cuts to surgeries defined by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service as “of limited clinical value,” as out of touch with the realities of practice in the province. More than 100 nurses also rallied outside a Calgary hospital to protest looming health care cuts.
  • Quebec psychologists pushed for expanded diagnostic powers to increase access to mental health care. A bill before provincial legislators provides for nurses who are specialists in mental health to make diagnoses.
  • More than a quarter of emergency nursing positions at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg are vacant after the closure of three emergency rooms in the city has led to staffing and resource shortages, and poor morale. As of December, the nurse vacancy rate at Winnipeg’s other major hospitals ranged between 8% and 15%.
  • New Brunswick announced it will close emergency rooms of six hospitals from 10pm to 8am to free up more doctors to work during the day. According to health officials, on average, the emergency departments in question saw only five patients per night and most of the cases were not emergencies.
  • More than 1,300 Quebec dentists withdrew en masse from the province’s public health system to inundate the health ministry with paperwork to protest stalled negotiations over compensation. Patients will still receive care but will have to mail their bills to the ministry, wait for payment to be sent back, and then submit it to their dentist, in a process that could take months.

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