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Push-back on physician pay cuts, a free therapy platform, and vacant family medicine residency positions in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Nearly 600 doctors in Alberta warned the province will suffer a brain drain in the government goes through with proposed changes to physician billing. A group of 170 emergency room doctors also warned that they will not be able to maintain patient care under the proposed cuts, which include no longer allowing doctors to bill for overhead costs for hospital-based services and capping the number of patients doctors can bill for in a day at 65.
  • Ontario announced a free cognitive behavioural therapy program that will provide mental health assessment and services including internet modules, over-the-phone coaching, clinical counselling and group therapy. The government has invested $20 million in the program, which will roll out in the spring this year, with further expansion planned in the fall.
  • Thirteen of 35 family medicine residency positions in Newfoundland and Labrador remained vacant after the first round of the Canadian residency match – the highest number since 2014. The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association called for the creation of retention and recruitment bonuses for medical trainees who stay in the province like those offered by other provinces.
  • Alberta Health Services is phasing out pre-sentencing psychiatric assessments for convicted criminals designed to give judges a sense of the offender’s mental state. Officials say the cut will save the province $1.5 million a year, but defence attorneys warned that recidivism from undiagnosed mental health problems will cost the government more in the long term.
  • Nova Scotia is considering a bill to establish “bubble zones” to prohibit protests against abortion services at health facilities. British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have similar legislation.
  • British Columbia pulled public funding for a natural health advocacy group that spread anti-vaccination content. The province has deemed the Health Action Network Society to be ineligible for a Community Gaming Grant because of it’s vaccination-related content; the group has received a total $468,500 in such grants since 2007.
  • A group of 250 physicians urged Quebec’s premier to weigh the health impacts of a proposed natural gas pipeline project in the Saguenay region. Physicians raised three main concerns with the project: the flammability of natural gas presents a risk to people working on the project and the communities near the pipeline, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and the potential health problems, including some cancers and pregnancy complications, linked to the process of hydraulic fracking used to draw natural gas.
  • Delays processing applications for health cards in Saskatchewan have left some new residents without coverage. Saskatchewan’s eHealth agency is still processing applications from November last year, and people moving between provinces have just three months to get a new card before their previous coverage expires.
  • The New Brunswick Health Council is surveying thousands of residents about their experiences of primary care and will release a report in 2021. Meanwhile, several town councils called on the premier to replace Health Minister Ted Flemming and the CEOs of two regional health authorities over now-halted reforms that would have seen some emergency departments closed at night.
  • A new reality television program, that follows a full-time locum physician who travels around Saskatchewan in an RV to cover communities without physicians, has highlighted the challenges of rural access to care. MobileMD recently premiered on CityTV Saskatchewan.

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