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Conversion therapy ban, access to clean needles, and concerns over cord blood storage in this week’s top Canadian health news. 

Health News Recap

  • The federal government is set to introduce legislation next week to ban conversion therapy, which aims to change the sexual orientation, gender identity or expression of LGBTQ people. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Ontario have already adopted measures to ban the practice.
  • A former prisoner and HIV groups are suing the Government of Canada for failing to provide prisoners with access to clean needles. In their application, they argue that denying prisoners access to clean syringes contravenes their right to essential health care, and a new needle-exchange programs being rolled out across the country fails to address the problem because it relies on a warden or designate to conduct as threat assessment before granting an inmate access, which deters inmates from applying for the kits.
  • A former criminal justice advisor to Stephen Harper warned that Alberta’s recent review of supervised consumption sites is “dangerously biased, methodologically flawed and explicitly ignores over 100 peer-reviewed studies on the benefits” of the sites. Alberta’s seven supervised consumption sites reversed more than 4,500 overdoses between 2018 and 2019 without a single death; however, the review claims the sites have increased crime and needle debris, and the provincial government said it will consider the fate of the sites on a case-by-case basis.
  • Quebec’s 2020-21 budget includes $5.4 billion over five years for health and social services. The plan includes $624 million over five years to improve seniors care in the provinces, $260 million for mental health initiatives, and $460 million to improve primary care services.
  • Alberta will not continue funding for injectable opioid agonist treatment. Some 65 people receiving the treatment as part of a two-year pilot program will be transferred to other health services before the program ends on March 31.
  • New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative government tabled a budget that would increase health spending to a record $2.9 billion, including new money for hiring nurse practitioners and $1.5 million to provide free flu shots for all residents. However, opposition Liberals may vote against the plan in a bid to topple the Progressive Conservatives’ shaky minority.
  • New Brunswick’s regional hospitals are facing a 25% to 30% reduction in their ability to serve patients, rural and urban, said Horizon Health Network board chair John McGarry. The province will hold a health summit to discuss needed reforms in June, prompted by public outcry over proposed evening closures of rural emergency departments; however McGarry warned that the public “cannot be given veto to reject anything that threatens the status quo.”
  • Families who paid a Toronto company for private storage of their children’s umbilical cord blood say they’re worried about the viability of those samples now the company is facing a lawsuit and won’t return their calls. After the Cord Blood Bank of Canada failed a Health Canada inspection in 2015, one couple sued the company to release their samples to another facility, only to discover the samples were no longer viable; they’re now suing the company for allegedly failing to store the samples properly, and other concerned clients say the company has stopped answering calls.
  • Manitoba announced $300 million for a multi-story addition to Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert. The plans include building a new acute care tower, with a larger emergency department, expanded medical imaging services and a 40% increase in the number of hospital beds from 173 to 242.
  • Opioid-related deaths among prisoners are increasing, with newly released prisoners facing 50 times the risk of overdose compared to the general public, Nova Scotia health advocates warned. A lack of timely access to opioid agonist therapy and post-release treatment is part of the problem, they said.

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