Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – April 12, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of April 12, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • As part of Budget 2024, the Manitoba government will hire 100 new doctors as part of a broader plan to rebuild health care, Premier Wab Kinew and Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today at the Grace Hospital. The Manitoba government is investing $309.5 million toward staff recruitment, retention and training including increasing funding for physician recruitment and medical residency spots by 38 percent. The government’s new Health Care Retention and Recruitment Office will play a strong role in ensuring doctors stay in the province, the premier noted.
  • The Manitoba government is announcing institutional safety officers (ISOs) will begin patrolling Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg starting April 15, enhancing the hospital’s ability to keep staff, patients and visitors safe, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today. ISOs are responsible for maintaining safety and security at a number of facilities across Manitoba including post-secondary institutions and hospitals. ISOs are trained in public safety and crime prevention, various de-escalation techniques, enforcement of provincial laws, arrests, searches and seizures, use of force and officer safety, note-taking, interview basics, court preparation and mental health awareness.
  • The 2024 budgetary policy of the Manitoba government, One Future. One People. One Manitoba., passed in the legislature today, which puts the province on a path to rebuild health care, lower costs for families and charts out a path to balance, Finance Minister Adrien Sala said today. Budget 2024 makes record investments in health care, with a plan to hire 100 doctors, 210 nurses, 90 paramedics and 600 healthcare aides over the next year, and makes investments to retain and train even more. It adds hospital and ICU beds and opens new minor injury and illness clinics and primary care clinics so more Manitobans can see a doctor when they need one. 
  • The Manitoba government is announcing 35 medicine, 10 psychiatric and five surgical beds will be added at Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg this year as part of ongoing efforts to expand inpatient capacity, reduce pressure on emergency departments and increase surgical capacity, Premier Wab Kinew and Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today. Budget 2024 allocates over $ 65 million to reduce emergency room wait times to provide better patient care, faster. This includes staffing funding for a total of 151 new acute care beds at hospitals across the province including those at HSC, because shortages of acute care beds exacerbate overcrowding in emergency departments, noted the premier. 27 medicine beds are staffed and have already opened.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) is encouraging the public to ensure they are up to date with their vaccinations as the province is seeing an increase in cases of whooping cough (pertussis) across the province. Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and can lead to severe complications, especially in vulnerable populations. Pertussis typically begins with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, mild fever and cough. As the illness progresses, individuals may experience episodes of severe, prolonged coughing, often accompanied by a distinctive “whooping” sound during inhalation. These coughing fits can persist for up to eight weeks.
  • The Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Health and Community Services, announced today approximately $245,000 in funding to support mental health services offered through the Strongest Families Institute. This program provides readily available services with a trained mental health coach for any child, youth or adult in the province. Strongest Families is widely recognized for its high-quality, accessible and award-winning programs aimed at improving the mental health and well-being of people of all ages through the provision of highly skilled coaches and innovative technology. The institute recently launched its expanded Stepped Care programming, which increases accessibility while removing barriers to care. Families with children ages three and up can gain quick access regardless of where they live or when they need it. Coaches will teach positive coping skills to promote mental wellness and prevent behaviour, anxiety and depression from worsening.
  • Judy Harvey is waiting on word from WorkplaceNL about a potentially life-changing treatment for a workplace injury — but she’s frustrated that she’s been left waiting for months. The Happy Valley-Goose Bay woman suffered a back injury seven years ago, and has had three back surgeries in the years since. It’s left her with severe nerve damage and chronic pain around the clock. She takes a cocktail of opioids that aren’t doing the job anymore and come with serious side effects. Harvey believes there’s one last thing worth trying: ketamine infusions, administered at a clinic in Halifax.
  • Dr. Louis Bourget will not have a criminal record. The oral surgeon was charged with assault after he permitted a correctional officer to extract an inmate’s teeth in October 2020. The incident was recorded by another correctional officer on his phone. Bourget, who operates out of the Gander Family Dental Clinic building, received an absolute discharge on Tuesday at the Supreme Court. It’s the lowest level of criminal sentence that an adult offender can receive. It’s a finding of guilt but no criminal conviction is registered and there is no probation order.

Nova Scotia

  • Young Nova Scotians and their families will soon have easier access to mental health and addictions services and related supports in their communities. Brian Comer, Minister of Addictions and Mental Health, announced the locations of seven new Integrated Youth Services sites today, April 10, in Stellarton, Pictou County. Each will offer multiple services, which can include counselling and peer support, primary healthcare, employment and training supports, and social services such as housing and income assistance support.
  • A community-based organization working to identify child-care options for healthcare workers in Antigonish is getting support from the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund. The Arts Health Antigonish (AHA!) Society will receive a $25,000 grant to review options for bringing more accessible and reliable child care to the area. The work – to be led by a hired consultant overseen by a volunteer steering committee – will help inform projects underway to increase child-care spaces in the area.
  • The organizations, projects and funding amounts are:
    • Health Services Foundation of the South Shore – $32,300 to deliver cultural events, expand and enhance its website, create promotional materials, host social events and prepare appreciation gifts for healthcare workers
    • Town of Bridgewater – $32,000 to expand its Explore Bridgewater project that includes a relocation guide, welcome packages, updated online materials about the town and its lifestyle, and marketing support for local open house events
    • South Shore Multicultural Association – $29,625 to host events, including family skate nights, bowling, swimming, canoeing, parents and tots events, and an array of cultural celebrations.
  • A Halifax clinic is expanding to meet the growing demand for mental health and addictions services. The Peoples’ Counselling Clinic offers marginalized and underserved communities free mental health counselling, as well as individual and group therapy and assessments. A one-time grant of $425,000 from the Office of Addictions and Mental Health (OAMH) will be used to add two new full-time staff to the team and offer more services to more people. As part of the funding agreement, the clinic will pilot the use of service codes by a community-based organization as part of an insured service program.
  • A new community welcome guide with information on everything from health services to kids’ sports to driving in Nova Scotia will be used to help attract healthcare workers to East Hants. The project, by the Municipality of East Hants, will be completed this year with $9,225 from the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund. The guide will be available free in both digital and print formats and promoted widely on social media.

New Brunswick

  • Dr. John Dornan, the former head of Horizon Health Network, will seek the Liberal nomination for the riding of Portland-Simonds, in Saint John’s north end. Dornan was publicly fired as president and CEO of Horizon by Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs in 2022 following the death of a patient in the waiting room of Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital’s emergency department in Fredericton. He won a record-breaking $2-million arbitration award over his dismissal, a decision upheld by a Court of King’s Bench judge and now being appealed by the province. Dornan, 65, told CBC News his decision to seek the nomination isn’t personal.
  • A jury at a coroner’s inquest has made recommendations aimed at improving emergency department services. An inquest into the death of Darrell Mesheau was held April 8-9 in Fredericton. Mesheau died in the waiting room of the emergency department of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital on July 12, 2022. Coroners and juries can classify a death as a homicide, suicide, accident, natural causes or cause undetermined. The inquest found Mesheau died in a natural manner, with the cause being heart failure. The five-member jury heard from 11 witnesses and made the following recommendations:
    • All stakeholders should collaborate and show ownership in the resolution of the bed-blockage issue; in particular, the backlog of social development patients has a significant effect on the efficiency of an operating emergency department.
    • The eight recommendations of the quality-of-care committee should be fully implemented, funded and delivered by providing appropriate staffing levels.
    • Staff should be equipped with hand-held electronic sources to record patient vitals.
  • Horizon Health Network is working to reduce emergency department wait times, with a special focus on urgent cases like Darrell Mesheau, who died in 2022 after he waited seven hours to see a doctor at the Fredericton hospital’s ER, a coroner’s inquest heard earlier this week. Susan McCarron, clinical director of Horizon’s emergency departments in the Fredericton region, testified the goal is to get wait times for patients triaged as being Level 3 down to 120 minutes or less this year. She did not specify if she was referring to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, all Fredericton region hospitals, or all Horizon hospitals — and Horizon did not respond to requests to clarify. Either way, Horizon’s objective is at least four times longer than the national guideline. The Canadian Emergency Department Triage and Acuity Scale calls for Level 3 patients to be seen by a doctor within 30 minutes.

Prince Edward Island

  • Earlier this week, the Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island, and the Honourable Mark McLane, Minister of Health and Wellness, announced an agreement has been reached with private long term care operators which will result in a record investment of almost $25 million dollars. The investment will include opening 54 new beds in the coming months, increased wages for workers in private facilities to move towards wage comparability with the public sector, and grants and financing programs to support the build of new beds. The agreement includes licensing an additional 54 beds at facilities across the province, which was previously announced by Premier King at the State of the Province Address on February 27, 2024. The new beds will be located at Clinton View Lodge, South Shore Villa, PEI Atlantic Baptists Home, Garden Home, The Mount Continuing Care, Andrews of Stratford, Andrews of Parkwest, Whisperwood Villa and Gillis Lodge.  The licensing process will begin immediately for these new beds.  
  • Pharmacy Plus PEI is celebrating more than 100,000 assessments for certain common ailments or to renew eligible prescriptions since the launch of the program 18 months ago. Pharmacy Plus PEI is available at 49 pharmacies in 16 communities across the Island. Prescription renewals continue to be the most common reason for pharmacist assessment since the start of the program. Common ailments pharmacists have assessed and provided treatment for include urinary tract infections, cold sores, allergic rhinitis (hay fever, allergy-related runny nose), cough, COVID-19 assessment for the medication (PaxlovidTM), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), mild to moderate eczema, nasal congestion, sore throat and minor muscle pain. 
  • Health P.E.I.’s efforts to address a shortage of nurses on the Island by looking overseas appear to be paying off with more than 100 new hires. The province’s recruitment efforts have now recruited 11 new internationally educated health workers, with another 96 nurses trained overseas also signing contracts, according to the agency. “They’ve signed a conditional job-offer contract with a commitment to come to P.E.I. through 2023,” said Ryan White, Health P.E.I.’s director of talent management.
  • A demand Green MLA Peter Bevan-Baker made in the legislature Thursday for accountability from private long-term care home operators led Premier Dennis King to accuse him of smearing the names of “good people across Prince Edward Island.” On Wednesday, the province said it would provide long-term care (LTC) operators with $25 million to open dozens of new long-term care beds. Health Minister Mark McLane said 65 percent of that money would go toward raising wages for workers in private long-term care homes, to bring them closer to what workers in the public sector make.

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