Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – April 5, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of April 5, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • The Manitoba government is announcing its intention to move forward with True North Real Estate Development (TNRED) in the creation of the Health-Care Centre of Excellence as part of the redevelopment of Portage Place.
  • As part of Budget 2024, the Manitoba government will double the annual Fertility Treatment Tax Credit to lower costs for Manitobans trying to become parents, Premier Wab Kinew and Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced this week. Changes set out yesterday in Budget 2024 will double the maximum yearly credit available under the Fertility Treatment Tax Credit to $16,000. More expenses will also become eligible including any money paid to surrogates and donors for medical expenses they have incurred, as well as payments to fertility clinics or donor banks. Manitobans will continue to be able to claim other costs like fees paid to fertility clinics and related prescription drugs. 
  • According to a Manitoba government release, the 2024 budget delivers on the government’s commitments to rebuild health care across Manitoba and lower costs for families, Premier Wab Kinew and Finance Minister Adrien Sala announced. 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 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. 
  • Manitoba is facing a nearly $ 800 million deficit for the year ahead, as the first budget under the NDP government promises incremental progress on a number of election commitments, along with new tax relief geared toward lower-income households. The Manitoba government’s 2024 budget, released Tuesday, pledges to double the province’s spending on healthcare infrastructure — including beginning the process of building a new emergency room at Winnipeg’s Victoria Hospital.
  • Manitoba will extend agreements with at least one privately owned clinic to provide crucial surgeries to people in the province, Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara says. The health minister’s revelation came after pressure from Progressive Conservative health critic Kathleen Cook during Wednesday’s question period. Cook said a doctor reached out to her with concerns that the province’s agreement with the privately owned Maples Surgical Centre in Winnipeg was to expire on Sunday and that “there was no word from the NDP on an extension.” 

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The MHA for Labrador West, Jordan Brown, approves of the auditor general’s decision to complete a performance audit on provincial health contracts. Since February, the Registered Nurses’ Union of Newfoundland and Labrador has been asking for an investigation to account for the $35.6 million spent on private agency nurses between April and August last year. “Where there’s smoke, there’s obviously fire,” Brown told CBC News. “We called for this in early December of last year, asking that the auditor general go in and look at these contracts,” Brown said.
  • The provincial government unveiled its new fiscal blueprint last month, which includes $10 million to support seniors. But questions still remain on what that money is going toward and how it will be delivered. Initially, it was announced the funding was earmarked for a new seniors well-being plan. That includes grants for low-income seniors living at home for services like snow clearing, grocery delivery, home repair and benefits to caregivers. But weeks after the announcement, Connections for Seniors’s executive director Mohamed Abdallah has questions about how that funding will be allocated.

Nova Scotia

  • A recruitment website, awards and recognition celebrations, school career fairs, promotional videos and a strategic plan will help the Municipality of the County of Inverness recruit healthcare workers to Cape Breton this year. The municipality is receiving $88,000 from the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund for these community-led projects.
  • A community initiative in West Hants to promote and share compelling stories aims to attract more healthcare workers to the area. The Hants Shore Health Association will receive $51,291 from the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund to deliver new marketing photography, videos, a website and printed materials, and engagement and networking events that showcase the lifestyle benefits of working in the region.
  • Relocation guides, welcome kits and organized site visits are a few of the projects that the Truro community will launch this year to attract healthcare workers. The Truro and Colchester Partnership for Economic Prosperity will receive $75,000 from the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund to deliver recognition events, a social media promotional and recruitment campaign, a new promotional video of the Colchester East Hants Health Centre, and an introduction to skiing programs at Ski Wentworth.
  • Two community organizations in Halifax are expanding programs to better serve and support Halifax’s diverse healthcare workforce, with support from the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund. “Supporting our healthcare workers as they build Halifax connections helps them establish community and experience success here,” said Twila Grosse, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, on behalf of Michelle Thompson, Minister responsible for the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment. “These community organizations have the grassroots knowledge to lead these programs and welcome newcomers effectively.”
  • Nova Scotia’s health authority says operations at a Halifax hospital complex will be back to normal as of Monday, after two water main breaks earlier this week. The site that includes the Halifax Infirmary, the Veterans Memorial Building and the Abbie J. Lane building lost water and heat midday Wednesday after an initial break in a water main line in the steam plant. That line was repaired, but there was a second break in the same pipe around midnight.

New Brunswick

  • The Nursing Homes Without Walls program has expanded to 20 locations around the province. The program started recently at York Care Centre in Fredericton, Shannex in Moncton, White Rapids Manor in Fredericton Junction, and the Church of St. John and St. Stephen Home in Saint John. River View Manor in Bath joined the network in December. “It has been an honour to watch the Nursing Homes Without Walls program expand to more and more sites across the province these past few months,” said Kathy Bockus, minister responsible for seniors. “Innovative programs like this one will play an integral role in ensuring seniors are able to age with dignity and in comfort at home.”
  • One of the longest-serving Progressive Conservative members of the legislature has joined several of his colleagues heading for the exits. Health Minister Bruce Fitch, MLA for Riverview since 2003, said Friday he will not seek another term in this fall’s provincial election. But he said he plans to stick around as MLA until then and is willing to stay in cabinet and not “take the foot off the gas” on health-care improvements.
  • The New Brunswick government now says that a planned 50-bed addiction treatment centre will serve people looking for help voluntarily, and will not be the destination for homeless people forced into rehabilitation. Addictions and Mental Health Minister Sherry Wilson made that clear Friday during a committee session examining her budget estimates. “This is for voluntary people who want to go to be treated,” she said. That left unanswered the question of where the province will send people against their will under the proposed Compassionate Intervention Act, which Wilson will introduce in the legislature in May.
  • New Brunswick’s health minister says up to 200 people are facing waits of three to eight months for addiction treatment — even as the government prepares legislation that would force even more people into rehabilitation programs against their will. Bruce Fitch said during a budget estimates debate at the legislature that it’s too early to look at how much money will be spent in the coming year putting the new bill into effect.

Prince Edward Island

  • P.E.I. Premier Dennis King told MLAs to “stay tuned for Wednesday” for more details on the government’s plans to add more beds to privately run long-term care homes in the province. King commented Friday in the P.E.I. Legislature, in response to questioning from the Green Party over the length of time it’s taken the premier to deliver on a promise he made back in February. During his state-of-the-province address that month, King announced 54 private long-term care beds would be added into the system 30 days after licensing was approved.
  • A P.E.I. man who’s been waiting for a medical test at Queen Elizabeth Hospital for months said he was able to get one in days through his specialist in New Brunswick. Even worse, Rene Provencher said he didn’t even receive a call from the Charlottetown hospital to tell him the magnetic resonance angiography test, or MRA, he needed hadn’t even been booked. Provencher has aneurysms in his neck that need to be monitored regularly by an MRA, which is a type of body scan similar to an MRI but which looks specifically at blood vessels. 
  •  A P.E.I. private member’s bill to fund alcohol use awareness from liquor sales has been rejected by the province’s legislature on Wednesday. The majority of MLAs voted against Liberal member Gord McNeilly’s proposed legislation that would have diverted some liquor commission profits to health education. The vote came a day after P.E.I. Finance Minister Jill Burridge said Liberal MLA’s bill could not pass as it stands, and McNeilly replied he was not interested in amendments or sending it to a standing committee for further discussion

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