Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – March 29, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of March 29, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • Budget 2024 will set aside funding to scope and implement a new plastic health card to replace existing paper health cards, Premier Wab Kinew announced. The Manitoba government is actively working to develop and launch a new, modernized card, including plastic and digital options, to replace the existing paper health card. The province expects to be able to deliver on these by next year, noted the premier. The work will be part of a broader investment to move the health-care system away from paper and fax machines and towards electronic patient records.
  • The Manitoba government will open the first minor injury and illness clinic in Brandon, as part of a $17-million Budget 2024 investment to open new clinics across the province, Premier Wab Kinew and Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced. The Brandon clinic will be staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses who will provide primary healthcare services and support for minor healthcare concerns. Patients will be able to book same-day appointments and connect with healthcare providers via virtual care. It will offer extended hours to fit families’ schedules, operating 12 hours a day, seven days a week. An interim location will open in Brandon this September while Prairie Mountain Health identifies a permanent home.
  • Manitobans living with epilepsy can now access better treatment through a new epilepsy monitoring unit and an adjacent neurological recovery unit have both opened at Health Sciences Centre (HSC), Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today with HSC Foundation president and CEO Jonathon Lyon. Most people with an epilepsy diagnosis can successfully manage their symptoms with medication, noted the minister. However, when long-term drug therapy is not effective as a treatment, patients are referred to an epilepsy monitoring unit to determine why they are not responding to drug therapies and if surgery is an alternative. 
  • Manitoba’s health minister is examining why a staffing agency has little to show for itself after signing a contract to bring 150 family doctors to the province. Eight months after the province inked a two-year deal with Canadian Health Labs (CHL), the firm has yet to recruit a single doctor to the province, the government confirmed on Tuesday. Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara is promising to review the contract as the government evaluates any further actions to take.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • A building will be constructed within the new development between the Trans-Canada Highway and Humber River in Deer Lake and become the Deer Lake Regional Health Centre and home to the family care team servicing the Humber Valley-White Bay area. The advancement of family care teams is an important element in the Provincial Government’s plan to reimagine healthcare and help meet the healthcare needs of residents closer to home. The new building will include offices and clinical space to support team-based care for healthcare professionals such as family physicians, registered nurses, and others.
  • Earlier this week, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrew Furey, and federal Health Minister Mark Holland announced a bilateral agreement to invest almost $256 million to improve healthcare access and services in Newfoundland and Labrador. Through the Working Together Agreement, the Government of Canada will provide nearly $256 million to support Newfoundland and Labrador’s three-year action plan to deliver improvements to its health care system.
  • The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate is committed to ensuring children and youth in Newfoundland and Labrador receive the best possible health services, including mental health services. As part of its mandate, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate aims to ensure that the rights and interests of children and youth are protected and advanced and their views are heard and considered. The Advocate invites young people and families who have direct experience with the mental health system here in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as professionals and other stakeholders, to reach out to the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate in confidence to share their experiences and ideas.
  • If you’re headed to the hospital on Monday, you won’t need to wear a mask as Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services has updated its masking guidelines. Masking has been required for patients and visitors at healthcare facilities since February, but will no longer be required as of Monday, according to NL Health Services. People who are seeking care and showing symptoms of viruses like COVID-19 will still be required to wear a mask. They can wear their own medical mask to the facility — but not a cloth mask — or get one on-site.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s auditor general will conduct a performance audit of health sector contracts — including those of agency nursing operations — to determine whether or not the province is spending its money most effectively. Plans for the audit were confirmed to CBC News in an email on Thursday. The email said it can take months to determine the scope of an audit, and an audit can take approximately a year to a year and a half to complete. The audit follows calls from the Registered Nurses’ Union of Newfoundland and Labrador and the province’s official opposition for Auditor General Denise Hanrahan to investigate spending on travel nurses.

Nova Scotia

  • Generations of Nova Scotians will have better access to healthcare as the largest healthcare construction project in Nova Scotia’s history gets underway. Work has started on the QEII Halifax Infirmary Expansion Project with heavy equipment, site trailers and fencing now in place. Construction of a new emergency department entrance and renovations to the ambulance entryway will start first.
  • New healthcare workers settling in Amherst and other parts of Cumberland County will be supported with site-visit programs, social events and workshops led by the Town of Amherst and the Municipality of Cumberland. With funding from the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund, the municipalities are preparing to welcome and engage newcomers to help build their sense of belonging and connection with the area.
  • New housing is coming soon for healthcare workers in Guysborough and Port Hawkesbury. Two more modular housing sites under the Housing for Healthcare Program could provide housing for about 25 healthcare workers and their families, with some units ready for occupancy by early April.
  • A small Cape Breton community on the south coast is launching several new projects this year to attract and retain healthcare workers, through the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund. The Cape Breton South Recruiting for Health group in L’Ardoise is receiving $45,230 to develop a transportation strategy for the village, a business of medicine retreat – where family physician residents learn about setting up a practice – an awards and recognition event, newcomer socials and organized site visits for potential hires.

New Brunswick

  • The provincial and federal governments have signed two bilateral agreements aimed at improving access to health and long-term care services. The federal government will provide more than $430 million to the provincial government over 10 years. Through the health-related agreement, entitled Working Together, the federal government will provide more than $313 million to support New Brunswick’s three-year action plan to improve its healthcare system.
  • The provincial government has introduced amendments to the Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Sales Act to prevent vaping by youngsters. The proposed amendments to the act and its regulation would require every retailer of electronic cigarettes and vaping liquids to be licensed. Inspectors would be given the power to seize items they believe are evidence of an offence under the act and allow those items to be forfeited to the Crown for disposal following a conviction.
  • The provincial government has introduced amendments to the Cannabis Control Act aimed at increasing compliance, reducing the sale of illegal cannabis and preventing young people from consuming the drug. The proposed amendments to the act and its regulation would give more authority to inspectors and increase fines for those operating illegal dispensaries and their landlords.
  • Horizon Health Network has eliminated its list of patients waiting a year or more for hip and knee replacements. According to a news release from the health authority, this same waitlist had been at about 700, with cases surpassing that one-year mark each day. Amy McCavour, Horizon’s co-leader of surgical services, said it’s a significant milestone. In the past year alone, she said about 1,500 hip and knee replacements were performed.
  • New Brunswick’s public safety minister says there’ll be a medical evaluation process as part of new legislation to force some people with severe addictions into treatment against their will. Kris Austin told reporters that the bill will “absolutely, 100 percent” include a process involving medical professionals, family members and others. “We’re not looking to arbitrarily just drag people into some sort of incarceration,” Austin said Wednesday.

Prince Edward Island

  • The federal and provincial governments announced a bilateral agreement to invest more than $29 million over the next five years to help people living in Prince Edward Island (PEI) age with dignity, closer to home, through improved access to home and community care and long-term care (LTC). This funding builds on the $94 million bilateral agreement that was announced with the province in December 2023, as part of the Government’s Working Together to Improve Health Care for Canadians plan. 
  • Federal politicians are giving seniors the impression that the government’s new dental program means free dental care when it doesn’t, says the Dental Association of P.E.I. — and the group says that is already causing problems. Frustration and confusion over the Canadian Dental Care Plan, announced late last year, has P.E.I. dentists turning away from the program, the association said. When it surveyed its members recently, it got 36 responses, representing about half of the association’s members, and 32 of those dentists said they would not sign up for it.
  • The emergency department at Western Hospital in Alberton, P.E.I., is closing early over the Easter weekend due to a lack of staffing. The department will close at 4 p.m. on March 29, 30 and 31, Health P.E.I. announced in a news release Friday. It will reopen Monday for regular hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

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