Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – April 26, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of April 26, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • As part of Budget 2024, initial work is underway to restore the Victoria Hospital as a centre for exceptional health care in southern Winnipeg, with plans to open a new Victoria Hospital emergency room (ER), reopen the Mature Women’s Centre and build the Anne Oake Family Recovery Centre, Premier Wab Kinew and Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced this week. As part of Budget 2024, the province is investing $635 million in capital projects for the health sector including the work needed to enhance the services at Victoria Hospital. A comprehensive evaluation of the capital project will take place, which includes preliminary design work, scoping and project costing. Construction of the new emergency room is expected to begin within two years, once staffing is secured, noted the premier.
  • Surgical capacity for spinal patients is being increased and a new provincial spine program is being established to ensure Manitobans requiring acute spinal care are treated sooner, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced recently. The Manitoba government is investing more than $12 million toward the establishment of a new provincial spine program that will reduce long wait times for patient consultations with spinal surgeons, establish centralized wait lists and co-ordinate complex levels of care across a multitude of care providers, diagnostic imaging and operative resources throughout the province, the minister noted.
  • The Manitoba government is stepping up to improve access to trauma-informed support services for first responders across the province, Premier Wab Kinew announced earlier in the week. “First responders are there for Manitobans when they need help the most, and we need to be there for them,” said Kinew. “Firefighters, paramedics, and police officers are exposed to traumatic and sometimes dangerous situations, and we’re committed to making sure they have more support when they need it.”  As an initial step, the province is ensuring that first responders across Manitoba will be able to receive mental health support by dedicating three counsellors to work with firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement, the premier noted. 
  • A record number of Manitobans donated and received kidneys last year, signaling both the increased awareness of the province’s organ donor registry and the improved level of care offered at Health Sciences Centre’s (HSC) Transplant Wellness Centre, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced. “As a community, we have the power to make a profound difference in the lives of those living with kidney failure,” said Asagwara. “As we mark National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, I encourage all Manitobans to register their intent to be organ and tissue donors to help save lives. Together, we can bring hope to individuals, and their loved ones, who are affected by kidney disease.” A record 83 Manitobans received a kidney transplant through the Adult Kidney Transplant Program at HSC in 2023, besting the previous high of 77 set in 2017. Additionally, a record number of Manitobans donated the gift of life to others in need through organ donation last year, with 30 donating organs posthumously. That is significantly more than the previous record of 22, set in 2018, noted the minister. 
  • Two community organizations are teaming up to strengthen their services to people in Winnipeg’s downtown. The Bear Clan Patrol is setting up shop at the Women’s Health Clinic on Graham Avenue near Vaughan Street, where it will have access to a patrol hub, meeting space and offices, according to a Friday news release.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Honourable Paul Pike, Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development and Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities, is today announcing a call for applications for the 2024-25 Accessibility Grants. Replacing the former Inclusion and Capacity Grants, the Accessibility Grants align with the Accessibility Act to identify, prevent and remove barriers and improve accessibility in the province. Through Budget 2024, the Provincial Government allocated $325,000 for Accessibility Grants to ensure persons with disabilities can participate and contribute to all aspects of society.
  • A group that helps people with disabilities and autism find employment in Newfoundland and Labrador has had a massive funding cut by the federal government.  The recent federal budget cut $625 million from the Labour Market Development Agreement, which is used to fund community support organizations that help people find jobs. The program started in 1997. That extra money was added on top in 2017.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services has confirmed that chemotherapy nurses in many rural areas are paid differently than those in urban centres. PC leader Tony Wakeham first raised questions about the issue in the House of Assembly last week, asking why such pay discrepancies would exist. In a statement to VOCM News, the health service says chemotherapy is administered in many rural areas in ambulatory treatment units, which offer a variety of other services. As such, those nurses have a different classification than those working on chemotherapy units. However, they do not provide details on what the difference in pay is.

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia will welcome 30 new paramedics in 2024-25 following the Province’s first in-person healthcare recruitment effort in Australia earlier this year. The new hires are accredited and experienced advanced care paramedics. Nova Scotia is recognized globally as a leader in the field, and a paramedic’s scope of practice in the province is similar to that in Australia. The first 13 paramedics from Australia will start work in July; others will start in early 2025. They will work for Emergency Medical Care Inc. in communities throughout Nova Scotia.
  • After last summer’s heat waves, deadly floods and record-breaking wildfires, some scientists are urging Canadian health professionals to help their patients better prepare for climate change-related extreme weather and natural disasters. Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, told a national public health conference in Halifax Wednesday there are inexpensive and effective ways of reducing harm caused by climate-related disasters — some of which are as simple as cleaning out gutters, backwater valves, storm drains or installing blinds in windows.

New Brunswick

  • Vitalité Health Network says it’s nearly $98 million over budget for the first 11 months of the 2023–2024 fiscal year, mainly because of expenses related to travel nurses. Hiring the 190 full-time equivalent private agency staff accounted for $94.2 million of the cost overrun between April 1, 2023 and Feb. 29, 2024, according to vice-chair Réjean Després. That’s about 12 per cent of Vitalité’s budget.
  • A dangerous animal tranquilizer is showing up in New Brunswick’s unregulated drug supply, according to those who work on the front line with drug users. Xylazine, a veterinary sedative with effects similar to the depressant benzodiazepine, was identified in a Health Canada report in 2022 as an emerging additive to illegally sold opioids. The drug is added to the mix to “increase bulk and enhance or mimic the effects of other illicit drugs.” The federal report showed just five cases of the drug in New Brunswick’s supply between 2012 and 2022. But harm reduction providers in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John say that’s changed, with the toxic additive showing up more often and presenting new challenges.
  • It’s been more than six months since Dr. Jennifer Russell announced her resignation as New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, but the Department of Health has no update on the search for her replacement. The recruitment process is ongoing, said department spokesperson Sean Hatchard. The department “is working with an executive search firm to conduct a thorough search for this critical position,” he said in an emailed statement late Friday, a month after CBC News first requested information. He did not name the firm, elaborate on the process, or provide the job posting.
  • The Restigouche region could be a step closer to getting a daycare pilot for healthcare workers, according to the head of Vitalité Health Network. The regional health authority plans to issue a request for proposals for a partner to run such a daycare “in the next few weeks,” president and CEO Dr. France Desrosiers told CBC News. It would be Vitalité’s first in New Brunswick. Desrosiers made the comments following Vitalité’s public board meeting in Campbellton on Tuesday, where several regional leaders used the question period to reiterate the urgent need for a designated daycare that would operate seven days a week and at least 12 hours a day if not 24.

Prince Edward Island

  • Some P.E.I. residents who call 911 in an emergency are hearing a recorded message and being put on hold. While the province says it’s not able to track how often that’s happening, it’s also quick to downplay any potential concerns. “It’s not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen,” said Pat Kelly, provincial co-ordinator with P.E.I.’s Emergency Measures Organization. “There [are] cases where we get an influx of calls, whether it be from a motor vehicle accident, or just multiple people calling in about an incident,” he said, especially given the proliferation of cell phones in recent years.
  • Charlottetown police say staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s emergency room declared a Code Silver protocol, meant for lockdown situations involving a weapon, early Monday morning. The weapon in this case was a pencil, which police say a man was wielding in a threatening manner. The incident is the latest to fuel concerns from some QEH hospital staff about security. Just after 1 a.m. Monday, police say they were called to the hospital to help handle a man in the ER who was in an agitated state and throwing chairs. Officers subdued him with a stun gun.

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