Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – May 11, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of May 11, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.


  • Three new physicians have been hired to support the reopening of the emergency department at Carberry Health Centre, Premier Wab Kinew and Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced. In September 2023, a contract for Carberry’s physician was allowed to expire, prompting the Carberry Health Centre to fully close its emergency department, noted the premier. At the time, Kinew made a personal commitment to support Carberry in finding staff to help reopen the emergency department. 
  • Manitoba will begin using an innovative technology called magnetic seed localization to improve the care and comfort of most people who are having surgery to treat breast cancer, making it the first province to use the technology provincewide, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today. Like other provinces, Manitoba previously used metal wires inserted into a patient’s breast to identify the location of early breast cancer during surgery. The wire extended out of the breast and would be inserted the evening before or day of surgery. Along with the wire placement, which could be uncomfortable, most patients would also receive a painful injection of a radioactive tracer used to mark lymph nodes that may be biopsied to check on the spread of the cancer.
  • Cynthia Callard was taken aback last weekend when she heard Manitoba’s premier say the province is expecting a settlement soon from lawsuits filed by Canadian provinces against big tobacco companies. A major part of her 30-year professional career as executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada — a national health organization focused on reducing tobacco-caused illness — has been focused on tracking the lawsuits, but the process has been shrouded in secrecy, she said. “None of the governments have said anything about the lawsuits” for years, Callard said in an interview from Ottawa. “Over the last five years, when they’ve been negotiating with the tobacco companies, there’s been a complete cone of silence.” At the Manitoba NDP convention in Winnipeg on Saturday, Premier Wab Kinew said an initial payment of hundreds of millions of dollars could arrive soon.
  • The Manitoba government has purchased two new drug testing machines in an effort to boost harm reduction resources amid a toxic drug crisis in the province. The machines, called Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometers, use lasers to determine the chemical composition of substances, to give help inform drug users about what they are consuming. “We know that there’s a toxic drug supply out there and we wanted to make sure that folks knew what they were using,” Bernadette Smith, minister of housing, addictions and homelessness, said in an interview.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Chief Medical Officer of Health is encouraging the public, especially pregnant people and people in close contact with infants, to be aware of symptoms related to pertussis (whooping cough) and to ensure vaccinations are up to date as cases continue to increase throughout the province. As of May 9, 50 cases of pertussis have been reported in the province in 2024. Increases in pertussis cases are occurring in other areas of Canada and globally and Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Health Services has advised the public of an outbreak of pertussis in the eastern zones of the province. Pertussis is a contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and can lead to severe complications, especially in vulnerable populations. Symptoms may start with a runny nose, mild fever and cough, and progress to episodes of severe, prolonged coughing, often accompanied by a distinctive “whooping” sound during inhalation.
  • The Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Health and Community Services, announced today approximately $82,000 in funding for the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Eating Disorder Foundation of NL is a charitable, not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting research and providing public support services and information about matters related to eating disorders. The foundation provides a variety of eating disorder education and support to the community, including client consultation, health care provider education, emotion-focused family therapy, and support for families and siblings of people living with an eating disorder. In 2023, more than 700 individuals participated in the foundation’s services.
  • A smartphone stethoscope is making big strides in the medical world. The Stethophone app is the brainchild of Newfoundland and Labrador company Sparrow BioAcoustics. You hold a smartphone to your chest and it captures heart and lung sounds, and that information is shared directly with doctors.

Nova Scotia

  • Four new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines and a partnership with a medical imaging company will improve access and reduce wait times for patients. Two MRI machines will be added to the system and two will be replaced:
    • a new machine purchased through donations to the Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation will be in service at the hospital next month
    • two machines will be replaced as part of the QEII Halifax Infirmary expansion project, with the first delivered by the end of June and the second later in the year
    • the QEII Foundation, through donor support, has purchased a new relocatable MRI machine that can be moved to different facilities around the province; it is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada and will be operational at the Bayers Lake Community Outpatient Centre by the end of July.
  • May 6 to 12 is Mental Health Week, which offers Nova Scotians a chance to reflect on their own mental health needs and the needs of loved ones. “Taking care of our minds is just as important as taking care of our bodies, and this week offers an important reminder to all Nova Scotians to pause and consider our own mental health and to check in with the people around us,” said Brian Comer, Minister of Addictions and Mental Health. “We have a range of mental health and addictions services available to Nova Scotians of all ages – right now, free of charge. If you need support, reach out now – there is help available.”
  • There will be more helicopter traffic in Halifax’s West End beginning this fall. Emergency Health Services (EHS) has served notice to residents in the area that it will begin using Canadian Forces Base Windsor Park as its temporary backup helipad in the fall for the LifeFlight critical care helicopter. “We expect the helicopter will make about 95 landings per year on the temporary helipad,” a postcard sent to residents said.
  • The Nova Scotia government has failed to meet the first deadline in a landmark human rights agreement that is supposed to end the practice of housing people with disabilities in large institutions. In a release Wednesday, the province’s Disability Rights Coalition said it is “severely disappointed” by the missed deadline. Under the terms of a plan worked out through a human rights board of inquiry, the province was supposed to have a ban on new admissions to large institutions in place by the end of March. Instead, a spokesperson for the province said the ban will now be imposed by Jan. 1 of next year.

New Brunswick

  • Health Minister Bruce Fitch says the recent release of a primary health care action plan reiterates the government’s commitment to improving access to health care. The plan includes a number of strategies to address systemic challenges, including those related to healthcare practice structures and funding; primary healthcare administration; and governance and accountability. At the centre of this plan is a focus on the benefits of collaborative or team-based practices. Practitioners will be urged to establish themselves under the team-based Family Medicine New Brunswick model, which was launched in 2017. It combines innovative compensation and increased administrative support while providing enhanced, multidisciplinary care to patients.
  • Construction has begun on a new nursing home in Oromocto. The facility is set to open in early 2026. “There has been a significant focus on increasing the number of nursing home beds in the province, and Oromocto is part of this effort,” said Social Development Minister Jill Green. “Thank you to all who have been a part of this.” The nursing home being built on Sebani Street will add 60 beds to the province’s nursing home network. The facility will be built and operated by Enhanced Living, which already provides long-term care services in Oromocto and Gagetown. It also operates several nursing homes in Prince Edward Island.
  • MyHealthNB has added a new tool to the health system data of its website and mobile app to provide more health information to New Brunswickers. People can now view the estimated wait times for various non-urgent medical imaging tests. This reflects the time from when a patient is referred by a physician to when the test is completed. The dashboard will reflect the typical maximum wait times for each service, for most patients, over a 30-day time frame. The dashboard currently displays wait times for CT scans, MRIs, bone density scans, ultrasounds and mammograms at Horizon Health Network facilities. Data from Vitalité Health Network will be added as it becomes available.
  • The “cancer that whispers” is what ovarian cancer is often called. That’s because of its often subtle symptoms and a lack of effective screening for women who are at routine or low risk of ovarian cancer. However there may be a method of risk reduction called an opportunistic salpingectomy, which refers to the removal of the Fallopian tubes during another surgery. It’s something that retired University of New Brunswick professor Diana Austin is trying to raise awareness about, prompted by her own experience. “If anything I say can help a young woman help herself from ending up in the position that I’m in, it’s been worth it,” she said. 
  • The former head of Horizon Health Network, who was fired by the Progressive Conservative government, will represent the Liberals in the riding of Saint John Portland-Simonds in the upcoming provincial election. Dr. John Dornan was nominated as a candidate for the north end riding Wednesday night in front of a crowd of more than 100 people. He said it’s “an opportunity to finish unfinished business.” When his previous career ended “kind of abruptly,” he “didn’t feel done,” he told CBC News on Thursday.

Prince Edward Island

  • Back in 2022, Debbie Joy was constantly battling with hip and knee pain. She struggled with mobility and flexibility issues on a regular basis. But thanks to a free online program called Exercise for Health, the 67-year-old is seeing positive changes that have improved her life significantly. The program is a partnership between the Department of Fisheries, Tourism, Sport and Culture, Recreation PEI and Beck Exercise Physiology. “The program has been amazing,” she said. “It really has been a life changer.” Debbie says before she started Exercise for Health, the pain continued to get worse as time went on and she was using a cane to get around. 
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the Government of Prince Edward Island have entered into an agreement to help address the growing demand for qualified nurses in PEI. The agreement facilitates the delivery of Sask Polytech’s Transition to Registered Nursing in Canada and the Registered Nurse Bridging Program for Internationally Educated Nurses to support efforts to meet nursing needs in PEI. These programs are designed to build upon their nursing knowledge and skills and for them to learn about the unique practices within the Canadian healthcare system.
  • A new policy directive from the Department of Health and Wellness will give paramedics more ways to help Islanders access safe, high-quality care in their communities. Effective May 7, 2024, Island EMS will introduce new protocols to determine whether people should receive care in the community or at the emergency department (ED). Previously, paramedics were required to take all patients to the ED, including those who may be better served elsewhere.  As many as 35 percent of patients would refuse transport, leaving them on their own to access further care. 
  • Health P.E.I. is looking for a security provider to address “gaps” at key healthcare buildings in the province, including Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Prince County Hospital. The move comes hard on the heels of a number of high-profile incidents that have led to expressions of concern from staff, unions and opposition MLAs. However staff have been raising concerns about violence and abuse in the workplace for years. On Friday, Health Minister Mark McLane described plans for an expansion and renewal of security for all healthcare facilities in the province. He said he heard from frontline healthcare staff last year about increasing concerns for their safety.

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