Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – May 17, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of May 17, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • A new emergency medical services (EMS) station has opened in Teulon, providing a modernized operational hub for paramedics positioned in the Interlake town and surrounding communities, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today. The Manitoba government invested $532,000 in the renovated two-storey, 3,046-sq.-ft. station, which was formerly the home of the Teulon Rockwood Fire Department. Eight paramedics work out of the new Teulon station, providing 24-7 coverage for the town and broader Interlake region.
  • As part of Budget 2024, the Manitoba government is taking steps to improve emergency medical services by adding and training more paramedics, adding more ambulances and expanding emergency patient transport, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today. The province is providing an additional $124,000 to Red River College Polytechnic in 2024-25 to add 16 training seats for advanced care paramedics (ACPs) who will work in rural and northern communities.
  • The Manitoba government wants to have more oversight over private nursing agencies in the province and is taking steps toward that, Premier Wab Kinew says. The province is issuing a request for proposals for private nursing agencies to become validated by the province, allowing them to work with service providers in Manitoba, Kinew said during his inaugural State of the Province address with the Brandon Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. Nurses have been leaving Manitoba’s public health-care system in droves for private agencies amid growing frustrations with things like mandatory overtime, nurse-to-patient ratios, working conditions and growing violence combined with a lack of scheduling flexibility, Kinew said.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Provincial Government is taking action to improve access to health care in Baie Verte, Springdale, Triton and La Scie based on recommendations from Health Accord NL. The actions include advancing some of Canada’s most generous incentives to help attract physicians to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador and creation of a Family Care Team for Baie Verte/Springdale. Details of the expansion include:
    • The opening of the Triton Medical Clinic one day a week.
    • Virtual care is offered by Medicuro to the La Scie Medical Centre.
    • Enhanced recruitment incentives to help attract physicians to work in the region.
  • The Provincial Government is lowering the age for recommended breast screening from 50 to include women between the ages of 40 and 49. The decision is based on new national guidelines published by the Canadian Cancer Society following a review of evidence and consultation with breast cancer experts and people with lived experience. By lowering the recommended age to 40, the Department of Health and Community Services estimates an additional 34,000 people will become eligible for the Provincial Breast Screening Program
  • While a recommendation to lower the age for breast cancer screening in Newfoundland and Labrador to 40 hasn’t been implemented just yet, a cancer researcher says it will allow more women to be screened and likely improve treatment outcomes. The Canadian Cancer Society recommended the age to begin breast screening to decrease from 50 to 40. Sevtap Savas, a cancer researcher at Memorial University, said the change will allow more cases to be detected earlier and allow more women without a family doctor to be screened.

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotians with autism and their families will see improved services and supports with the development of a new provincial autism action plan. The action plan will:
    • Describe and identify the current services, supports, interventions and programs for children, youth and adults on the autism spectrum and their families in Nova Scotia
    • Identify current government strategies, action plans and initiatives that could be used to better support the current needs of Nova Scotians with autism and their families
    • Identify gaps and make recommendations for support and services within the public, private and community sectors.
  • The family of a missing Halifax-area man is appealing to the public for help in locating him. Steve Corkum, 48, walked away from the emergency room at the QEII  hospital early Tuesday morning. His sister, Natacha Provost, said he was waiting for a bed to open so he could be admitted. She said he suffered a breakdown last week and was looking for help. Police and ground search and rescue crews are combing an area in the south end of the city, between the hospital and Point Pleasant Park. “We’ve been searching for days and could not get a lead,” Provost said Thursday.
  • The Nova Scotia government is in negotiations with an organization that would provide community-led, non-police crisis response services for mental health and addiction calls. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Brian Comer told reporters in Halifax on Thursday that the negotiations follow a tender that was issued earlier this year. The goal is to have the service in place in a pilot community by Sept. 1. Comer said evidence shows there are cases where police, who are often the first to respond to such calls, lack the training and expertise those situations require. It’s a point police officers themselves have been making for years.
  • The president of Doctors Nova Scotia, the group that speaks for physicians in the province, told a legislature committee on Tuesday that virtual care is “a Band-Aid solution” to the growing number of people without regular access to a primary care team. Dr. Colin Audain said Virtual Care NS and Maple, the private company that provides basic care through a computer or mobile device, was not the answer to the problem — though he acknowledged it was better than nothing.
  • “In my mind, it serves as an opportunity for people to have access,” Audain told reporters following his testimony before the standing committee on health. “It’s a bit of a Band-Aid solution in a way.
  • Cape Breton University is pushing ahead with plans for a new medical school in Nova Scotia despite concerns by local doctors that they are too busy to take on new teaching duties. The doctors say they are already overworked and understaffed and CBU has not shown them a clear plan for potential instructors at the medical campus that’s set to open in a little more than a year. “As it stands right now if we do not have more bodies, my department cannot take on more learners,” said Dr. Katharine Kellock, a Sydney pediatrician who runs a busy private practice and already trains visiting residents from Dalhousie University’s medical school.

New Brunswick

  • The government has introduced legislation aimed at creating a more accessible and inclusive New Brunswick. The Accessibility Act affirms New Brunswick’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The act, if passed, would have broad application in the public and private sectors. It would:
    • Establish a governance model through an accessibility office within the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.
    • Require accessibility standards to be established in regulations.
    • Establish requirements to adopt accessibility plans that identify, remove and prevent barriers to government programs and services.
    • Enable enforced compliance with standards.
    • Establish mechanisms to evaluate progress, including reviews of regulations.
  • The provincial government has introduced legislative amendments meant to improve benefits for injured workers and their families while ensuring the sustainability of the workers’ compensation system. The changes, if approved, would apply to the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Firefighters’ Compensation Act. Maximum annual earnings represent the maximum earnings per worker on which an employer pays premiums. It also serves as the upper limit for calculating workers’ compensation benefits. The figure is currently set at $76,500 but the amendments would adjust the formula, increasing the figure to $82,100, and result in more injured workers having their full wages covered in 2025.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took aim at New Brunswick’s controversial gender identity policy on Thursday, accusing Premier Blame Higgs of putting politics before the interests of vulnerable schoolchildren. During a visit to Caraquet, Trudeau was asked about a provincial policy that now requires parental consent before school staff can use certain students’ chosen names and pronouns. “I trust parents, I trust schools,” Trudeau said. “And I don’t think we should be trying to score political points off of kids who are incredibly vulnerable, who shouldn’t be targeted by political parties wanting to get elected or to get re-elected.” The revised Policy 713 has stirred up anger among students, teachers and parents on all sides of the issue and pitted some school districts against the government. It’s currently being challenged in court.
  • The province is under attack in court for withholding information about why it started a controversial review of its school gender-identity policy. But the province says it does not need to reveal that information because the decision to begin the review was a political one. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed a judicial review challenge to the changes to Policy 713, which now requires parental consent before school staff can use certain students’ chosen names and pronouns. The association alleges that the process Education Minister Bill Hogan followed, and the changes themselves, are improper and unconstitutional. 
  • Women suffering from fibroids now have access to a new surgical treatment option in Moncton that is less invasive, carries a lower risk and has a quicker recovery. The Moncton Hospital says it’s now the first in Atlantic Canada, and the sixth in the country, to offer Acessa laparoscopic radio-frequency ablation — a machine which uses radio waves to identify and remove fibroids. The technology was purchased by the Friends of Moncton Hospital Foundation for $150,000. Dr. Stéphane Foulem, a gynecologist at the hospital, said the device is “game-changing” technology for his patients.

Prince Edward Island

  • The Department of Health and Wellness and PEI’s Chief Public Health Office are developing a 5-year provincial wellness action plan under the brand LIVE WELL PEI with the tagline: Together We Can. Islanders can help form the action plan by giving their input through an online survey. This consultation paper provides an overview of wellness in PEI, sets provincial wellness goals for Island residents, proposes actions to reach these wellness goals, and seeks input on these and other actions to be included in the LIVE WELL PEI action plan. The survey is confidential and anonymous, and Islanders can take part until July 5, 2024. One of the goals of the plan would be to see 6000 fewer Islanders smoking. Given the societal impact of tobacco and the continued uptake of tobacco use among youth, there has been growing interest in laws that would prohibit the next generation from purchasing tobacco. Tobacco-Free Generation (TFG) proposals no longer allow tobacco to be sold to individuals born after a certain year. For example, no one born after Jan. 1, 2009, would be able to legally purchase cigarettes.  The full consultation paper can be found here:  2024 Live Well PEI Consultation Paper (PDF)
  • Prince Edward Island will have no seats for Island medical students at Memorial University, and possibly Dalhousie too, after UPEI creates its own medical school. But dean Dr. Preston Smith doesn’t see it as the province ‘losing’ medical seats. P.E.I. has four seats at MUN and six at Dalhousie; UPEI’s medical school is expected to create 20 seats. ‘From my perspective, we’re gaining 10 seats,’ Smith says.

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