Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – September 8-15, 2023

A health scan review of Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of September 8 - 15, 2023. Prepared by Wes McLean, Senior Consultant at the Capital Hill Group.

Manitoba

  • It’s only the second week of the academic year, but a mobile clinic that provides eye exams and prescription glasses at Manitoba schools is already visiting its second rural school of the year. Until now, the Mobile Vision Care Clinic has been so busy serving high-needs Winnipeg schools that it hasn’t been able to expand beyond the city. “We deal with mostly vulnerable and marginalized [students],” clinic founder and optician Sean Sylvestre said Thursday while visiting Ruth Hooker Elementary School in Selkirk, just north of Winnipeg.
  • Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew on Friday outlined a five-step plan to speed up the process for internationally trained health-care workers to start work in their specialized fields. “There are hundreds of nurses and health-care professionals who could be working on the front lines right now,” Kinew said at a news conference across the street from Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg. Too many health workers who were educated as nurses, doctors and health-care aides in other countries, and who are now living in Manitoba, are “getting bogged down in the regulatory process around credentialing,” he said.
  • Manitoba New Democrats promise to bring back a health centre that specialized in medical treatment for older women. NDP Leader Wab Kinew promised Thursday to rebuild the mature women’s centre at Victoria Hospital. The facility provided menopause transition and gynecological treatment for older women until 2017, when it was closed as part of a restructuring of Manitoba health care.
  • A Manitoba Liberal government would take steps to transform the province’s current welfare system into a guaranteed livable income, leader Dougald Lamont promised on Thursday. Part of the plan involves creating a minimum income program for people with severe disabilities and those older than 60. This would be a step toward creating a broader minimum income program for all Manitobans, which would need federal buy-in, Lamont said.
  • Manitoba’s NDP promised Wednesday to spend $5 million every year to improve the quality of cardiac care at St. Boniface Hospital. NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the money would be used to hire more perfusionists — the technicians who operate heart-bypass machines during open-heart surgery — and improve cardiac research in a unit once regarded as one of the best in Canada. “Here at St. Boniface, we have the remnants of a very strong program that is still delivering excellent care to people here in Manitoba. But we need to invest more,” said Kinew, standing across the street from the Winnipeg hospital.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • A registered nurse who was placed on leave following a complaint of misconduct has been cleared by an investigation, says Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial health authority. Ron Johnson, vice-president and chief operating officer of Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services’ Eastern-Urban zone, says allegations this week against a nurse at Pleasant View Towers were unfounded. “The staff member did no wrongdoing,” Johnson said Thursday.
  • The provincial government has a new travel voucher, aimed at helping patients fly out of Labrador to attend certain medical appointments. It’s a shift away from the previous Medical Transportation Assistance Program (MTAP) model, where people had to pay out of pocket for flights and then apply to be reimbursed. The voucher program, which is in partnership with PAL Airlines, is for patients and escorts in the Labrador-Grenfell Health Zone. It covers $1,000 for eligible airfare costs to larger centres for access to specialized insured medical services. There is also an assistance rate of 75 percent toward additional eligible airfare costs exceeding $1,000.

Nova Scotia

  • A groundbreaking partnership between Dalhousie University and the Province is connecting more people to mental health and addictions services – and bringing Nova Scotia one step closer to universal mental health and addictions care. Brian Comer, Minister responsible for the Office of Addictions and Mental Health, celebrated the grand opening of the Dalhousie Centre for Psychological Health today, September 12, at an event in Halifax.
  • Healthcare workers in search of housing on the South Shore will soon have a new place to call home. Today, September 11, the Province announced it has purchased the former Wheelhouse Motel in Lunenburg to be converted into mixed-income housing for healthcare workers. The site will include 10 to 12 one-bedroom units plus six townhouses suitable for families. This is the first site under the $20-million housing for healthcare investment announced earlier this year.
  • More preschool and school-aged children will have access to assessment and diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through a new pilot program – the first of its kind in the province. The Province has committed $500,000 to the pilot program, which will test publicly funding private practice psychologists through a fee-for-service model. This includes using health service codes that outline billing fees – a first for mental health and addictions care in Nova Scotia.

New Brunswick

  • New Brunswick opposition parties have accused the government of trying to downplay COVID-19 by changing the way it reports on the virus. On Tuesday the province launched a new Respiratory Watch report, which provides updates on both COVID-19 and influenza. Among the changes is a new definition for COVID deaths that will see only deaths that occur in hospitals counted. “It feels a lot like Blaine Higgs is trying to minimize the number of deaths associated with the COVID pandemic by imposing this really restrictive definition for what will count as a COVID death,” said Green Party Leader Coon. “And that’s just wrong on so many levels.” Coon contends COVID deaths are an important measure of the impact of the virus and how well the province is doing at protecting New Brunswickers. He argues the government should count every person who dies from COVID — no matter where they die.
  • New figures show there was a surge in deaths from heart failure, lung disease and strokes in New Brunswick in 2021, as deaths from COVID-19 were also multiplying. It’s important evidence the virus has been killing provincial residents in multiple ways, according to infectious disease epidemiologist and University of Toronto professor Colin Furness, although New Brunswick health officials still are reluctant to endorse that view. “COVID causes vascular damage, and there’s a lot of vascular death,” Furness said in an interview about the new information on what killed so many New Brunswick residents in 2021. “We have no competing hypothesis [to COVID] for what is causing it. That’s plenty for me to connect the dots.”

Prince Edward Island

  • A huge elective surgery backlog in P.E.I. has patients frustrated and healthcare workers scrambling to keep up. There are an estimated 1,000 people on the wait list for elective surgeries in the province, Health P.E.I. says. That includes everything from hip and knee replacement to cataracts, to plastic surgery. Wait times can vary even for the same surgery. Someone getting cataract surgery could be waiting for six to 18 months. For a hip or knee replacement, it could be six months to a year. Even a routine MRI is taking about 14 months, Health P.E.I. says.

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