Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – December 15-22, 2023

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of December 15-22, 2023. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • Public health officials with Manitoba Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care are recommending parents and caregivers be aware of current food and product recalls in Canada and the United States after a local child was discovered to have blood-lead levels higher than national guidelines after eating applesauce affected by an American recall. In early November, several brands of cinnamon apple snack pouches were recalled in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to elevated levels of lead. It noted young children are more likely to consume these foods and are more sensitive to lead exposure. Blood lead test results are reportable to public health. As a result of this process, the province has been made aware of a Manitoba child who consumed these snack pouches. The child has not experienced any negative symptoms related to lead exposure but their caregivers took them to their health-care provider for follow-up when they became aware of the recall. Testing found elevated levels of lead in the child’s blood. The province will not be providing further details about the child.  
  • A man who recently moved back to Manitoba says he’s been waiting six months for a health card and without it, he’ll have to pay out of pocket for blood work he needs. David Finch applied for a Manitoba Health card in July and is still waiting. He’s originally from Manitoba, but his job as an archeologist has taken him around the country. “The four weeks that they list on the website doesn’t bear any resemblance to reality,” he said in an interview on Up to Speed Finch lived in the Northwest Territories for 10 years and had a health card from there. He also lived in Newfoundland but retained his N.W.T. health card, which expired this past August. 
  • Some rural Manitobans who need emergency care during the holidays will need to travel farther for treatment. The emergency room at the Eriksdale Hospital in the Interlake region has been open sporadically for months. Now it will be closed through the holidays because of staff shortages. That worries Thelma Hogue, whose husband had a heart attack last year and had to be taken to Ashern. He didn’t survive. Hogue doesn’t want others to have the same experience. “It seems that once the government decides to close something, it doesn’t matter how people try to fight it,” she said.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Provincial Government is providing updates on innovative solutions that are increasing access to health care in Newfoundland and Labrador and resulting in patients receiving health care sooner than anticipated. To date:
  • To support research and development, the Honourable Andrew Parsons, KC, Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology, today announced $553,693 in funding for SiftMed under the Business Growth Program. SiftMed’s platform uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to sort medical-related documents. The company is working to expand its technology to a predictive analytics model in order to:
    • Help users quickly assess claim health issues;
    • Create a more efficient risk assessment process; and,
    • Accurately predict medical claim complexities, and identify potential health concerns within a claim that could identify and triage a claim as complex.
  • A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed over the cyberattack on Newfoundland and Labrador’s healthcare system that took place in the fall of 2021. The attack, carried out by cyber-thieves affiliated with the Hive ransomware group, stole both personal medical information as well as employee information from thousands of people. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner called it the largest hack of its kind in the province, and one of the largest in Canada to date. A report released in May from the office found that security deficiencies were known well before the cyberattack took place and were not corrected by officials.

Nova Scotia

  • Seniors in Halifax Regional Municipality will have more access to modern long-term care rooms with replacement facilities in three communities. Ocean View Continuing Care Centre in Eastern Passage, Oakwood Terrace in Dartmouth and Saint Vincent’s Nursing Home in Halifax will all be replaced with new 144-room facilities.
  • Nova Scotians can now vote on ideas submitted to the Healthcare Improvement Challenge. The contest, launched in October, received more than 2,200 ideas from healthcare providers and people in jobs linked to healthcare in Nova Scotia. The ideas have been narrowed down to a shortlist of 20 to be voted on by the public. The top 10 ideas will be considered priorities, and the government will work with health-system partners to implement them, where feasible. Even those that do not make the top 10 will be considered if they have potential.
  • More people in Digby County now have access to primary healthcare with the addition of nine new healthcare professionals to the Digby Collaborative Family Practice team. Based out of the Digby and Area Health Services Centre, the team also runs clinics in Weymouth and Bear River and supports the clinic at Islands Health Centre in Freeport.

New Brunswick

  • The death of a patient waiting for care at the Fredericton hospital’s emergency department last year did not involve any criminality, police have determined. Darrell Mesheau, 78, died in the ER waiting room of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital on July 12, 2022. A coroner’s inquest into the death of the former diplomat was scheduled to begin on May 29 but was abruptly postponed when new information was brought forward.
  • The New Brunswick government has lost its bid to have a $2 million payout to the fired head of Horizon Health Network quashed. A Court of King’s Bench judge has upheld a labour arbitrator’s decision in the case of Dr. John Dornan. “On the issues raised by the employer in this matter, namely consideration, mitigation, and aggravated damages, I am not persuaded that the adjudicator issued an unreasonable decision,” Justice Kathryn Gregory wrote in her 20-page decision issued Tuesday.
  • New Brunswick reported two more deaths from COVID-19, a week-over-week jump in hospitalizations and nursing home outbreaks because of the virus, and an increase in flu cases and hospitalizations Tuesday. The two people who died were aged 45 to 64 and 65 or older, the Respiratory Watch report Their deaths, which occurred between Dec. 3 and Dec. 9, raised the pandemic death toll to at least 972. Only confirmed cases who die in hospital are counted.

Prince Edward Island

  • Interim Liberal leader Hal Perry prioritizes health and housing for P.E.I. in 2024. Perry and the Liberals have consistently used the term “do-nothing government” to describe Premier Dennis King and the PCs. The interim Liberal leader said he notices the least amount of movement on the issues of health care and housing. “There [are] 36,000 people right now on the Patient Registry list. They promised people during the campaign that they were going to fix health care — it’s getting worse,” said Perry.
  • E.I.’s interim Green leader Karla Bernard says the ‘broken’ health system is a top concern for 2024. ‘We’re focusing on making things bigger and better before fixing what’s wrong’. Premier Dennis King and departing Health P.E.I. CEO Dr. Michael Gardam has both said the foundation has been laid for improved health care down the road. Bernard said there should be more of an urgency to repair the system now. “I think that our healthcare system is broken, and to consider it any other way right now is a bit insulting for Islanders. People have been waiting to see a specialist for years and their health [is] really being impacted,” she said. 

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