Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – January 6, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the weeks of December 22, 2023 - January 6, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • The death of a patient who spent 33 hours in the Grace Hospital emergency department has been ruled a critical incident by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. The patient died on Nov. 18 while waiting in a hallway to be transferred to an in-patient bed in the West Winnipeg hospital. On Friday, a WRHA spokesperson said a review of the case determined it meets the criteria of a critical incident.
  • Free pads and tampons could become permanent features in City of Winnipeg facilities. A new report going to city council’s property and development committee recommends the city continue providing free menstrual products after a pilot project found the cost significantly lower than expected. The one-year pilot began in September 2022 and was extended until January.
  • Eric Jacobsohn will be spending less time on the front lines, but he says he’s still committed to working toward improving Manitoba’s healthcare system. Jacobsohn, an anesthesiologist, intensive care physician and professor at the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine, has been named special adviser to Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara. website for the next month. Jacobsohn will officially start his new post in mid-January.
  • Residents, a municipal leader and a union president are speaking out about healthcare staffing shortages in two communities in rural and northern Manitoba that they worry are impacting life-saving services in emergency departments. Cole Nickell, a resident of Roblin, Man., about 180 kilometres northwest of Brandon, wrote to Premier Wab Kinew and MLAs on Sunday after he saw Prairie Mountain Health post the scheduled hours of service for emergency departments in western Manitoba.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • A St. John’s doctor says the amount of respiratory viruses circulating is up following the holiday season and that getting vaccinated can help limit that spread. Dr. Nazlee Ogunyemi, a medical officer of health with N.L. Health Services, says there is an increase in the amount of illnesses like COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). “That’s consistent with trends being experienced across other jurisdictions in the country,” Ogunyemi told CBC News Thursday. “We’re also seeing gastrointestinal illnesses. However, it’s a bit more difficult to compare exact numbers on that just with the nature of reporting.”
  • The Labrador-Grenfell area has its first cohort of nurses trained to be sexual assault nurse examiners, and one of the nurses hopes they may help Labradorians come forward after an assault. Eleven registered nurses took the training from Oct. 16–19, learning advanced education in medical and forensic assessment and trauma-informed care to minimize negative experiences with health care. 
  • Kingsway Living is closing Bonaventure Retirement Home in St. John’s for renovations, forcing its occupants to find new housing by the spring. Resident Mary Dillon says the building’s poor condition and a recent illness outbreak are likely to blame. Dillon, 89, said she’s lived at the residence — tucked behind Holy Heart High School — for 17 months, and in the past few weeks several of the 16 residents have been struck by an illness that resulted in vomiting and diarrhea. She recently told CBC News she had the illness twice but has recovered. She said she’s concerned that all the residents are only being cared for by a single person.

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia will train up to 200 emergency medical responders – a new role that will help improve emergency care in the province – over the next two years. These healthcare professionals will keep more ambulances available, reducing wait times, and allowing paramedics more time to focus on emergency calls. Emergency medical responders working on ambulances can assess, stabilize and transport patients to hospital. Each will be partnered with a paramedic to expand the number of teams available to respond to an emergency call.
  • Cancer patients in Nova Scotia will be some of the first to access new technology and innovative programs developed in the fight against the disease over the next decade. Nova Scotia Health and Varian, a U.S.-based Siemens Healthineers company that provides cancer care technologies, has entered a 10-year multi-disciplinary oncology partnership that includes utilizing artificial intelligence in digital imaging and will modernize the way cancer care is delivered in the province and around the world.
  • Emergency room wait times are up at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, N.S., mostly due to seasonal flu and respiratory illnesses and a resurgence of COVID, according to an emergency department doctor. “The emergency department is crazy busy,” said Dr. Margaret Fraser, a family physician who does shifts at the regional ER. “We’re seeing very long wait times for patients — 12, 14, 18 hours — and high volumes of patients with respiratory illness, unfortunately.” Nova Scotia Health says only about 22.5 percent of its employees have taken the flu vaccine this season.
  • A growing number of healthcare workers in Nova Scotia are not getting their annual flu shots, according to figures released by their employer, Nova Scotia Health. In response to a request by CBC News, authority spokesperson Jennifer Lewandowski wrote: “As of December 14, 2023, 7,231 (22.5%) employees have had the flu vaccine during the 2023-24 flu season.” That’s the lowest flu vaccination rate in at least a decade, according to statistics posted on the Nova Scotia Department of Health’s webpage. Vaccination rates ranged from 45.1 percent during the 2015-16 flu season to 29.8 percent last year.

New Brunswick

  • As Tim Brooks left a hospital washroom where garbage and urine had spread on the floor, he saw a partially dressed patient on a stretcher in the emergency department. Brooks covered the patient with a blanket and went back to the chair where he’d been sitting for hours, waiting for a hospital bed.  “I saw the looks on the nurses’ faces,” he said of his holiday experience at the Fredericton emergency department. “I could hear them speaking, hear the worry in their voices. “There were patients in the hallways of the emergency room, [having] all kinds of varying degrees of need of help.”
  • A researcher says New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is sharing “misinterpretations” of the gender-affirming care data she’s been collecting and analyzing for years. In a year-end interview with Radio-Canada, Higgs shared his concerns about how easy it is for children to get gender-affirming care. “In Canada, it’s about over 60 percent, after one visit, can be put on the puberty blockers,” Higgs said. He was also quoted by The Canadian Press saying 60 percent of kids “are given automatic affirmation and put on some sort of hormone therapy” at a first appointment.
  • After patients faced overcrowding and long waits in Fredericton’s emergency room over the holidays, New Brunswick  Green Party Leader David Coon is calling for immediate changes and more funding. This week, several patients told CBC News about what they called filthy and overcrowded conditions as they sought care at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, including waits of about 20 hours in some cases. Dr. Yogi Sehgal, an emergency doctor at the Chalmers, said going to work over the holidays was “heartbreaking.” At one point, he said, there were about 40 people in the waiting room, 30 in-patients occupying the emergency room beds, and around 12 ambulances in the back hallway with patients waiting to be offloaded.

Prince Edward Island

  • Some Island doctors are pushing back against Health P.E.I.’s wait-time advisories for hospital emergency departments, saying they may be doing more harm than good. The agency sends out advisories to warn Islanders when ERs are especially busy and the wait for care could last many hours. When Monica Bambrick runs into health issues, she often turns to the ER. That is, unless she reads one of the advisories that Health P.E.I. posts, like the one it issued Thursday afternoon. “It makes me not want to go,” said Bambrick. “Even at eight months pregnant, I’ll sit at home and wait and talk to my doctor the next day. I would have to be in a lot of pain.”
  • Riverview Manor, a 49-bed long-term care facility in Montague, P.E.I., has declared a facility-wide outbreak of influenza. Residents in the manor will be limited to three partners-in-care, with one visitor at a time, according to a news release from Health P.E.I. All partners-in-care will be asked to follow the current infection control measures. 
  • Free meningitis B vaccines are now being offered to all post-secondary students on Prince Edward Island. The province previously made students in residence eligible for free vaccinations, but that has been expanded after new cases were diagnosed in Ontario. “University-aged students are at a higher risk of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), with up to 10 percent of IMD cases being fatal,” Chief Public Health Office Dr. Heather Morrison said in an email to CBC News.

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