Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – June 28, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of June 28, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.

The Council of Atlantic Premiers met earlier this week. In a news release, the following was noted in relation to healthcare: “continued collaboration through the Atlantic Working Group on International Recruitment to help alleviate healthcare worker shortages and improve healthcare access in underserved areas in Atlantic Canada”

Manitoba

  • A number of metrics for home-care services have shown improvement, thanks to a new pathway for home-care workers within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) that has seen success recruiting and retaining health-care aides working in the home-care field, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced earlier this week. The WRHA home-care program has recruited 256 new health-care aides since October 2023. The new recruits have helped reduce the vacancy rate for healthcare aides providing home care within the WRHA to 10.5 percent as of the end of May from 24 percent in January 2023, a more-than fifty percent improvement, noted the minister. The cancellation rate for Winnipeg-area home-care services has dropped to 1.38 percent as of April from 5.02 percent in January 2023. The number of monthly home-care visits has increased from 384,000 to 445,000 since January 2023. This, in turn, has contributed to a higher level of reliable care and reduced the need for home-care clients to rely on family members or close contacts for their healthcare needs, said Asagwara. 
  • Healing the doctor shortage in Manitoba will be all the more difficult should nearly 700 physicians head elsewhere to practise, reduce their hours or hang up the stethoscope for retirement in the next three years as they’ve suggested they will, according to a new report from Doctors Manitoba. The report from the physician advocacy group, released Thursday, echoes concerns raised before about the need to prioritize retaining doctors by addressing issues like widespread burnout rates, administrative burdens and workplace culture. The report, based on results from the group’s Manitoba Annual Physician Survey, says more needs to be done to reduce the number of early retirements and stop physicians from leaving.
  • Female patients who were sexually assaulted by a former Manitoba doctor told a court Thursday they were left feeling “horrified” and violated by the assaults. Manitoba Court of King’s Bench heard victim impact statements from some of the women at a sentencing hearing for Arcel Bissonnette, 64, who assaulted seven women during medical appointments and examinations. Crown prosecutors argue Bissonnette was in a position of trust and authority over each of the victims, which he breached when they came to him for medical care and should be sentenced to a total of 18 years in prison. The defence is seeking a nine-year sentence, citing Bissonette’s age, guilty pleas and the absence of a criminal record.
  • Head of National Microbiology Lab resigns in wake of scientist security scandal. The head of the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg says he is stepping down to continue his medical work and take a position at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, CBC News has learned. Since 2020, Dr. Guillaume Poliquin has overseen Canada’s only Level 4 virology facility, which is equipped to deal with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. Poliquin announced his resignation to staff in an internal email on Tuesday. 

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Provincial Government has reinstated a recruitment and retention incentive for retired registered nurses and nurse practitioners seeking to return to work or who are already employed by Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services. Retired registered nurses and nurse practitioners who meet license eligibility requirements are eligible for reimbursement of license-related fees up to $500 with a return in service commitment of 390 hours per year. The incentive is available until March 31, 2025. In 2022, close to 230 retired nurses availed of the incentive to return to the workforce.
  • The Department of Health and Community Services, in partnership with NL Health Services, is expanding the coverage for drivers’ medical examinations for eligible seniors to include exams performed through the Newfoundland and Labrador Virtual Care Program. Residents aged 75 years or older who do not have a primary care provider and are registered on Patient Connect NL can now request a driver’s medical examination appointment, which will be provided via the Teladoc virtual care service. Teladoc providers will complete the drivers’ medical examination report and will also coordinate the in-person completion of a guided physical and eye examination. The cost of the driver’s medical examination, for eligible patients, is covered as an insured service.
  • The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is making it easier for people who have been injured in an automobile accident to get on the path to recovery, without having to pay for health care services out of pocket. New diagnostic and treatment protocols under the Automobile Insurance Act will allow accident victims to get quicker and more affordable treatment, specific to the most common types of injuries resulting from an automobile accident: sprains, strains and whiplash-associated disorders. The protocols require automobile insurance companies to adopt processes that allow accident victims to seek treatment immediately, from a practitioner of their choice, without advance approval from the insurance company.
  • The Paramedic Association of Newfoundland and Labrador is mourning the loss of one of their own, after Devin George, 30, died shortly after rescuing a child at a swimming hole in eastern Newfoundland. The RCMP confirmed Tuesday that a 30-year-old man died off Ballfield Road in Dildo on Saturday afternoon. George became a paramedic in 2014 — a career aligned with his passion for helping others, according to his obituary.

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia will cover full tuition costs for more than 460 people who want to become a primary care paramedic or emergency medical responders. In return, paramedics must work in the province for four years and emergency medical responders must work here for two years. This recruitment initiative includes:
    • about 180 emergency medical responders; an investment of $1.9 million to cover tuition
    • about 150 new primary care paramedics; an investment of $3.58 million
    • about 135 primary care paramedics, currently in training or recent graduates, whose tuition was already 50 percent covered by the Province in exchange for three years of service – the Province will cover the other half of tuition for one additional year of service; investment of $1.35 million.
    • There are currently 14 emergency medical responders and 692 primary care paramedics working in Nova Scotia.
  • A program aimed at improving the mental health of Nova Scotia’s first responders and other public safety personnel (PSP) that started as a pilot program will continue. PSPNET is a free, confidential program that offers cognitive behavioural therapy for people experiencing anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The service is open to paramedics, police, firefighters, correctional workers, search and rescue personnel, 911 operators, border services officers and others in public safety across Nova Scotia.
  • Cancer patients and others in Cape Breton will receive enhanced care closer to home with the announcement of a new PET-CT scanner for the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. The Province has committed to covering any remaining capital costs, including installation, and operating expenses of the machine once it is in service. The Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation just wrapped up its most successful capital campaign ever to purchase the scanner.

New Brunswick

  • The government has partnered with the Horizon Health Network, Saint John-based Canadian Health Solutions and the Chalmers Foundation to offer a pilot project to help treat major depressive disorder. The treatment, called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, influences the electrical activity of the brain by passing brief pulses of electrical current through a non-invasive procedure that does not require sedation. Major depressive disorder is a common, disabling and costly illness that is resistant to treatment.
  • A nursing home will be built in Bathurst, adding 60 beds to the province’s long-term care system. “This new addition of nursing home beds to our long-term care network is vital to provide our seniors in the region with more services,” said Kathy Bockus, the minister responsible for seniors. “Thank you to our partners whose commitment makes it possible for our seniors to receive the care they deserve.” The nursing home will be built and operated by Comfort Life Network, which already operates several nursing homes across the province.
  • Construction is scheduled to begin early next year on a new community health centre in Three Rivers (Petitcodiac district), which will replace the existing one. The project is currently in the design phase, with tenders expected to be issued this fall. The new centre will be built next to the current centre on Railway Street, offering a larger and more modern space.
  • Mount Saint Joseph Nursing Home in Miramichi is preparing to add 30 more nursing home beds to the province’s long-term care system. “Nursing homes are vital community resources providing seniors with the right care at the right time,” said Kathy Bockus, the minister responsible for seniors. “This increase in beds will benefit seniors waiting in the community and in hospital for a nursing home placement. I am so pleased we are able to work with dedicated partners, like Mount Saint Joseph, to increase the number of beds in the Miramichi region.”
  • Construction is scheduled to begin early next year on a new community health centre in Three Rivers (Petitcodiac district), which will replace the existing one. The project is currently in the design phase, with tenders expected to be issued this fall. The new centre will be built next to the current centre on Railway Street, offering a larger and more modern space.
  • Community leaders in Grand Falls are upset that a cataract surgical suite they raised money for just four years ago may be useless because of a new private clinic opening 40 minutes away in Edmundston. The private clinic is the latest in a series of cataract clinics that have opened around the province thanks to a new law the Higgs government passed. It allows some surgeries to happen in private offices outside hospitals while still being funded by Medicare. The initiative is designed to take pressure off hospital operating rooms and free them up for other procedures. But in this case, space in Edmundston was already opened up when the surgical suite at the Grand Falls hospital was put in place in 2020, the critics say.

Prince Edward Island

  • A coroner’s inquest will be held later this year to look into the troubled life and sudden passing of a young man who was found dead last July at the age of 27. “We can confirm that there will be an inquest into the death of Colton Clarkin,” a spokesperson for the Prince Edward Island Department of Justice and Public Safety said in an email. The email said the inquest would be held in the fall of 2024. “He was an extremely talented artist and his gentle soul and loving nature has left an indelible mark on all who knew him,” Clarkin’s family wrote in the Emyvale man’s official death notice, asking that donations be made in his memory to the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts Centre in Summerside.

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