Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – November 3-10, 2023

A health scan review of Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of November 3 - 10, 2023. Prepared by Wes McLean, Senior Consultant at the Capital Hill Group.​


  • At the Council of the Federation meeting in Halifax this weekend, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew laid out his government’s priorities for Manitobans including addressing the health-care shortage and fairness on affordability commitments. The November 2023 Council of the Federation was the first premiers’ meeting attended by Kinew. The meeting included a health summit where leaders shared healthcare innovations to address growing healthcare staffing shortages and strains on local healthcare systems.

  • Kinew noted the Manitoba government has taken immediate measures to support frontline health-care staff including creating direct lines of communication between workers at the bedside and government leaders. Last week, the government also committed to an affordability plan to provide relief at the pump by cutting the provincial gas tax, while also announcing an expansion of shelter hours to offer support to people experiencing homelessness in city centres across the province, said the premier.

  • A Winnipeg doctor hopes his legacy of providing health care to LGBTQ patients — one of only a few local physicians doing so at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis — extends beyond his life. Dr. Dick Smith, who had pancreatic cancer, died with medical assistance on Tuesday. He was 80. “My biggest thing that I want people to really get a grip on is that no minority of any kind, whether it be religious or sexual or racial, is ever safe,” Smith told CBC News in an interview 24 hours before he died. “Democracy is a wonderful thing, but there is always a risk of a majority of people suddenly thinking this or that…. Be very careful and be aware that everything that has been achieved could be taken away in a single election.”

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The same handful of doctors and nurse practitioners who helped introduce medically assisted death to Newfoundland and Labrador are handling the majority of a steadily increasing number of requests for the service — and they say they can no longer do it alone. Applications for medically assisted death in the province are increasing year over year, outpacing the number of health-care workers available to assess those requests, said Dr. Aaron McKim, a family physician and the provincial health authority’s chief of medical assistance in dying, or MAID.

  • Construction is finished on the new Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook — 17 years after it was promised — and the next step is moving in. The build officially began in August 2019 with a $750-million contract awarded through a public-private partnership. Teara Freake, chief operating officer and vice-president of Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services’ Western zone, called it a “remarkable day” for the region’s residents, as well as the health authority’s staff and clinicians. “We’re very excited to move forward with the possession of the building, as we have done today, and to get it ready to welcome patients.”

  • Health Minister Tom Osborne announced new initiatives to improve access to health care for seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador’s major hospitals but says it will take time before goals are realized. Osborne announced the province is establishing “centres of excellence in aging” in parts of Newfoundland, beginning with the new Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook — set to open in 2024 — alongside the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s and the new St. Clares Mercy Hospital, which has yet to be built.

  • The Seniors’ Advocate is going to release a report on the cost of living challenges faced by the older population in Newfoundland and Labrador. Entitled “What Golden Years,” the report was compiled after an extensive consultation process involving seniors, family members, caregivers and others. Advocate Susan Walsh will release the report Tuesday morning in St. John’s.

  • Drug stores in the province are having a tough time finding pharmacists and they’re calling on the government to implement measures to fill the void. The Pharmacists Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL) did a survey of their members last year and found that the province is short by about 100 druggists. They recommend an increase in the pharmacy school class size and an improvement in the contract offer for those pharmacists working in hospitals and clinics and represented by the Association of Allied Health Professionals. Contract talks between that group and the employer have stalled.

Nova Scotia

  • According to the government, Improving healthcare and building more housing were the focus of this fall’s session of the House of Assembly, which closed yesterday, November 9. The session started with new legislation to recognize first responders for their ongoing dedication to keeping Nova Scotians safe. The First Responders Day Act was passed unanimously.

  • The Province is also cementing its commitment to universal mental health and addiction care for all Nova Scotians with changes to the Health Services and Insurance Act. Amendments passed this session allow the minister of Addictions and Mental Health to establish insured service programs to deliver mental health and addiction care as part of a publicly funded healthcare system.

  • The Province passed legislation that will hold opioid companies accountable for deceptive practices that have led to opioid-related injuries or illnesses. Amendments to the Opioid Damages and Healthcare Costs Recovery Act make consultants subject to potential legal action.

  • The government is creating consistency across healthcare professions in Nova Scotia and making it easier to respond to future changes in those fields. The Regulated Health Professions Act will eventually replace 21 acts and provide a foundation for each profession by standardizing rules and processes.

  • Canada’s premiers concluded their two-day meeting in Halifax, on November 6, united in their commitment to take action on the affordability challenges facing Canadians, along with the need to improve health services, tackle housing issues and strengthen strategic infrastructure. With healthcare a top priority across the country, premiers also held a dedicated summit focused on health innovation at the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub. Premiers expressed their deep appreciation for the work and dedication of all front-line healthcare workers and discussed actions being taken across the care continuum, including addressing wait times and access to primary care, mental health and substance use services, and recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals.

New Brunswick

  • New Brunswick has changed how it defines “serious” reactions to COVID-19 vaccines and using this new definition, the number has been cut in half. There have been 154 serious adverse events following immunization reported over a 32-month period ending this past summer, according to Department of Health spokesperson Sean Hatchard. That’s one serious incident for every 13,550 COVID-19 vaccinations administered in New Brunswick between Dec. 14, 2020, and Aug. 26, 2023 — a significant improvement over previous reports.

  • A judge has reserved a decision in an application by the province to have a $2 million payout to the fired head of Horizon Health Network quashed. Lawyers for the province argued Wednesday in the Court of King’s Bench of Saint John that either the labour arbitrator’s decision in the case of Dr. John Dornan should be thrown out or the grievance should be sent to another arbitrator. Dornan served as president and CEO of Horizon for only four months of his five-year contract when Premier Blaine Higgs announced his firing during a news conference on July 15, 2022, in a major shakeup of New Brunswick’s healthcare leadership.


  • The Fredericton police major crime unit is investigating the death of a patient in the ER waiting room more than a year ago, and a coroner’s inquest into his death remains suspended pending the outcome, CBC News has learned. Darrell Mesheau, 78, died while waiting for care at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital’s emergency department on July 12, 2022. Witness John Staples told CBC News at the time that an elderly man had been waiting alone in a wheelchair, in visible discomfort, for hours when he appeared to fall asleep. It was only during a routine check of people in the waiting room that a hospital employee realized the man had stopped breathing, Staples said.

  • A coroner’s jury has made 10 recommendations to try to prevent deaths similar to Lexi Daken’s. The 16-year-old Fredericton-area girl died by suicide within days of being turned away from the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in February 2021. Testimony at the inquest into Daken’s death wrapped up Wednesday morning, and the jury of three women and two men began deliberations before noon. By 3 p.m., they returned with their recommendations. They began by endorsing 12 recommendations made by the Horizon Health Network in March 2021 after an internal review of Lexi’s death, then added 10 of their own. Much of the focus is on better public education about mental health resources, including making the information more readily available to the public, and using brochures to help with communication.

Prince Edward Island

  • More than 500 nurses and care support workers have been hired to work in healthcare settings across the province to help address staffing shortages, alleviate workloads experienced by staff, and improve patient care. Health PEI, the Recruitment and Retention Secretariat and the Public Service Commission have been working collaboratively to identify ways to more efficiently hire nurses and care support workers to care for patients and address vacancies. Since January 2023, Health PEI has hired 547 staff into permanent, temporary, or casual positions, including:

    • 9 nurse practitioners

    • 201 registered nurses

    • 72 licensed practical nurses

    • 265 resident care workers, personal care workers and home support workers

    • Of the 547 staff hired to date, 147 are new graduates.

  • Western Hospital in Alberton is dealing with an outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. That’s a form of bacteria that’s resistant to certain types of antibiotics.”Visitors to the hospital are not being restricted at this time; however, common spaces have been closed as a precaution,” Health P.E.I. said in a news release late Wednesday. “Visitors are reminded of the importance of frequent hand-washing and are discouraged from visiting multiple rooms within the hospital.” The release said staff at the small hospital in western Prince Edward Island are getting help from Health P.E.I.’s infection prevention and control team to prevent MRSA from spreading within the facility.

  • The rates of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, or STBBIs, are holding relatively steady on P.E.I. compared to other parts of the country, according to the province’s Chief Public Health Office. Numbers recently released by the CPHO show that cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, infectious syphilis and hepatitis B and C in 2022 remained around the same levels seen before the pandemic.

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