Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – October 20-27, 2023

A health scan review of Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of October 13 - 20, 2023. Prepared by Wes McLean, Senior Consultant at the Capital Hill Group.​

Manitoba

  • A Winnipeg woman who died earlier this year after more than a month without the palliative home care she was promised highlights significant system delays, according to a recently released independent review. Although the report itself does not name the woman who died, 62-year-old Katherine Ellis’s common-law partner Eric De Schepper shared her story with the media — including CBC — shortly before her death last February.
  • Wait times at Winnipeg emergency rooms and urgent care centres are the worst they’ve been in close to a decade, numbers from the local health authority suggest. The monthly median wait time for care at Winnipeg ERs and urgent care centres hit a peak of nearly 3½ hours as of September this year, according to data posted on the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s website. The 3.43-hour median wait compares to just over two hours in April 2014 — the earliest point in that data — a jump of about 70 percent.
  • Premier Wab Kinew has released four ministerial mandate letters, one of which is to the Minister of Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care. The following immediate priorities were identified:
    • Send an open letter signed by you, the Minister of Health, and myself, to Manitoba’s frontline healthcare staff to let them know that help is on the way.
    • Implement our health human resource strategy to fix the staffing crisis in health care by hiring 400 doctors over 5 years; 300 nurses in Winnipeg with a corresponding commitment to rural and Northern Manitoba; 200 paramedics and 100 homecare workers.
    • Reduce wait times at ERs starting by reopening the Emergency Department at the Victoria Hospital and by increasing bed capacity at all major hospitals with ERs across the province.
    • Reduce wait times in ERs by opening 4 new Neighborhood Illness and Injury clinics in Winnipeg and 1 in Brandon.
    • The full mandate letter can be viewed at this link: Mandate letter to the Minister of Health, Seniors and Long Term Care (gov.mb.ca)
  • The Premier and the Health Minister also issued an open letter to healthcare care workers, which can be viewed here: Province of Manitoba | News Releases | Statement from Premier Wab Kinew and Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara to Manitoba Health-Care Workers (gov.mb.ca)

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Proposed legislative amendments to the Buildings Accessibility Act, meant to improve accessibility in public spaces, received second reading in the House of Assembly this week. The three main amendments being proposed are:
    • Removal of the pre-1981 exemption from the current Act;
    • Clarification on how the Act applies to home-based businesses; and
    • Doubling the current fines under the Act to promote compliance.
  • Citizens’ Representative, Bradley Moss, has released a report regarding the Challenges of Parents and Caregivers of Medically Complex Children. The Citizens’ Representatives were elected to investigate the issue of support for family caregivers of medically complex children and adults under the initiative provisions of the Citizens’ Representative Act. The report contains twelve recommendations for the Departments of Health and Community Services and Education and can be accessed on the Office’s website at Caregivers Report Oct 5 2023.pdf.
  • At a municipalities conference in St. John’s, health department ADM and family doctor Megan Hayes said 239 nurses have been hired since April 2023. However, she was pressed on the issue of travel nurses — which are private agency nurses that have cost taxpayers $100 million this year — who are paid more than nurses employed by the N.L. health authorities for the same work.

Nova Scotia

  • Communities looking for financial help recruiting and retaining healthcare workers can apply for up to $100,000 to support their efforts. The Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment (OHPR) Community Fund, launched last year, is open again for applications. In the first year, there were 28 successful applicants, with initiatives such as healthcare worker recognition events, online support tools, marketing videos and even a community garden.
  • Healthcare workers and those in jobs linked to healthcare in Nova Scotia could win a $1,000 cash prize for submitting their ideas for improving the system. A new contest, the Healthcare Improvement Challenge, starts today, October 23, and runs to November 22. Eligible participants can submit one or more common sense ideas with a focus on improving healthcare in Nova Scotia.
  • A data analyst who worked for Nova Scotia Health for four years says he was let go for speaking up about what he perceived as serious issues with the emergency department wait-time prediction project. Jesse Yang said he escalated concerns about the data used in the project, both verbally and in writing, over a year. He said he sought support from supervisors, Nova Scotia Health’s ethics department, human resources, and the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman.

New Brunswick

  • Legislation introduced last week aims to ensure eligible properties providing housing to seniors, such as nursing homes and special care homes, are subject to a lower provincial property tax rate for the 2024 and subsequent taxation years. Under proposed amendments to the Real Property Tax Act, these properties would be considered non-owner-occupied residential properties, and subject to a property tax rate of $0.5617 per $100 of assessment, much like apartments and residential rental properties.
  • Horizon Health Network is tightening its masking rules again, requiring all health-care workers, patients, visitors and designated support persons to wear a medical-grade mask in all patient and clinical areas of its facilities, starting Monday. Masks will not be required in non-clinical areas, such as lobbies, hallways or cafeterias, according to a news release issued Thursday. “This represents a change from previous masking guidance announced on October 3where strategic masking was implemented in Horizon hospitals experiencing outbreaks of respiratory illness,” it says.
  • The chief justice of the Court of King’s Bench has approved a $17 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit that alleged decades of physical and sexual abuse of psychiatric patients at the Restigouche Hospital Centre in northern New Brunswick. It’s the largest class-action settlement in New Brunswick history, according to Chief Justice Tracey DeWare’s written ruling, issued Thursday in the case against the provincial government and Vitalité Health Network. 

Prince Edward Island

  • E.I. Premier Dennis King says his government remains committed to providing supervised consumption services for Islanders struggling with addictions, but has no timeline on when or where that will happen after a plan for a Park Street site fell through. “I think we need to have a kind of a reset on that,” he told CBC News on Friday. “There needs to be a lot more community consultation. There has to be a lot more education that goes into that for sure.”
  • A union representing 200 workers at one of Prince Edward Island’s 10 privately run long-term care homes says a report released last week falls short of addressing fundamental issues faced by residents and workers. “The obvious solution is… get rid of the private sector, put it back into the public sector where it belongs,” said Ashley Clark, the P.E.I. president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 200 workers at Atlantic Baptist Home.
  • One of P.E.I.’s private long-term care operators has left its share of millions of dollars in additional government funding untouched — money which was supposed to be used to increase staff wages. Earlier this year, the province signed a new contract with operators which included an 18 percent increase in the per diem for medical expenses for residents, and a nine percent increase in the daily accommodation rate.

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