Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – April 21, 2024

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of April 21, 2024. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • Eligible seniors can now apply for the Safe and Healthy Home for Seniors Program, a $1.5-million program to help cover the cost of home accessibility and safety upgrades, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced earlier this week. Seniors aged 65 and older and family members who have seniors living with them can apply for funding of up to $5,000 ($6,500 in rural and remote areas) to help fund basic home adaptations that are essential for daily living. Applicants can apply for a grant every three years, to a lifetime maximum of $15,000. To be eligible, the applicant must have a combined household income of $60,000 or less.
  • The Manitoba government is taking steps to maintain high levels of trust and transparency in health professionals through proposed changes to the Regulated Health Professions Amendment Act (RHPA), Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today. Under the proposed legislation, cases would be open to the public when a health professional’s registration or certificate of practice is being considered for cancellation by their college due to a conviction for an offence relevant to the suitability to practice.
  • The Manitoba government is supporting healthy families by doubling the Manitoba Prenatal Benefit for pregnant Manitobans, Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine announced today. The Manitoba Prenatal Benefit is a monthly financial benefit to help low-income Manitobans meet their needs during pregnancy. This historic increase will make Manitoba’s benefit the highest in Canada. The current maximum benefit is $81.41 per month, payable from the 14th week of pregnancy until the child is born. Budget 2024 includes an additional $800,000 to double the maximum monthly benefit to $162.82, ensuring the prenatal benefit has a real impact in making life more affordable for expectant parents, noted the minister.
  • The death of a Winnipeg firefighter, whose funeral will be held Friday, has sparked calls for more mental health support for first responders. Help is available but accessing it can be difficult, according to former firefighter Josh Klassen. “There is hope, but the pathway to find it isn’t always as clear as I would like it to be,” said Klassen, who was a peer support co-ordinator for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service before he left to become an arborist. He still teaches a mental health readiness program with the fire-paramedic service. He spoke to CBC after the death of Preston Heinbigner, 40, who died by suicide on April 9. Close friends and colleagues have said he was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced this week that a collective agreement has been signed with the Association of Allied Health Professionals (AAHP). This collective agreement represents more than 750 vital health care professionals working in all areas of the health care system in Newfoundland and Labrador. The agreement includes a two per cent wage increase each year for four years; a one-time employee recognition bonus payment of $2,000; and wage recognition to ensure occupation competitiveness. More highlights of the agreement can be found here. The Provincial Government has negotiated 29 collective agreements with public sector unions, representing more than 35,000 public sector workers.
  • The complex issue of an overcrowded morgue at a St. John’s hospital can be fixed if government policy aligns itself with the rising cost of living, according to some seniors’ advocates. In March, CBC News reported 28 bodies were being stored in freezer units in an alleyway outside the Health Sciences Centre due to a lack of space left inside in the morgue — which doubles as the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The overflow problem — which has since been disclosed in other jurisdictions, including Ontario — has been exacerbated because some bodies remain unclaimed, often because the next of kin are unable to afford funeral services or because some seniors don’t have the savings available at the end of life to cover cremation or burial.
  • Photos tabled in the House of Assembly show troubling conditions inside Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest hospital, including what appears to be rodent feces on hospital floors. The photos were tabled by PC health critic Barry Petten, who told the House they were taken by a man who stayed in the hospital for surgery in February. The photos, shared with CBC News, show dirty sinks, holes in the walls covered by tape, garbage on the floors and what appears to be feces.

Nova Scotia

  • Mi’kmaw elders and seniors across the province now have access to long-term care in a Mi’kmaw community. A new 48-room home named Kiknu, a Mi’kmaw word meaning “our home,” in Eskasoni is the first in the province to be built in a First Nations community. An event to mark the home’s opening was held today, April 17, and people start moving in next week.
  • Nova Scotia Health said it will be contacting 2,690 patients after their personal information was “inappropriately accessed” at Saint Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S. “We are extremely disappointed that an employee of Nova Scotia Health would engage in an activity of this nature. Nova Scotia Health will not tolerate any unauthorized access or snooping,” Derek Spinney, the health authority’s chief financial officer and vice president of corporate services, told reporters on Friday. Spinney said an employee connected to the privacy breach was fired. Only one person is believed to be involved with the breach, Spinney said. He wouldn’t say what the person’s role was, but did reveal it was “not clinical in nature.”
  • Nova Scotia Dental Association welcomes changes to CDCP. The federal government announced this week that oral health-care providers who provide services to clients of the Canadian Dental Care Plan can bill the insurance company directly without formally signing up for the program.
  • It will be another two weeks before water service is fully restored at the Halifax Infirmary following two water main breaks earlier this month at the hospital’s steam plant. The breaks on April 3 resulted in the loss of drinking water, fire suppression services and the ability to flush the toilets. They were repaired over several days, but not without requiring the cancellations of some surgeries and other services. The site returned to normal services on April 8. Health Minister Michelle Thompson told reporters Thursday that preparation work to replace aging pipes at the Halifax Infirmary allowed for faster repairs.

New Brunswick

  • The following statement was issued earlier in the week by Health Minister Bruce Fitch: The Province of New Brunswick and Dr. John Dornan have reached a mutually satisfactory resolution with respect to the termination of Dr. Dornan’s employment as CEO of Horizon Health Network. As such, the Province of New Brunswick has withdrawn its appeal, which was scheduled to be heard on April 19.
  • A national shortage of measles vaccines will continue for at least another month. That means most people born before 1970 won’t be able to follow public health advice and get a shot before travelling outside Canada — unless they cross the border to get the shot. Some New Brunswickers have been doing just that, according to Joleen Fowler, a pharmacy technician at Walgreens in Calais, Maine. “We’ve had a few people come over and ask, you know, if they were able to get it from us, and we were able to oblige,” she said. Merck, Canada’s supplier, had expected the shortage of its MMR II vaccine, for measles, mumps and rubella, for the private market such as travel clinics, to end by April 19, but now lists May 15 as the estimated end date on Health Canada’s Drug Shortages website.
  • Travel nurses brought in to work in long-term care in 2022 earned two-to-three times more than their New Brunswick-based colleagues, the province says. Minister of Social Development Jill Green told a legislative committee Thursday that long-term care homes were in an emergency situation at the time the department signed contracts totalling just over $2.5 million with two private companies. Toronto-based Canadian Health Labs received almost all of that money to provide 55 staff, from February to May 2022, Green said. The company charged a rate of $9,995 for a team of 10 people on an eight-hour shift.
  • New Brunswick saw its highest number of apparent overdose-related deaths in 2022, according to a report from the Department of Health, while naloxone use has skyrocketed. The quarterly report puts 2022 as the deadliest year on record. It’s a reality Julie Dingwell sees every day in her work as executive director at Avenue B Harm Reduction in Saint John. “We’re seeing people die. We go in every Monday morning thinking, ‘Oh, who died on the weekend,'” she said. 

Prince Edward Island

  • The Dental Association of P.E.I. is sounding considerably more upbeat about a federal dental program for seniors than it did at the end of March. In an interview with Island Morning host Laura Chapin last month, the association’s executive director Dr. Brian Barrett expressed concern about the administrative burden of the program and the fees it was offering to dentists. Following a Wednesday evening meeting with federal Health Minister Mark Holland, Barrett expressed some satisfaction with the changes that have been made. “The plan is getting better every day,” Barrett told Chapin on Thursday.
  • Health P.E.I. continues to recruit and hire doctors and other staff at Prince County Hospital in Summerside, but the situation remains challenging, the province’s health minister said Thursday. There is locum coverage confirmed for the summer months at the hospital, said Mark McLane, and one new internist has been signed and will begin working in July. McLane said the hospital would need six internists in order to reopen the intensive-care unit, or ICU, which has been closed since May 2023. The hiring process for new physicians can take anywhere from seven to 12 months, he said. 

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