Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – November 10-17, 2023

A health scan review of Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of November 10-17, 2023. Prepared by Wes McLean, Senior Consultant at the Capital Hill Group.​

Manitoba

  • The Manitoba government is taking steps to conclude the work of the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force (DSRTF), redirecting focus and funding back to public health-care delivery with priority investments in public surgeries and diagnostics, Health, Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Uzoma Asagwara announced today. Shared Health will assume management of the current DSRTF structure. Patients who have scheduled care and those in the queue will receive treatments and procedures as scheduled, and there will be no delay during the transition, noted the minister. The Manitoba government will ensure patients are kept informed of the status of their treatments and procedures, the minister added. 
  • Up to 800 attendees gathered in Winnipeg earlier this week for the first-ever Mamàhtawisiwin Symposium, which will highlight putting students and children at the centre of the education system with a particular focus on inclusive Indigenous education, Education and Early Childhood Learning Minister Nello Altomare announced. The symposium, which takes place Nov. 14 and 15, focuses on understanding world views, values, identities, traditions and contemporary lifestyles, and providing an inclusive and culturally safe learning environment for all Manitoba students.
  • Jennifer Bercier says “an invisible line with a huge barrier” separates Manitoba First Nations like hers from the rest of the province, after her daughter lost all of her disability support and services upon turning 18. The mother from Opaskwayak Cree Nation says the disability services that her 20-year-old daughter, Kaylie, received under Jordan’s Principle — a federal policy which ensures First Nations kids can swiftly access essential products and services — ended on her 18th birthday. “There are no transition services, so you face barriers again, even though your disability doesn’t leave you,” Bercier said at a Thursday news conference in Winnipeg.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador government is partnering with the YMCA to create new daycare spaces exclusively for health-care professionals with hours outside the standard workday. The province will open around 160 new $10-per-day spaces at a new building on St. Michael’s Avenue in St. John’s, Discovery Collegiate in Bonavista and Eastside Elementary in Corner Brook. The spaces should be ready in the next six months and will have hours that meet the needs of medical professionals, said Premier Andrew Furey at an announcement Thursday.
  • The head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for the Deaf says a lack of accessible services is leaving senior citizens isolated in the healthcare system.  Myles Murphy says the biggest problem is a Canada-wide shortage of American Sign Language interpreters that has hit the province especially hard. The NLAD is only aware of five interpreters in the province, for about 100 people who need their services spread across a wide area. That creates major problems for people who live in personal-care homes, for example, where health care and social programming are vital.
  • The Provincial Government is reminding employers of the Private Employer Vaccine Program, which increases the availability of influenza and COVID-19 vaccines during the active cold and flu season. The Department of Health and Community Services is anticipating an active influenza season that will interact with COVID-19 and other circulating viruses. To minimize the impact of these viruses this winter, the department encourages private employers to avail of our government’s Private Employer Vaccine Program to enhance access to influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees.

Nova Scotia

  • A three-year agreement was ratified by members of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 727 today, November 17. The agreement covers the areas of compensation, health benefits and a retention allowance for paramedics employed in a permanent or term position. The new agreement runs from November 1, 2023, to October 31, 2026, and includes:
    • a 16.5 percent classification adjustment for paramedics in the first year, along with other incentive and premium increases
    • cost of living increases totalling 8.5 percent over the life of the contract
    • improved extended health benefits
    • a retention allowance of up to $5,000 per year of the contract for paramedics employed in a permanent or term position
    • resources to support clinical transport operators to return to school to become trained as primary care paramedics
    • salary increase in recognition of training required for clinical transport operators
    • aligning classifications for various roles across the system.
  • Nova Scotians will receive more care, faster at the new Bayers Lake Community Outpatient Centre. The centre will provide a wide range of services and help reduce pressure on other facilities that provide outpatient services across Halifax Regional Municipality and West Hants. It is part of a multi-year redevelopment plan to replace aging healthcare buildings with modern facilities.
  • Nova Scotia’s prosecution service says it will proceed with a new trial for a former children’s hospital CEO after Canada’s top court refused on Thursday to hear the Crown’s appeal of a ruling that quashed her fraud conviction. As is customary, the Supreme Court of Canada did not explain its decision to deny leave to appeal the case against Tracy Kitch, former chief executive of the IWK Health Centre, in Halifax.

New Brunswick

  • A new nursing home will be built in Moncton, adding 60 beds to the province’s long-term care system when it opens in the fall of 2025. “With this newest home, we continue to add to the number of beds in the nursing home network across the province,” said Kathy Bockus, the minister responsible for seniors. “As the aging population grows, adding beds is vital to ensuring all seniors have access to the right care at the right time.” The nursing home will be built by Shannex, which already provides long-term care and retirement living communities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario.
  • A new partnership between Horizon Health Network and a Fredericton-based ophthalmology clinic aims to increase access to surgical services. The agreement between Horizon and the Fredericton Cataract Surgical Centre is expected to result in thousands more cataract surgeries each year in the Fredericton region. The centre can complete more than 3,200 surgeries annually. Moving cataract surgeries to a dedicated, modern facility outside the hospital setting is expected to reduce the patient waitlist and help meet the national benchmark wait time of 112 days.
  • New Brunswick’s two health authorities are disputing the suggestion that patients seeking surgical abortions have to wait several weeks to have the procedure at the three hospitals offering the service. Horizon Health and Vitalité Health were responding to the manager of Clinic 554 in Fredericton, who said a woman was recently referred to the clinic because she could not get an appointment in Moncton before the end of December.  Christa Wheeler-Thorne, the executive director at the Moncton Hospital, said in a statement to CBC News that on Wednesday, surgical abortions were being booked for next Thursday, Nov. 23.

Prince Edward Island

  • Health P.E.I says formalized agreements with health authorities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have become an even more urgent priority after the Saint John Regional Hospital refused to accept cardiac patients from the Island last weekend. P.E.I. has no cardiac specialist services and sends patients needing that kind of advanced medical care to Saint John and Halifax. Halifax was still able to take Island patients when Saint John couldn’t over the weekend, but Nova Scotia’s healthcare system is also stretched. Its health authority recently told Health P.E.I. it would have to stop accepting P.E.I.’s non-urgent vascular referrals. 
  • Charlottetown-based pharmaceutical company BioVectra is getting ready to open up new facilities in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia as part of a $90-million expansion. The new facilities include one of Canada’s first mRNA vaccine biomanufacturing centres in Charlottetown. There is also a new biologics fermentation suite in Windsor, N.S., and development laboratories in both provinces. The P.E.I. and federal governments helped fund the expansion.
  • The P.E.I. government says it’s been harder than anticipated to develop a new program to provide caregiver grants to allow Islanders to age at home. Dennis King’s Progressive Conservatives promised the measure during the spring election campaign, but still have not determined what the criteria will be. According to their election platform, the program will offer grants of up to $1,500 per month “to support families who choose to keep their loved ones at home longer instead of going to community care.” The platform earmarked $5.2 million for the program during the current fiscal year, making it one of the more expensive commitments the P.C.s made during the campaign. It ranks seventh on that list.
  • E.I. needs to reconsider some of the provisions in its new Mental Health Act, says a psychiatry professor at Western University in London, Ont. The act would, for the first time on the Island, allow community treatment orders (CTOs), which can compel a patient to take their medication while out of the hospital. The act has been passed, but it has not been enacted. Dr. Richard O’Reilly said it is a good thing P.E.I. is putting rules for CTOs in place. The Island is the last province to do so. “It’s really a choice between abandoning patients after they are discharged from hospital, as unfortunately we have done in the past, and making sure the person has an opportunity to stay well,” said O’Reilly.

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