Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – September 29-October 6, 2023
A health scan review of Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of September 29 - October 6. Prepared by Wes McLean, Senior Consultant at the Capital Hill Group.
Manitoba’s New Democratic Party rode to a resounding victory Tuesday night on the back of long-simmering frustration and anger with the province’s Progressive Conservatives — something the governing party couldn’t shake, even with a new face at the helm. And the winning party’s choice of health care as the issue to focus on seems to have been a smart one. That topic made its way into nearly all the NDP’s announcements on the campaign trail, and into premier-designate Wab Kinew’s victory speech on Tuesday night — where front-line workers were the very first people he addressed.
As rates of HIV transmission grow exponentially across Manitoba, leaders of a newly launched treatment and prevention project hope to secure more funding from the new provincial government. The Manitoba HIV Program says the outgoing Progressive Conservative government was unwilling to support its new Program to Access Treatment for HIV and Support (PATHS).
Overdose awareness advocates say they’re not surprised to learn Manitoba recorded 44 drug-related deaths in May — but hope more supports to help prevent those deaths will soon be available under the province’s new government. “This is sort of in a way what I’ve been advocating for. This is where my advocacy has led me,” advocate Arlene Last-Kolb said Wednesday, a day after an election that brought the NDP to power in Manitoba.
The first shipments of updated COVID-19 and seasonal flu vaccines are now being sent out across the province, starting with high-priority locations such as personal care homes and hospitals, according to Manitoba Health. They will begin to be more widely available to the general public in the next few weeks, though some sites may have stock earlier than others, Manitoba Health said in a news release on Friday.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Effective Tuesday, October 3, 2023 the Provincial Government has increased the denture budget and maximum payable amounts for dentures under the Adult Dental Program. The Provincial Government recognizes the importance of good oral health for an individual’s self-esteem and overall health and well-being. The increase in the Adult Denture Program will cover:
An annual 20 per cent increase in the dentures budget (from $700,000 to $840,000);
An increase in the maximum payable amount from $750 to $900 per standard denture;
An increase in the maximum payable amount from $503 to $600 for partial dentures; and
A maximum annual cap increase from $1,500 to $1,800.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is increasing rates for home support agencies that provide support to seniors, children, and adults with disabilities who require personal and behavioural assistance to maintain individual independence at home. The Provincial Government is investing an additional $7.9 million in 2023-24 to support these rate increases, which will help ensure provision of high quality of care and will allow individuals who need support to live independently.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey says he spent 15 days in 2022 and early 2023 working as a surgeon. The latest numbers, released by the premier’s office to CBC News, show that he worked for five different periods of between two and five days, with each period including at least one weekend day. Last year, Furey promised to release the amount of time he spends working as a surgeon. It’s unusual to have a premier work at another job, but when he entered politics, Furey said he intended to do enough work as an orthopedic surgeon in order to maintain his licence.
The Province is partnering with a child-care centre in Sydney to provide evening, weekend and overnight childcare options to Cape Breton Regional Hospital healthcare workers. The demonstration project at Health Park Early Learning Centre, located near the hospital, will launch this fall once appropriate policies, procedures and staff are in place. It will be evaluated after six months. When the demonstration project launches, Health Park Early Learning Centre will be able to offer 12 spaces for overnight care and run at full capacity (66 spaces) on weekends and for extended hours on weekdays. The centre is working with interested families to identify participants with a focus on children four years of age and younger.
Residents and staff of a former nursing home in Meteghan, Digby County, have moved into a new, modern facility. The new Villa Acadienne is the first long-term care home to open out of the 34 new and replacement facilities planned across the province. It includes 10 additional single rooms to support more seniors in need of long-term care.
A Nova Scotia provincial court judge is suing the province and another judge for $5 million in damages. The lawsuit launched by Judge Rickcola Brinton, 48, lays bare a long-simmering dispute over COVID-19 vaccinations. The suit was filed late last month in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and first reported by allNovaScotia.
Kari Ellen Graham’s workdays look different than they did six months ago and the Halifax-based pharmacist says that’s a good thing for the patients she sees and for herself. Graham’s workplace, the Shoppers Drug Mart on Almon Street, is one of 25 pharmacies around the province that offer free clinical appointments for patients looking for services such as treatment of minor ailments and chronic diseases. Since the site opened in May, Graham has gone from having brief interactions with several hundred patients as they pick up medication, to spending more focused time with upwards of 30 patients each day during pre-booked or walk-in appointments.
New data raises questions about what role, if any, police in Halifax should have in responding to mental health calls, says a Dalhousie law professor. Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP’s Halifax detachment released reports this week to the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners on the number of calls officers are responding to related to mental health. The data shows Halifax Regional Police officers respond to 2,000-2,500 of these types of calls every month. Meanwhile, Halifax RCMP saw a 22 percent increase in wellness checks from 2021 and 2022.
Nova Scotia pharmacists are limiting Ozempic refills. There’s a worldwide shortage of diabetes drugs. The diabetes medication has also become so popular for weight loss that the demand contributes to scarcity for weeks. But pharmacist Graham MacKenzie says there’s hope that supply should soon pick up.
Fourteen nursing homes around the province have joined the government’s Nursing Homes Without Walls program, which extends some of their services to seniors still living at home. Social Development put out an initial call for applications late last year; it is expected another six will join the program by the end of this year. The program expansion and implementation are supported through a partnership with Healthcare Excellence Canada and the Université de Moncton’s Research Centre on Aging. The various sites are in different stages of the process; some are already offering support and services, while others expect to begin in the coming months.
The provincial government is adding to the list of common ailments that pharmacists are publicly funded to treat, as part of an effort to give New Brunswickers better access to care. Starting today, pharmacists are funded to treat conjunctivitis, sometimes referred to as “pink eye.” This follows an announcement in May that residents could access publicly funded care from participating pharmacies for the following conditions: contact allergic dermatitis; cold sores; mild to moderate eczema; gastroesophageal reflux disease; impetigo; Lyme disease prevention after a high-risk tick bite; and mild acne.
A senior provincial cabinet minister who has remained loyal to Premier Blaine Higgs is saying there’s no need for the premier to call an early election this fall. Health Minister Bruce Fitch said he’d prefer to see Higgs work with his caucus, including six Progressive Conservative MLAs unhappy with his leadership, rather than going to the polls a year early. “I don’t think we need an election. There’s another year in that mandate,” Fitch told Radio-Canada, pointing out that it’s up to Higgs to make the decision.
Liberal Leader Susan Holt and Green Leader David Coon are both highlighting access to health care as a top campaign issue on the eve of an expected early election call. Holt and Coon previewed their party platforms in interviews with CBC’s Information Morning Fredericton this week. PC Premier Blaine Higgs was also invited to be interviewed, but CBC received notice he would not take part. “Why aren’t we taking care of the people who are caring for us? Why are there 74,000 New Brunswickers waiting to get a family doctor?” asked Holt.
New Brunswick has no plans to change its advice about COVID-19, including returning to mandatory masking, the Department of Health said Wednesday. It comes as the province reported two new COVID-19 deaths in The latest Respiratory Watch report, and 58 hospitalizations — an increase for the third straight week. It also comes as Green Party health critic Megan Mitton raised concerns about the lack of information from Public Health about plans for the fall and winter when case counts are expected to rise.
Prince Edward Island
E.I.’s Progressive Conservative premier has removed one of his MLAs from all legislative standing committees, a day after Tyler DesRoches came under fire for comments he made about female paramedics. Premier Dennis King said in a statement Thursday that the comments the MLA from Summerside-Wilmot made were “inappropriate, wrong and won’t be tolerated.” DesRoches made the comments while questioning Medavie Health Services director of operations Darcy Clinton during a meeting of the health and social development standing committee Wednesday. Medavie is the operator of the province’s ambulance service.
Ophthalmologists at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown are urging Islanders to get their eyes checked to prevent serious health problems that could lead to vision loss. “It is sad to say you came a bit too late. I don’t want to say that. I don’t want to say it to anyone,” said Dr. Ibrahim Elaraoud. “I feel vision is too precious.” Still, this is something Elaraoud said he sees every week — cases where the problem could have been corrected or, at least, resulted in a less serious outcome if it had been detected earlier. Unfortunately, some patients wait too long to get their symptoms checked.
Calls to P.E.I.’s mobile mental health service have doubled over the past two years, and politicians and Island EMS officials alike say too many of those pleas for help are still going to the police rather than to people trained to respond to those in crisis. “I can think of two examples off the top of my head where a mobile mental health unit should have been dispatched and weren’t — and people died as a result,” Green Party Leader Karla Bernard said Wednesday at a meeting of the province’s standing committee on health and wellness.
An arbitration board has ruled that the University of Prince Edward Island was in breach of P.E.I.’s Occupational Health and Safety Act two years ago when it failed to inform staff about plans to have international students self-isolate on campus at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-person board issued its ruling last week in response to two grievances filed by the UPEI Faculty Association (UPEIFA).
Saying Islanders can’t wait for the government to act, P.E.I.’s Opposition Liberals will introduce their own bill requiring mandatory paid sick leave this fall. The government says it is waiting for a full review of the Employment Standards Act, and there will be no movement on paid sick leave until at least the spring.
A new chemical analyzer machine at the Western Hospital in Alberton, P.E.I. is helping physicians do more complex tests while also providing faster results. The machine, a Cobas pure compact analyzer, can detect the early signs of a heart attack, for example. During pregnancy, it can track hormone levels to determine how far along someone is or identify whether there are complications.