Health Scan – Atlantic Canada and Manitoba – December 1-8, 2023

A provincial health scan for Atlantic Canada and Manitoba for the week of December 1-8, 2023. Written by Wes McLean.

Manitoba

  • In a press release noting achievements made during the first session of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, the Premier noted the following: “The government also acted to immediately address emergency department wait times, strengthen public health-care services and add 31 new beds at the Grace Hospital, said Kinew. “Our government has made critical investments to repair the public health-care system and we are looking forward to hearing from front-line healthcare professionals during our upcoming listening tour,” said Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara. 
  • The Manitoba government has tabled the second independent review of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine, the minister responsible for accessibility, announced earlier this week. The Accessibility for Manitobans Act became law 10 years ago today to provide a clear and proactive process to identify, prevent and remove barriers for people living with disabilities. Under the act, the minister must appoint a person to review the effectiveness of the legislation every five years.
  • Manitoba’s surgical and diagnostic task force spent $7,614,065 on salaries before the NDP government shut it down in the fall, data from the province says. Those figures are only up to the end of March — the first quarter of the fiscal year. The task force continued to function until the end of October. “What is becoming increasingly clear, and the salaries are a good example of that, is that the diagnostic and surgical recovery task force really had a lot  — a tremendous amount — of power and not a whole lot of accountability,” Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said at a news conference on Friday.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • The Provincial Government has reached the next phase to establish an integrated ambulance service with a request for proposals (RFP) seeking a proponent to design, manage, and operate a single, integrated road and air ambulance service in the province. An integrated ambulance service was a key recommendation of Health Accord NL and will further modernize the province’s health care system.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services is moving ahead with a plan to build two urgent-care clinics on the province’s northeast Avalon Peninsula. A request for proposals posted Nov. 24 on Merx, the website the provincial government uses to issue calls for bids and tenders, calls for bids to build a clinic in the west end of St. John’s and a clinic in the east end. The deadline for proposals is Jan. 19. The province had expressed interest in building a single, large facility in the capital city to reduce pressure on emergency departments before. However, a previous request for proposals was cancelled because all the bids were significantly over budget.
  • The head of the union that represents registered nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador says the provincial government undermined public health care by hiring a private company to run an annual vaccination clinic at Confederation Building. Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland and Labrador, said Monday the clinic should have been operated by the provincial N.L. Health Services or retired nurses, who could have been used similarly to when they were brought out of retirement to help administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Nova Scotia

  • Seniors in and around Glace Bay in need of long-term care will have more access to modern spaces with the replacement and expansion of Seaview Manor. The new home will have an additional 31 rooms and provide care to 144 residents. It is expected to open in 2029. John White, MLA for Glace Bay-Dominion, on behalf of Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Barbara Adams, made the announcement today, December 8, at Seaview Manor.
  • Seniors in the Tatamagouche area in need of long-term care will have access to modern spaces with the replacement of Willow Lodge home for special care. The new 96-room facility, scheduled to open in 2031, will provide care to 35 more seniors living in the area. Each resident will have their own room and private washroom. Tom Taggart, MLA for Colchester North, on behalf of Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Barbara Adams, made the announcement today, December 6, at Willow Lodge.
  • More patients will see better communication around referrals with the addition of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound tests to the e-referral system. Patients who provide an email address receive automatic notifications when the referral is sent when an appointment is booked and if the referral is updated. The referring provider also receives the notifications. This system provides better tracking, review and coordination of referrals. Patients still choose where they receive care and receive better information on the status of their referral.
  • Seniors in the Sherbrooke area who need long-term care will have access to modern spaces with the replacement of the local nursing home. The new 48-room High-Crest Sherbrooke nursing home, scheduled to open in 2029, will provide care to an additional nine seniors. Each resident will have their own room and private washroom. Greg Morrow, Minister of Agriculture and MLA for Guysborough-Tracadie, on behalf of Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Barbara Adams, made the announcement today, December 5, at High-Crest Sherbrooke.
  • Seniors in the Annapolis Royal area will have more access to long-term care with the replacement and expansion of the Annapolis Royal Nursing Home. The new home will include about 96 rooms, about 30 more than the current facility. It is expected to open in 2032. Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Barbara Adams made the announcement today, December 5, at the Annapolis Royal Nursing Home.
  • A change to how the Province employs travel nurses will help create more stability in healthcare and long-term care in Nova Scotia. Premier Tim Houston announced today, December 4, that travel nurses working for Nova Scotia Health, IWK Health or a government-funded long-term care facility can only be hired for a maximum of 180 days. Effective December 15, the change applies to all government contracts for travel nurses. They must wait one year before they can be assigned to work as a travel nurse for these institutions again. They may choose to take a permanent assignment in Nova Scotia or continue to work as a travel nurse in another province.

New Brunswick

  • A framework meant to achieve greater accessibility has been tabled in the legislature. Achieving Greater Accessibility: New Brunswick’s Framework for Accessibility Legislation is a blueprint for the government to collaboratively create comprehensive accessibility legislation that would result in meaningful improvements for people with disabilities. “Our government strongly believes in creating a province that is accessible and ensuring that those living with a disability have timely and appropriate access to the support services they need,” said Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Arlene Dunn. “I am proud to table this framework, which will help make New Brunswick a leader in accessibility.”
  • Pension bill targeting school board, nursing home workers grants a pass to judges. Last week, Finance Minister Ernie Steeves introduced the Pension Plan Sustainability and Transfer Act to force five government “defined-benefit” pension plans serving school board and nursing home employees to switch to a “shared-risk” model. The existing defined-benefit plans offer pensioners guaranteed retirement amounts that the province has to pay for if pension funds are not sufficient to meet the obligations. Shared-risk plans limit the amount the government is responsible for when full retirement benefits and inflation protection of those benefits exceed a pension fund’s ability to fully pay for them.
  • The Department of Health has updated its guidance on garden produce and cannabis that may have been exposed to smoke from the massive fire at American Iron and Metal’s scrapyard three months ago in Saint John after four of 12 soil sampling sites showed “higher than expected levels of metals or chemicals.” But health officials don’t believe the elevated results are related to the AIM fire, according to Dr. Kimberly Barker, regional chief medical officer of health.

Prince Edward Island

  • Community health and social service organizations on PEI are now certified in The Brain Story, an in-depth course about the science of brain development. A core component of the Brain Story Certification is the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), or trauma in childhood and poor health outcomes. Evidence for program and policy interventions that build secure, stable relationships, enhance core life skills, and reduce sources of toxic stress has been shown to improve health outcomes for individuals, families and communities.
  • People struggling with mental health and addictions will soon move into a new affordable and safe apartment building in Alberton. The project is a partnership between the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) PEI and the Government of Prince Edward Island, which contributed a $2-million forgivable loan and $1.4 million over the next ten years for operating costs. 
  • Prince Edward Island’s biggest hospital declared a partial Code Orange Friday night “in response to several trauma patients being expected at the hospital.”
  • Health P.E.I. said more staff are being “activated” at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown “to increase hospital capacity in order to respond to the event.” The health agency didn’t say what prompted the alert, but said only people with urgent or critical issues should go to the hospital’s emergency department as long as the alert was in effect. All other patients were warned to expect long waits.   
  • When staff consultation began for a new Kings County Memorial Hospital, the conversations were expected to wrap up by July. But that process is headed into winter. Corinne Rowswell, the chief operating officer for Health P.E.I., said many groups still need to be consulted. “Those things take time and we’d rather get it [as] close to right as we can,” Rowswell said. A new Kings County Memorial Hospital was announced in the province’s 2021 capital budget, with $13.3 million set aside over five years for planning. Construction is expected to start in 2025.

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