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Delays to Expansion of MAID 

Minister Holland announces any expansion of MAID will be delayed until 2027, and Minister Saks faces testy exchanges at HESA. On that, and more, here is your Syntax Weekly Health Round-Up.

On the Hill

  • The House of Commons is on its holiday break until January 29, 2024.
  • Ahead of the return to business for the House of Commons, Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi was named as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health. Meanwhile, MP Élisabeth Brière (Sherbrooke) was announced as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, in addition to her role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
  • At the Standing Committee on Health (HESA), MPs welcomed Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Ya’ara Saks to testify as they continued their ongoing study of the opioid epidemic and toxic drug crisis. The meeting turned predictably testy on the charged political topic as opposition MPs tried to put the Minister on the spot for various policies on the matter, most notably the safe supply pilot program in B.C. Committee members also agreed this week to dedicate meetings scheduled for February 12 and 15 to their study of women’s health before returning to their study of the opioid epidemic later in the month.

Around Government 

  • Provincial and territorial Ministers wrote to Minister Holland, pressing him to indefinitely pause any expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAID), to which Holland responded that the government is not ready to expand eligibility to people whose only medical condition is a mental illness. This occurred as a report was released by the joint parliamentary committee on medical assistance in dying on Monday which suggested that fundamental issues around the expansion of MAID have not yet been resolved. Holland introduced legislation to delay until 2027 any consideration of an expansion of MAID to cover people with mental illness.
  • Minsiter Holland announced the appointments of Dr. Christine Fahim, Dr. Bernard Le Foll, and Dr. Caroline Tait as members to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Governing Council.

Around the Dominion

  • In New Brunswick, the government announced the launch of the MyHealthNB mobile phone app. Through the app, residents can view personal health information, such as test results, immunization records, laboratory results, diagnostic imaging reports, and dispensed medication data. Initially launched in April 2020 to allow people access to their COVID-19 test results, MyHealthNB has gradually expanded the services offered to residents.
  • In Ontario, the government announced total investments of over $6 million to improve access to pediatric services for children and youth in the Belleville, Kingston and the Thousand Islands, and Simcoe County regions. The funding will increase access to rehabilitation services and psychosocial supports and support the training of specialized pediatric health workers. Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones also announced the appointment of Dr. Catherine Zahn as the new chair of Ontario Health. Dr. Zahn will be stepping down as deputy minister for the Ministry of Health effective February 7 to take on the new role.
  • The Government of Manitoba announced increased funding to three successful programs that support youth across the province. The funding will support the province’s Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program, the Sources of Strength program, and the province’s health authorities will each receive funding to support mental health and well-being and suicide prevention.
  • The Government of Alberta announced sweeping changes to gender policies for children and youth, most notably including the prohibition of gender reassignment surgeries for minors aged 17 and under and the prohibition of the use of puberty blockers for the purpose of gender reassignment for children 15 years of age and under. The policy also dictates that parents must be notified and opt in to any instance when a teacher provides formal instruction on subject matter involving gender identity, sexual orientation, or human sexuality. The policy further dictates that transgender female athletes would not be eligible to compete in female-only divisions at sporting events.
  • As B.C. marked the one-year anniversary of its pilot project to decriminalize drugs, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s Public Health Officer, released a review of the province’s prescribed safer supply policy. Ultimately, Dr. Henry recommended that prescribed safer supply policies continue.
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