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Premier Houston Offers Cash for Ideas to Fix Nova Scotia’s Healthcare System

Tim Houston solicits healthcare fixes for cash, Mark Holland comments on pharmacare, and the PMPRB announces the next steps in its guidelines consultation process. On that, and more, here is your Syntax Weekly Health Round-Up.

On the Hill

  • The House of Commons returned from its break week, with NDP members demanding that the government introduce legislation to implement a single-payer, universal public pharmacare program in Canada.
  • At the Standing Committee on Health, Members continued their consideration of Bill C-293, An Act respecting pandemic prevention and preparedness, where they heard from the Canadian Medical Association and World Animal Protection. The Committee will begin its clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-293 next week with the support of senior departmental officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Soon after, they will begin their study on women’s health with a meeting scheduled for November 6, where they will hear from departmental officials.
  • In a conversation with iPolitics, Health Minister Mark Holland confirmed that conversations on the long-awaited pharmacare legislation remain ongoing but clarified that what is to come is “framework legislation” that will pave the way for future steps on a possible program. Minister Holland reiterated that the federal government has limited fiscal capacity and it is necessary to be prudent on future health spending, adding that an important part of any pharmacare framework is the ability to continue driving cost savings through bulk purchasing.
  • In remarks delivered at the 2023 National Summit on Indigenous Mental Wellness, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks and Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu remarked on the work the federal government has undertaken to support distinction-based approaches to Indigenous mental health and wellness, including culturally appropriate services for addictions, trauma, suicide prevention, and life promotion and advancing trauma-informed and culturally safe approaches that are built by Indigenous communities for Indigenous communities. The Ministers also highlighted a number of initiatives to support Indigenous mental health, including the Hope for Wellness Helpline, the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, and the implementation of the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Around Government 

  • Health Minister Mark Holland announced investments of $26.6 million from the CIHR’s Transforming Health with Integrated Care (THINC) initiative to support 13 projects that will address high-priority healthcare challenges in Canada including improving rural and remote care, implementing sexual health services through pharmacies, and supporting better mental health for equity-deserving groups. THINC is comprised of a suite of funding opportunities that support health research projects, people, and teams and a coordinating hub that advances knowledge creation, capacity development (training), and knowledge mobilization in pursuit of healthcare that is coordinated and centered around people’s and distinct populations’ specific needs.
  • Minister Holland, on behalf of Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam, tabled Creating the Conditions for Resilient Communities: A Public Health Approach to Emergencies in Parliament. The report calls for parliamentarians to reset how they think about emergencies, including working on the foundational conditions that keep communities healthy and resilient to ensure we are better equipped to prevent, withstand, and recover from emergencies.
  • Minister Holland announced the appointment of Dr. Emily A. Reynen, an intensive care physician at the Quinte Health Care Belleville General Hospital, to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) for a five-year term. The PMPRB also announced the launch of the first phase of consultations on its new guidelines which explain the procedures used by staff at the PMPRB when monitoring the prices of patented medicines. The PMPRB is inviting stakeholders to participate in policy roundtables on December 5 (English) and December 6 (French), where the PMPRB is seeking views on the following themes contained in a scoping paper to be released ahead of the roundtables: Efficient Monitoring of Prices without Price Setting; Transition to PMPRB11 – New versus Existing Medicines; Price Reviews during Product Life Cycle; Investigations and Referral to Hearing; Relation to Pan-Canadian Health Partners, Insurers (Private and Public) and Alignment with Broader Government Initiatives; and Engaging with Patients, Health Practitioners, Pharmacy, and other Stakeholders. As a next step, the PMPRB will table a “what we heard” report following the sessions.

Around the Dominion

  • In an interesting move, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, who swept to power in 2021 with a promise to fix the healthcare system, issued a challenge to healthcare workers in Nova Scotia: share your easy-to-implement ideas to improve the system (at little to no cost) and you could win a $1,000 cash prize. The intent is to shortlist 20 of the ideas for consideration by a review panel. The government will then work with the health system to implement the top 10 ideas (as decided on in an anonymous vote by Nova Scotians).
  • Newly elected Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew released a slew of ministerial mandate letters, including one for the Minister of Health. At the top of the list for Minister Uzoma Asagwara include requirements to let frontline staff know that help is on the way and hire 400 doctors, 300 nurses (in Winnipeg), 200 paramedics, and 100 homecare workers, all over a period of five years. Minister Asagwara is also tasked with creating an independent seniors’ advocate and increasing the number of personal care home beds in the province. Minister Asagwara was quick to deliver on the first priority, issuing an open letter detailing the steps the government will take to improve life for health workers, including hiring more staff, ending mandatory overtime, holding management accountable, and providing more training opportunities and incentives to improve recruitment and relieve current staffing burdens.
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Jon Dugal

October 27 | 2023

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