Canada Healthcare 2015-19

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CIHR Dementia Research Strategy

‘Canadians are clear’: Latest CMA polls show we want to manage our health online
By André Picard
(Globe & Mail) Canadians think their beloved, although struggling, health system needs a technological fix but worry that it could open the door to privatization and loss of privacy, according to a new poll commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association.
The survey shows that patients are particularly interested in virtual care – consulting health professionals online – and want everyday tasks such as booking appointments and consulting their medical records to be readily available online.
The survey shows that Canadians are unsure about the direction of the health system in the next decade, with respondents pretty well evenly split on whether care will improve, stay the same or worsen.
However, among the most optimistic, the principal reason for hope was technological innovation, with a large majority saying it will make providers more efficient and improve the health-care experience, and one in four saying it will lead to better health outcomes.
Currently, only about 1 per cent of patients in Canada report using virtual care or online patient portals, but there is significant enthusiasm for both.
Dr. Alexandra Greenhill, a Vancouver family physician who is also the chief executive officer of Careteam Technologies, said that the new survey is simply reinforcing what Canadians have being saying for years.
“Patients welcome virtual care, electronic access to records and everything else that allows them to be more active in their health management,” she said. “But we keep asking them the same questions instead of giving them answers.”
Next week in Toronto, the CMA is hosting a two-day Health Summit that will focus on the issue of connectedness, and how technologies such as virtual care, artificial intelligence and robotics could improve health delivery for patients and clinicians.

26 July
American demand threatens Canada’s drug supply, groups warn Ottawa
Concern over U.S. legislation that allows Americans to import cheaper medicines from Canada has prompted more than a dozen organizations to urge the federal government to safeguard the Canadian drug supply.
In a letter this week, the 15 groups representing patients, health professionals, hospitals, and pharmacists warn Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor of the potential for increasing drug shortages.
“The Canadian medicine supply is not sufficient to support both Canadian and U.S. consumers,” the letter states. “The supply simply does not, and will not, exist within Canada to meet such demands.”
Faced with voter anger over the steep and rising costs of drugs in the United States, several states – including Florida with the blessing of U.S. President Donald Trump – have passed laws allowing residents to import drugs from Canada.
In the letter to Ms. Petitpas Taylor, the groups say the legislation could exacerbate drug shortages that became an increasingly serious concern in the Canadian health-care system in recent years.

18 July
Health experts denounce Scheer’s comments on Canada’s Food Guide as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘disingenuous’
Health experts are denouncing Andrew Scheer’s comments on Canada’s Food Guide as “irresponsible” and “disingenuous,” accusing the Conservative Party Leader of ignoring scientific evidence in an attempt to win favour from the dairy industry.
At a meeting with the Dairy Farmers of Canada earlier this week, Mr. Scheer criticized the new Canada’s Food Guide, and pledged that, if elected, he would review recent changes including the reduced emphasis on meat and dairy.
“[The guide] seems to be ideologically driven by people who have a philosophical perspective and a bias against certain types of healthy food products,” he told the group of farmers and producers in Saskatoon. His comments echo the dairy lobby’s arguments, including a statement this week that the new guide “does not fully reflect the most recent and mounting scientific evidence.”

26 April
Cut adrift: B.C.’s tech sector sees government support dry up
In 2017, British Columbia was poised to be a world leader in the tech sector. But Ray Walia, co-founder of the Launch Academy, a privately funded startup incubator in Vancouver, said the province hasn’t nurtured growth because there isn’t the same public funding other jurisdictions offer to build the foundations needed to grow the sector in the current, competitive climate.
(Globe & Mail) …the Cube, a business incubator for startup companies specializing in computer-generated simulated environments. And like everyone else in the studio, it is about to lose the support that has helped it get ready to grow.
The BC Tech Association says it is shutting down the Cube in May, blaming the B.C. government’s decision not to pitch in with Ottawa to fund it. Meantime, this month, Ontario’s high-tech association celebrated a $52-million investment from the federal government with another $41-million promised.
In the fall of 2017, B.C.’s Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston cut a virtual ribbon at the grand opening of the Cube. The provincial government was keen to secure B.C.’s status as a global leader in augmented-, virtual- and mixed-reality technology, by helping these startups grow with studio space tailored to their industry, along with the human connections that are key to innovation.
The province’s tech industry employs more than 114,000 people and generates nearly $15.7-billion for the B.C. economy. That is more than double the number of jobs in the mining, forestry, fishing and oil and gas sectors combined.
But even as the tenants were moving into the new studio space, cracks were starting to appear in the province’s tech sector. In 2017, some of the biggest success stories – Hootsuite, BuildDirect and – were in various stages of contraction.
B.C. tech leaders say since 2017, Ontario has muscled its way into leading tech growth in Canada, while provinces such as Alberta are aggressively wooing the sector.
The federal investment promises a significant payback for Ontario: It is expected to launch 30 new companies worth $100-million or more in revenues in the next five years, creating 18,000 skilled jobs.
At the same time that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Kitchener, Ont., announcing his government’s investment in the Scale-Up Platform, the BC Tech Association made the difficult decision to shut down the Cube, putting 20 tenant companies on the street by the middle of May.
Alexandra Greenhill is the head of Careteam, which offers a digital health platform to co-ordinate complex medical care.
Her company was a recent tenant in the BC Tech Hub and is now, she hopes, on its way to commercial success, with major health clients now in B.C. and Ontario. In less than three years, the company has developed a functional product and revenue. She says that’s thanks to programs she was able to tap into – incubators that foster startups and accelerators that help small companies grow – that provided expertise in aspects of the business that are outside of her experience as a physician.


20 August
Why these patients, retailers and researchers say Canada shouldn’t drop medical cannabis post-legalization
CMA says doctors won’t be needed in ‘gatekeeper’ role, while others say expert oversight still required
Karey Shuhendler, who is with the Canadian Nurses Association, said medical cannabis can vary greatly from its recreational counterpart, with a higher concentration of cannabidiol, which does not produce a high or intoxication, and a lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which does. …
“Protecting a medical stream helps to ensure that there’s going to be product produced for medical purposes, and that access to those products won’t be minimized and swayed toward a more commercially driven product demand.”
Without a separate medical system, she worries patients won’t choose to talk about using marijuana with their physician.
“Without that kind of clinical oversight, really, our perspective as an organization is that we’re leaving patients to essentially self-medicate and figure it out on their own,” she said.
If the two systems are kept separate — which Health Canada has said will be the case following legalization — the association recommended in a 2017 submission a review of the legislation should be conducted within five years. Health Canada’s website says that will take place.

19 August
Gigi Osler takes over as president of Canadian Medical Association – great-great-great niece of legendary physician and past CMA president
Sir William Osler is commonly known as the father of modern medicine. When the legendary physician was president of the Canadian Medical Association in 1884, the profession was almost exclusively male and white.
Now, almost 135 years later, his great-great-great niece, Flordeliz (Gigi) Osler, is poised to become the president of the CMA and she, and the profession, could not be more different. … Dr. Osler, a Winnipeg native, is the child of immigrant parents; her father was a physician from India, and her mother a nurse from the Philippines. “So I have to qualify that I’m a relative by marriage, but I still wear the Osler name proudly.”

15 July
Taxes will rise if Canadians want national pharmacare, says former budget watchdog
(CBC) Former federal budget watchdog Kevin Page will deliver a blunt message to premiers this week about the costs of a future national pharmacare program: If Canadians want one, taxes will have to go up.
Page, who now heads a University of Ottawa think-tank, will walk through the numbers Friday when he gives a presentation to the provincial and territorial leaders on what lawmakers should know about creating a cross-country, publicly funded plan for prescription drugs.

25 May
MUHC superhospital lacks a pharmacy, three years after being built
More than three years after it opened, the superhospital of the McGill University Health Centre still does not have a pharmacy on site for patients and parents — a source of frustration for those who need to have prescriptions filled immediately after medical appointments. Although the MUHC reserved a space in the basement of the Glen site to sub-lease to a commercial pharmacy, the hospital network decided to postpone the plan because the space is located close to a pedestrian tunnel under construction linking the superhospital to the Vendôme métro station. Adding to the MUHC’s predicament, the hospital network has been paying rent to a private consortium for the empty space. In fact, the MUHC has so far paid nearly $1 million in rent for two mostly empty spaces to the McGill Infrastructure Health Group, the consortium led by engineering firm SNC-Lavalin that built the superhospital and is leasing it back to the provincial government. The MUHC has been renting four spaces of more than 8,600 square feet from the consortium at an annual cost of $537,464. The inability to sub-lease two spaces has added to the MUHC’s accumulated deficits, which in turn, have compelled the hospital network to make budget cuts eliminating the cancer survivorship program, among other services.
The Journal de Montréal first reported the costly lease payments last week, prompting the MUHC’s patient-rights group to demand to know why one of the empty spaces hasn’t been rented out yet to a pharmacy.

18 April
All-party parliamentary committee calls for ‘universal single-payer’ pharmacare plan
Conservatives want further study to clear up discrepancies on estimated cost
(CBC) A parliamentary committee has delivered its report on pharmacare, and it’s recommending an expansion of the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs dispensed outside of hospital settings.
“Such an approach would … ensure that all Canadians have equitable and affordable access to life-saving prescription drugs. In short, it will save money and lives,” said the report.
The all-party committee of members of Parliament looked at two possible options for pharmacare. The first was a universal single-payer public prescription drug plan — which it settled on as its recommendation.

28 February
Pharmacare won’t be free for all Canadians, Bill Morneau says
Finance minister hints ‘fiscally responsible’ plan won’t be universal

25 January
MUHC’s new brain stimulation study hopes to help Alzheimer’s patients
(CTV) The MUHC is one of only three worldwide sites – and the only one in Quebec – recruiting participants with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s patients to undergo the treatment.
In the 20-minute, non-invasive session, the metal coil around the patient’s head creates a magnetic field that produces electric currents inside the brain, which fires up neuron activity, the MUHC researchers explained.
The goal is to increase activity in the frontal lobe and parts of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s, hopefully to improve patients’ thinking and memory.

23 January
Canadian brain bank network to advance research on Alzheimer’s disease
(Canadian Institutes of Health Research) Researchers receive total of $2.5 million to establish coordinated system for brain donation and to participate in international dementia research projects
More than 400,000 Canadians aged 65 and over live with diagnosed dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for approximately 70 percent of cases. The cause of this degenerative brain disease is largely unknown and no effective treatment exists. The disease has a devastating effect on individuals and their families.
To advance our understanding of dementia and contribute to the search for new treatments, Mr. Anthony Housefather, Member of Parliament for Mont Royal, today announced, on behalf of the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, an investment of $2.5 million from the Government of Canada for dementia research.
The funding includes $1 million to establish a Canadian brain bank network that will be linked to the international Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). The Canadian ADNI BraIn bank Network, or CABIN, will provide the personnel and physical infrastructure needed to contribute to the ADNI program and more broadly support brain donation and tissue banking for dementia research programs in Canada. The funding also includes $1.5 million for three international projects involving Canadian and European researchers funded under the European Union’s Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Diseases.
This research was all funded under the international component of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Dementia Research Strategy. The recipients of the funding include researchers at McGill University, the Jewish General Hospital, University of British Columbia, and the University of Ottawa, and Quebec’s Institut national de la recherche scientifique.
The Government of Canada is currently developing a national dementia strategy that will be evidence-based and build on the innovative work already underway across the country.

13 January
After Trump Tax Break Pfizer Ends Funding For Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Research And Gives Billions to Investors
(Newsweek) in a bombshell decision that hampers hopes of a treatment or cure for the most expensive disease in America, Pfizer announced this week that it would end all research and development efforts into new drugs and treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The world’s third largest pharmaceutical company released a statement saying that as “a result of a recent comprehensive review” it would lay off nearly 300 scientists and end its “neuroscience discovery and early development efforts.”
Pfizer worldwide research and development president, Mikael Dolsten, wrote that after years of research and investment, “we recognized our ongoing efforts were not going to deliver the impactful medical advances for patients that we had aspired to achieve.” He promised that Pfizer would set up a venture fund to, “seek out investment opportunities in biotech companies that are conducting promising neuroscience research.” The investment fund has yet to be created and its details are still unclear.
1 January
Ministerial Message – Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – January 2018
More than 400,000 Canadians aged 65 and older have been diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why our government works with the provinces and territories as well as stakeholders in areas such as research, surveillance and innovation to improve the quality of life for those living with all types of dementia.
The Government of Canada is leading the development of a national dementia strategy that is inclusive of all stakeholders and builds on the innovative work already underway across the country. This includes creating an advisory board to advise me on the health care needs and gaps for people living with dementia and to provide valuable input into the development of the national dementia strategy. Also, I am pleased that the Government will be hosting a national conference in the spring that will bring together a broad range of stakeholders and partners from across the country to facilitate effective and inclusive conversations about the national strategy.


16 February
André Picard: The real challenge to Canada’s health system is not wait times
Canada has some of the longest waits for medical care in the developed world. Same-day or next-day appointments with a doctor are difficult to get – and in the evening or on weekends, fuggedaboutit. Waits in the ER can be seemingly endless. Referrals to specialists result in lengthy waits. The wait for elective surgery is often painfully long.
These badges of shame are laid bare once again in a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Worse yet, the CIHI data barely scratch the surface. The wait to see a doctor in the ER may stretch for hours, but if you need to be admitted to hospital, it can jump to days. The wait for home care services often stretches for months, and a patient needing a long-term care bed can languish in limbo for years.
Canada’s health-care system suffers from what experts call “code gridlock” – provision of care moves at a glacial rhythm because of clogs in the system.
Long-term care and nursing home beds are full. Home care hours are limited. As a result, thousands of patients who no longer need care can’t leave hospital, a reality so common we have an Orwellian term for it – alternate level of care. Because these patients are not discharged and beds are scarce, elective surgeries are cancelled, and those waiting for admission spend days on gurneys in the ER. The congestion this causes means that ambulances sometimes can’t off-load patients. Providing care to those in hallways slows provision of care to those in the waiting room. And many of the patients in the waiting room are there because they are unable to see their doctor promptly.
The solution to problems like waiting times is not always to do more of the same. For example, the CIHI report notes that Canada relies on doctors to provide care more than any other country; in other words, we underuse nurse practitioners, occupational therapists and the like.
More than anything else though, what Canada needs to fix its systemic health-care woes is to create a semblance of a system.
What distinguishes the countries that have markedly better results than Canada – like the Netherlands and the Nordic countries – is the cohesiveness of the system, and the emphasis on primary care.
Every Dutch citizen must register with a general practitioner, who acts as navigator and gatekeeper for the system. Furthermore, the roles and responsibilities of all the key players in the system – practitioners, insurers and government – are clearly defined, and complementary. Better still, politicians do very little micromanaging of the health system because that is not tolerated. In the Nordic countries, in addition, there is a particular emphasis on the socio-economic determinants of health, in tackling inequality, but spending more on education and social welfare, and less on health, with impressive results.


18 November
Why Canada’s assisted dying law is confusing doctors—and patients
Canada’s Justice Minister says the law provides ‘maximum flexibility’ to health-care professionals who assess patients. But doctors are unclear on who qualifies for assisted dying.
(Maclean’s) From the time it was introduced last spring, one of the most contentious aspects of the federal government’s assisted dying legislation was the requirement that in order to get a doctor’s help to end their lives, a patient must not only be suffering from a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition, but their natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable.” Critics of that clause argued it was unconstitutional, because the Supreme Court decision that struck down the ban on assisted dying did not limit it to those already near death. Julia Lamb, a 25-year-old British Columbia woman with a muscle-wasting disease, has already launched a court challenge to the law on those grounds.
In a backgrounder on Bill C-14, the Justice department noted that the legislation does not limit assisted death to people dying within a given timeframe, such as six months, but it does “require a natural death to be foreseeable in a period of time that is not too remote.”
Now, five months after the law came into effect, there is enduring confusion—among patients, their families and the doctors handed responsibility for assessing who qualifies—about what exactly that means and who meets that bar.

28 September
Provinces push for more federal health spending as senior population grows
(Globe & Mail) Provinces with older-than-average populations are pushing Ottawa to boost health transfers based on demographics as part of a new national health accord.
But provinces and territories are also expressing increased frustration with the federal Liberals over an apparent unwillingness to discuss increased federal spending on health.
Preparing for a rise in health-care costs as baby boomers retire is shaping up as a key point of contention as federal Health Minister Jane Philpott prepares for an Oct. 18 meeting with the provinces and territories on health-care reform.

28 August
Premiers send Trudeau letter demanding meeting on health care
In lieu of meeting, provincial leaders say federal government should extend increased health transfers

Report of the Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation
Canadians working at all levels of healthcare observed that innovations of proven worth were not being scaled up and spread across the nation. For their part, entrepreneurs asked why it was harder to penetrate the Canadian healthcare market than to sell their ideas, products, and services abroad. While the Panel did hear complaints about the levels of funding available for healthcare, a surprising number of stakeholders echoed the growing public sentiment that a lack of operating dollars was not the primary problem.
On the positive side, as already indicated, there was an extraordinary consistency of resolve that real change in healthcare was greatly overdue. Front-line healthcare leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders across the country were utterly consistent in this regard. While no one offered up a simple recipe for an excellent healthcare system, many themes recurred. (July 2015)
Universal drug plan would save billions, UBC researchers say
Government plan could save billions of dollars while keeping drug costs affordable, study suggests
Canada is the only developed country with universal health insurance coverage that does not also offer universal prescription drug benefits. (March 2015)

28 August
B.C. seniors build a new way to age in place
(CBC) It started with a meeting in 2010. Five years and twelve million dollars later, 44 people, from their late 40s to their 90s, moved into Harbourside Seniors Co-housing last winter.
Among them, a retired school bus driver, a mountain guide, a teacher, a hard-living old American DJ, a bunch of nurses, a biochemist-turned-potter, and — vital to any social experiment — an anthropologist.
Five years ago they didn’t know each other. Now, they are a tribe – neighbours prepared to live together and look after each other, with any luck, till the end of their days.


13 October
André Picard: Nobel-worthy drugs, virtually unseen in Canada
Why are ivermectin and artemisinin, drugs that are on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, not readily available in Canada – at least for humans? (Ivermectin is widely prescribed by veterinarians to treat parasitic worms in pets and farm animals. Some savvy consumers even use their dogs’ medicine to treat their kids’ head lice.)
The simple – and absurd – reason is that it is not worth the drug maker’s time, effort and expense to have these world-beating drugs approved for sale in a market as small as Canada.
What these examples tell us is that the drug regulator, Health Canada, needs to be more flexible and less bureaucratic. There is no reason that these drugs, which have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and have been used safely on millions of people, cannot be rubber-stamped and made available to Canadian patients in need.
These neglected, Nobel-winning drugs also remind us that Canada doesn’t have a coherent policy on how to approve and fund so-called orphan drugs (those used for rare conditions, and for which there is a desperate need but no profitable market). The federal government unveiled an Orphan Drug Framework in 2012, but still hasn’t implemented it.
Finally, that we actually need ivermectin and artemisinin in Canadian health practices is a sobering reminder that the world is getting smaller, and that tropical diseases are not just in the tropics.
12 October
Canada Needs a National Dementia Strategy
Mimi Lowi-Young, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
(HuffPost) Our Beyond the Ballot series is deep diving into three major problems facing Canadians: climate change, housing insecurity, and elder care.
Statistics Canada recently released new data which, for the first time in Canadian history, shows that seniors outnumber children aged 14 and under.
Dementia is not only a costly disease that will continue to cut a deep swath across our country, but its causes continue to baffle researchers despite scientific advances. No new drug for treating dementia has been approved in 12 years and a cure seems years away.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), of which Canada is a member, has just adopted a Regional Plan of Action to curb the impact of dementia that affects 9.4 million people in the Americas today and is expected to grow to almost 30 million people by 2050. PAHO says that national dementia plans are “the single most powerful tool” to transform national dementia care and support and prepare for the rising numbers.
That’s what Canada needs: a pan-Canadian response. While each province and territory provides dementia treatment and support services, more can be done under the framework of a national dementia strategy. Other member countries of PAHO — including Argentina, Mexico and the U.S. — have implemented national strategies.
6 October
Doctors, health advocates and the provinces fear that caring for Canada’s aging population will be a big challenge in the years to come. What are the major parties’ prescriptions for change? Here’s a primer
Canada is the only developed country that has universal health insurance without universal prescription drug coverage.
As of July 1, 2015, Canada had more seniors than children aged 14 or under.
Legal, physician-assisted suicide is supported by 77 per cent of Canadians, according to a recent Forum Research poll.
When medicare was introduced in 1957, Ottawa paid for half of the provinces’ health-care costs. That’s decreased over the decades, and now it’s only about 20 per cent.
5 October
Why the TPP is such a big—and good—deal for Canada
(Maclean’s) … one will also no doubt hear that TPP will increase drug costs. This is false, but there was indeed the potential that this could have been true. One of the main sticking points, primarily between Australia and the United States, was the length of monopoly status afforded to prescription drug companies when they bring out a new drug. For a drug to receive government approval, it must submit a large quantity of data. This data is useful to competitors, such as generic drug companies, when they produce competing drugs. So-called “data protection periods” prevent these competitors from using the original data. (A great Bookings Institute backgrounder on Prescription Drugs and the TPP is here.)
In the United States, this period is 12 years. In Canada, it is 8. In Australia, it is only 5. The US wanted longer periods, while most other countries wanted shorter. The longer the period, the longer the monopoly status of the original drug manufacturer, the longer the drug’s price remains high, and so on. There are some who label the exclusivity periods the “Death Sentence Clause.” That is a little over the top, but it would have certainly increased healthcare costs.
What does TPP do? The countries agreed on a five-year period, as Australia was demanding. As Canada already has a longer period than this, the TPP doesn’t change much at all from our perspective.
23 September
Drug price regulations need overhaul to protect consumers, experts say

System to ensure Canadians don’t overpay for pharmaceuticals no longer works in today’s market
Critics railed this week against the drastic price jumps of two medications. The price of cycloserine, used to treat a rare and dangerous form of tuberculosis, went up by 2,000 per cent overnight after its rights were sold to a for-profit company. Daraprim, a drug for certain patients with compromised immune systems, soared by 5,000 per cent.
Experts say both drugs are good examples of a crack in Canada’s drug price regulations.
Neither is usually available in Canada, but they, and other drugs, can be imported through a special federal program.
The Special Access Programme (SAP) lets in drugs that are not approved for sale in Canada when there is a special medical request to give them to specific patients with serious or life-threatening conditions, “when conventional therapies have failed, are unsuitable, or unavailable,” according to Health Canada’s website.
But drugs imported under the SAP are not subject to any of Ottawa’s usual price controls.
7 September
MUHC launches action plan to fix blocked sewage drains at superhospital
“Since the opening of the Glen site’s facilities (in April), a high volume of ‘code flood’ calls have occurred,” [the executive director of the McGill University Health Centre] Normand Rinfret said in his first statement on the flooding of sewage water in patient rooms and hallways, including in the birthing centre and the breast clinic.
“This situation has been not only a source of concern for everyone in our community but also disruptive for our staff and health-care professionals.”
Although SNC-Lavalin has blamed part of the problem on visitors, staff and patients flushing dressings and tampons down toilets, sources say that during some unclogging of pipes cement and construction material have come up.
26 August
Raw sewage backups at MUHC superhospital test relations with SNC-Lavalin
Black sewer water that “smells worse than rotten fish” is backing up drains and pooling in patient bathrooms at the new Montreal Children’s Hospital, angering staff who say the problem is widespread and keeps popping up despite the fact that plumbers are called in regularly to snake the drains.
The plumbing problems are the latest in a series of glitches — as many as 14,000 — that continue to plague the $1.3-billion superhospital of the McGill University Health Centre, and are sorely testing relations between the MUHC and design-build contractor SNC-Lavalin.
The superhospital was built as a public-private partnership, with the Quebec engineering firm acting as the lead partner in a private consortium that is the landlord of the property. Unlike the Old Montreal Children’s where the MUHC could do what it wanted with the building as the sole owner, SNC-Lavalin is responsible for maintaining the superhospital and fixing plumbing, electrical and other problems.
But the MUHC has been at loggerheads with SNC-Lavalin over a wide range of “deficiencies” — from faulty wiring to leaking ceilings — since before the superhospital opened at the Glen site in the spring. The public-private partnership was supposed to transfer the risk of any cost overruns from the public sector to the private partner, but SNC-Lavalin is nonetheless seeking more than $172 million in “extras” from the MUHC over the construction.
13 August
Cuts to MD/PhD funding greeted with ‘horror’ by medical scientists
Federal funding cuts threaten ‘endangered species’ of physician-scientist
Canada’s medical research community is reacting with shock and disappointment to the cancellation of a 30-year program to train doctors who see patients and work as scientists searching for new treatments.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is the federal government’s major health science research organization. Its MD/PhD program was launched in the 1980s out of concern over the lack of specialists who could move easily between the lab and hospital. … Cancelling the program will save about $1.8 million a year. The concern is that without a replacement program Canada will lose critical expertise and leadership.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research invests $1.2 billion a year from Ottawa to support the training of health researchers. Funding under the MD/PhD program will continue for the next six years until 2021, a spokesman said in an email.
28 July
Quebec orders hospitals to cut $150 million in direct care to patients
The Quebec government is ordering hospitals and other health facilities to slash $150 million from their budgets for medical tests, imaging scans and procedures to patients that it has judged are not “pertinent to care,” the Montreal Gazette has learned.
In total, the Health Department is aiming to chop $583 million in spending through so-called optimization measures. And in a bizarre twist, the government has decided that it won’t provide hospitals funding for next year’s leap year day, Feb. 29, which will fall on a Monday, saving it $64 million.
It’s up to hospitals to cover the shortfall on that day out of their own already diminished budgets.
One of the biggest cutbacks will take place at the McGill University Health Centre, which last year was forced to cut $50 million from its operating budget. It must now reduce its spending by an extra $21 million.
25 July
New superhospital ER overcrowded while occupancy rate drops at other hospitals
In the past six weeks, the average daily volume of patients has jumped by at least 20 per cent in the ER at the Glen Site of the McGill University Health Centre, compared with the emergency department at the old Royal Victoria Hospital. The ER on University St. closed on April 26 and the new one opened the same day at the Glen location in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
The MUHC has responded to the higher volume by setting up a “rapid response team,” but some patients have complained of waiting for hours to be seen, while others whose cases are more urgent are stuck in the new ER receiving treatment for more than 24 hours because no beds on other floors are available for them to be admitted.
The Jewish General encountered a similar rush of patients after it inaugurated its expanded ER early last year, especially after it promised patients would be seen by physicians within 20 minutes. The ER volume quickly tripled, and the hospital was compelled to drop the 20-minute promise.
Meanwhile, the pediatric ER in the new home of the Montreal Children’s is busy, but not overcrowded. But some parents have complained about having to wait for hours in the new Children’s ER — especially at night — and having to leave in frustration before being seen by a doctor.
11 July
“Big Data” study discovers earliest sign of Alzheimer’s development
Research underlines importance of computational power in future neurological breakthrough
(Montreal Neuro) Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital have used a powerful tool to better understand the progression of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD), identifying its first physiological signs.
Led by Dr. Alan Evans, a professor of neurology, neurosurgery and biomedical engineering at the Neuro, the researchers analyzed more than 7,700 brain images from 1,171 people in various stages of Alzheimer’s progression using a variety of techniques including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Blood and cerebrospinal fluid were also analyzed, as well as the subjects’ level of cognition.
The researchers found that, contrary to previous understanding, the first physiological sign of Alzheimer’s disease is a decrease in blood flow in the brain. An increase in amyloid protein was considered to be the first detectable sign of Alzheimer’s. While amyloid certainly plays a role, this study finds that changes in blood flow are the earliest known warning sign of Alzheimer’s. The study also found that changes in cognition begin earlier in the progression than previously believed.
Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is an incredibly complex disease but an equally important one to understand. It is not caused by any one neurological mechanism but is a result of several associated mechanisms in the brain. LOAD is the most common cause of human dementia and an understanding of the interactions between its various mechanisms is important to develop treatments.
7 July
Jacques Turgeon quits the CHUM for good
More turmoil at the CHUM this summer as the French-language university health complex finds itself without an executive director once again, with the news on Tuesday that Jacques Turgeon is leaving his position — for the second time in four months.
5 July
La Marche de la dignité
Comme rien ne s’améliore dans les conditions de vie des personnes qui vivent en CHSLD et en résidences privées, j’ai décidé d’organiser une marche. Cette manifestation aura pour but premier de dénoncer les conditions de vie indignes et irrespectueuses offertes dans certaines institutions où le budget passe avant l’être humain et ses besoins. The cost of health cuts: Orderly can’t answer every call
Orderly Jean Bottari starts his evening shift by distributing nightgowns on his ward at a Montreal rehabilitation centre. He has 22 patients in his care and before he’s said “hello” to a quarter of them, he’s being summoned by multiple alarm bells.
22 June
André Picard: In pursuit of ‘superhospitals,’ the public interest came last
On the weekend, the McGill University Health Centre celebrated the inauguration of its “Glen site,” a spanking new 500-bed hospital.
Normand Rinfret, president and chief executive of the MUHC, hailed the facility as a “shining icon for Montreal, for Quebec and for Canada.” He also thanked those who envisaged, designed, planned and managed the project and carried out the construction – and he did so with a straight face.
As hospitals go, it’s nice, especially compared with the decrepit, crumbling institutions it’s replacing, but it’s hardly iconic. It also comes with a whole of lot of baggage that can’t be conveniently overlooked.
The MUHC saga is a shameful example of the worst of petty politics and spineless policy-making, a two-decade-long debacle featuring corruption, bribery, petty politics and incompetence on a scale rarely seen in Canada.
Walk to celebrate MUHCSo, everyone paid $5 to walk to the MUHC and enjoy a fiesta while the PPP is charging the volunteer organizations who raise money for the hospital $60K p/a rent? And parking fees are almost $50 per day? I think there is something VERY wrong with this picture.

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