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Friday, October 30, 2009

What's in the news: Oct. 30 -- Some MPs decline the H1N1 flu vaccine

Some MPs decline the H1N1 flu vaccine
The Hill Times has compiled a list of Members of Parliament who have stated they will not receive the H1N1 flu vaccine: "NDP MP Denis Bevington, Conservative MP Terence Young [the author of the 2007 book Death by Prescription: A Father Takes on His Daughter's Killer], NDP MP Don Davies, Conservative MP Brian Jean."

Mr Davies told the newspaper, "I've never had a flu shot in my life. I'm 46 and I've never had any difficulties. In my time I've seen five separate pandemic scares that have come from legionnaires' disease in the 1970s, to other swine flues, and I generally think that they tend to be overstated, the fears."

"I'm still thinking about whether or not this is a good thing for me," said NDPer Carol Hughes, a member of the Standing Committee on Health. [The Hill Times]

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier has also said he will not be getting the shot. [CBC News: Inside Politics blog]

It's obviously a matter of personal choice, and I don't think anyone would suggest that MPs should be required to receive flu shots, but maybe they should keep quiet about it if they're not going be immunized, especially at a time when public health officials are trying to convince Canadians the shot is safe and important?

More H1N1 flu news
Staff and patients have been infected by an outbreak of the H1N1 flu at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto [CBC News] as well as Bridgepoint Hospital. [Globe and Mail] The flu has also hit McGill University's residences. [CBC News]

The Canadian Medical Association is pleading with business owners to follow the government's lead by not asking employees to get sick notes from their doctors to demonstrate that they're unfit to come in to the office. [CMA news release]

mdBriefCase is offering an online CME course for Canadian doctors on the H1N1 flu. [mdBriefCase news release]

Another new online course for health workers, this one offered by Mount Sinai Hospital psychiatrists and nurses, called the Pandemic Influenza Stress Vaccine, instructs on how to manage the anxiety brought on by this wild and crazy flu season. [Pandemic Influenza Stress Vaccine course] [CBC News]

A Nova Scotia doctor who is obviously taking the H1N1 flu more seriously than some of our esteemed Members of Parliament, told an entire family to quarantine themselves. [Halifax Chronicle-Herald]

Did Quebec receive its fair share of H1N1 flu vaccines? The PQ, despite the Liberal health minister's claims otherwise, says no. [La Presse]

Experts from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommend the seasonal flu shot still be given to at-risk patients. [Canada Communicable Disease Report, Public Health Agency of Canada]

A Maclean's reporter tracked down a teenager who drinks alcohol-based hand sanitizing gel to get drunk. "The best way to drink hand sanitizer is straight, like whisky, and down it 'like a shot,' explains Tyler, a Grade 10 student who lives in Toronto. Undiluted, the alcohol-based liquid tastes a little like 'vodka and bug spray,' he adds." [Maclean's]

PEI's health minister is annoyed that the College of Family Physicians of Canada scheduled its annual conference during the beginning of the H1N1 flu's arrival this fall because 25 Islander doctors have headed off to Alberta to take part, leaving the province severely depleted of physicians. [Charlottetown Guardian]

And now for the portion of this missive reserved for non-H1N1-flu-related news...
The Canadian Paediatric Society is likely to recommend kids under the age of two not watch television at all, mimicking the American recommendations that have been in place for years. [Ottawa Citizen]

A Q&A with BCMA president Dr Brian Brodie appears in the current issue of the BC Medical Journal. The cover of the current issue has a photo of Dr Brodie astride a horse, in front of a bunch of sheep. He describes a typical day, which involves feeding his poultry and livestock before going to the hospital, and he says, "I'm not interested in wealth —- in fact everything I've read says inherited wealth isn’t good. So the goal is not to leave my kids money or to leave that kind of a legacy. I'd like to give the money away to help others who haven’t had opportunities." [BC Medical Journal] Vancouver Sun health reporter Pamela Fayerman notes that Dr Brodie earned a whopping $529,491 from his family practice alone in the last year for which statistics are available -- "perhaps the highest figure I've ever seen for a family doctor," writes Ms Fayerman. And that doesn't include his farming and real-estate ventures. [Vancouver Sun, Medicine Matters blog]

The College of Family Physicians of Canada named its family physicians of the year for 2009. [CFPC news release (PDF)]

Air Canada has applied for judicial review in the case of Henry Coopersmith. Listen to CBC Radio's Dr Brian Goldman discuss the case on the "White Coat, Black Art" episode originally broadcast on October 17. [CBC Radio's "White Coat, Black Art"] Read more about the case on Canadian Medicine.

Six out of ten provinces saw wait times drop over the past year, according to a new Fraser Institute report. [Fraser Institute news release] [Waiting Your Turn report (PDF)]

Toronto sports medicine specialist Dr Tony Galea had his office raided by the RCMP and is now charged with importing and selling illegal drugs. Dr Galea said the charges stem from a misunderstanding about his use of unlicensed homeopathic medications from Germany that he gives to athletes only with their informed permission. [Globe and Mail]

There's talk that outspoken Quebec MNA and ADQ health critic Eric Caire may leave the party after not being offered the position he wanted following his incredibly close loss in the party's leadership race. [La Presse]

Image: McNally Robinson

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's in the news: Oct. 28 -- Dal med school on probation: accreditation body

Dalhousie med school on probation
Dalhousie's medical school is on probation after it failed to attain accreditation from an American auditing body. The school (left) was marked non-compliant in 17 of 132 areas initially but managed to get seven of those overturned. The probation lasts up to two years, but the school is still accredited in the meantime. [Dalhousie Medical School news release] "It's a reputational black mark," Dr Tom Marrie, the school's dean, told the Canadian Medical Association Journal. "The program is still a good program. It’s still accredited." [CMAJ] [Saint John Telegraph-Journal]

H1N1 flu vaccination campaign launch marred by logistics troubles
This week is the first full week of H1N1-flu vaccination in Canada and already there have been problems. Montrealers were supposed to receive doses on Monday but logistical problems for patients and doctors alike caused a minimum one-day delay. The Gazette called Monday a "confusing non-start" but health officials said the problems were just a hiccup. [Montreal Gazette] In Calgary, Monday's vaccine roll-out was marred by similarly frustrating planning, and patients eager to get immunized left long lines without getting the shot. Alberta health minister Ron Liepert absolved himself of responsibility for the difficulties, placing it entirely on his public health staffers. [Calgary Sun] In Ontario, some patients waited as long as three hours to be immunized. [Toronto Star]

MORE NEWS FROM ACROSS CANADA
This year's Chalk River nuclear power plant shutdown, which put a strain on hospitals' supplies of radioisotopes used in diagnostic imaging exams, will delay diagnoses, Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine president Dr Jean-Luc Urbain told Members of Parliament. "We are not necessarily going to see the effect of the shortage of isotopes today, but we'll see it six months down the road, a year down the road, two years down the road," he said. [Edmonton Sun]

New Brunswick will review 30,000 radiology reports prepared by Dr Bhagwan Jain, who is suspected of having made an unacceptably high number of errors. [CBC News]

Alberta introduced its new pharmaceutical strategy, slashing generic drug prices and promising new fees for pharmacists to make up for the lost income. [Edmonton Journal]

Saskatchewan's Tony Dagnone presented his findings as commissioner of the province's Patients First Review, with a list of recommendations for the government on ways to improve care from the patient's perspective. [Patients First Review report] [Regina Leader-Post] [Saskatoon StarPhoenix]

Taser International, the manufacturer of the controversial stun guns, issued a warning not to fire its weapons at people's chests. In addition to making the use of the weapon safer, the company's bulletin said, the new policy will enhance "the ability to defend such cases in post event legal proceedings." [Taser International safety bulletin (PDF)] [CBC News] The RCMP has already begun to change its policies in accordance with the company's counsel. [CBC News]

The federal government should include healthcare facilities in its stimulus spending, Canadian Medical Association president-elect Dr Anne Doig said, calling the decision not to do so "shameful." "The federal government has chosen not to invest these funds in health facilities, and this is inexplicable," said Dr. Doig. [CMA News]

The CMA launched a new website, ephysicianhealth.com, to aid doctors with addictions and other personal problems. [CMA News]

A Toronto hospital clerk was fired for turning away an uninsured immigrant seven-year-old who was bleeding from a head wound. [Toronto Star]

Prescription opiate abuse is on the rise in British Columbia, according to a new study from UBC. [Canadian Press]

Supervised crack-smoking sites are needed to protect users' health, said BC's public health chief.
[Globe and Mail] [National Post]

The McGill University Health Centre hospital network is now giving out free gym memberships to its breast cancer patients, based on evidence that physical activity is associated with higher cancer survival rates. McGill University researchers will follow the women given gym memberships to add to the medical literature on the subject [MUHC news release]

Doctors are to blame for the lack of access to medical marijuana in Quebec, alleged one prominent medical-marijuana activist. [Le Devoir]

Dr Ray Wiss discussed his Afghanistan experience and his new book on his time there as a physician with the Canadian Forces. [Toronto Star] Dr Kevin Patterson, an author and military veteran who has worked as a civilian physician in Kandahar, reviewed the book favourably. [Globe and Mail] Dr Wiss published some of his diaries last year in the National Review of Medicine, not long after returning from the war. [NRM]

Six physicians and researchers were named to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame: Alan C Burton, James Hogg, William A Cochrane, Vera Peters, Phil Gold, and Calvin R Stiller. [Canadian Medical Hall of Fame]

Photo: Dalhousie Medical School

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Details of new NB Medical Society deal released

The terms of the new contract the New Brunswick Medical Society and the provincial government signed last month [Canadian Medicine] have been released: 3.75% per year raises for four years, retroactive to April 1, 2008, followed by a two-year wage freeze from 2012 to 2014. [Government of New Brunswick/NBMS joint statement]

That's a big improvement on what the government initially brought to the negotiating table, which was zero.

In fact, the new deal is one of the two options (1: the initially-agreed-upon four-year contract with a two-year wage freeze preceding it; or 2: the initial deal with a two-year freeze following it) the government presented to the physicians this past summer, before then-health minister Michael Murphy changed his mind, retracted the offer and oversaw the legislature's drafting of a law [Bill 93 (PDF)] that gave the government authority to unilaterally override the original (wage-freeze-free) version of the deal, agreed upon in 2008.

Image: Government of New Brunswick

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Do doctors need "reputation management" lawyers?

Earlier this month, on the Canadian legal news website Slaw.ca, University of Western Ontario law student Omar Ha-Redeye made a really interesting prediction: one area of the law that's sure to see growth in the future is something he calls "reputation management," and physicians are perhaps chief among the clientele that's likely to demand that service.

Mr. Ha-Redeye uses as a jumping off point for his argument my recent article in Parkhurst Exchange about an Alberta urologist named Mohamed Foda who this year became the first physician anywhere (as far as I can tell) to force RateMDs.com to disclose the names of anonymous reviewers.

The Foda case against RateMDs is tied in with another suit he is involved in in Edmonton and it all gets very complex very quickly, but the long and short of it is that Mr. Ha-Redeye seems to see Dr Foda's successful efforts to fight back against anonymous online libel as one of the first of a forthcoming trend of "reputation management" lawsuits.

What do you think? Are we going to see the development of a new field of reputation management law? Should the Canadian Medical Protective Association be in the business of not only protecting physicians from malpractice suits, as they do now, but also protecting their reputations?

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