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What's in the news: Mar. 6 -- NL pathology report is out

Cameron inquiry report released
Justice Margaret Cameron (right) released the final report of her inquiry into Newfoundland and Labrador's breast cancer hormone receptor testing scandal. [Cameron Inquiry final report (PDF)]

The report, as expected, presents a serious condemnation of failures at multiple levels of care, from laboratory testing to government regulatory oversight.

"The whole of the health system, to varying degrees, can be said to have failed the... patients," wrote Justice Cameron, as has been widely reported. [Canadian Press]

Beyond criticizing just the laboratory problems, Justice Cameron also slammed the government for what essentially amounted to a cover-up when health administrators and public officials did not release information about the extent of the problems in a timely manner.

The provincial government has committed to implement around half of the inquiry report's recommendations soon, and will study how to do deal with others that require more time. [Canadian Press]

Meanwhile, Health Minister Ross Wiseman is resisting, with Premier Danny Williams's support, calls for him to resign. Mr Wiseman was taken to task in the inquiry report for his role in the government's failure to initially come clean with the public over the botched hormone receptor tests. [Canadian Press]

Turnbull already making waves
The man nominated to be the next Canadian Medical Association president, Dr Jeffrey Turnbull, admitted to providing his homeless patients with other people's unused prescription drugs. He only distributes unexpired, unopened drugs that are indicated and in the correct dosage for his homeless patients who may not have prescription drug insurance or even a health card, he said.

Technically, he doesn't appear to be breaking any laws though he may be contributing to violations of an aspect of the Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act, CBC News reported. Dr Turnbull said he realized the practice was controversial, but believed it to be justified.

He and a Nova Scotia oncologist both want provincial governments to develop regulations to encourage drug redistribution. "I think it's a common sense issue where we could come up with common sense guidelines to direct this," he said. [CBC News]

Turnbull's "wet shelter" makes news
The Ottawa Citizen profiled another one of Dr Turnbull's controversial projects, a "wet shelter" that dispenses one drink per hour to homeless alcoholics to help them manage their drinking.

Dr Turnbull is one of the authors of a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that demonstrates the health and public safety benefits of the Managed Alcohol Program.

"At the end of the day in this environment," Dr Turnbull told the Citizen, "we're able to minimize the amount of alcohol they use, reduce the harm they experience related to their alcohol, and reduce the harm society experiences because of their alcohol abuse: having these people in the emergency department, involved with police on drunk-and-disorderly charges." [Ottawa Citizen]

HIV/AIDS a "growing epidemic" in Vancouver
There is a "growing epidemic" of HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, where the infection rate is six times higher than the national average, wrote a high-profile team of BC medical researchers in a new study in the Harm Reduction Journal. Over 1% of the city's adults and teenagers now carry the virus. [Harm Reduction Journal]

One in four Vancouver female sex workers have HIV/AIDS, the BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS researchers Julio Montaner, Evan Wood, and others also reported. Dr Montaner wondered aloud whether it might be advisable for the government to issue a warning to tourists who arrive in the city for the Olympics next year to be aware of the high HIV rate among Vancouver's sex workers. [Vancouver Sun]

HPV vaccination rates vary widely
Canadian provinces have had significantly different levels of success in convincing pre-teen and teenaged girls to get immunized against human papillomavirus in order to prevent cervical cancer later in life.

The Toronto Star reported that Ontario's participation rate is 49%, compared to 84% in Quebec, 83% in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 80% in PEI and Nova Scotia. BC stands at 65.7%, and Alberta and Manitoba have under 55% participation rates. No data were reported by Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. [Toronto Star]

21% of sex assault victims were drugged
More than one in five victims of sexual assault were drugged before the attacks occurred, a new Canadian study reported. [Canadian Medical Association Journal] [Canwest News Service]

Whereas many studies' "limitations" sections explain why the study might not be as persuasive or powerful as it might sound at first glance, this study's limitations are that it may not have captured anywhere near the actual number of cases in which sexual assault victims were drugged.

Other studies from around the world in recent years have implied that druggings for the purposes of committing sexual assault are becoming more common.

In an accompanying commentary, two British physicians provide advice for clinicians on how to deal with patients who may have been drugged and sexually assaulted. [CMAJ]

Cardiologist charged with killing his 2 kids
Dr Guy Turcotte, a young cardiologist in St-Jérôme, Quebec, has been charged with first-degree murder of his two children, ages three and five. Dr Turcotte was hospitalized with what police said was a self-inflicted drug overdose. His wife, also a physician in St-Jérôme, was not in town at the time of the alleged murders. [CBC News]

Health Canada's reticence
Health Canada is asking that a contractor who is to be hired to help clear a backlog of public-information requests will clear all releases by the office of Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. The Ottawa Citizen called that requirement "a further sign of the politicization of the open-records law." [Ottawa Citizen]

"Hold the community hostage"
Chatham Daily News managing editor Bruce Corcoran complained that Ontario health authorities are the victims of extortion perpetrated by physicians who threaten to quit if their hospitals' emergency services are restructured or closed. [Chatham Daily News]

Healing COPD with helium
A mix of helium and oxygen helps COPD patients and improves the effectiveness of pulmonary rehabilitation, reported Calgary researchers in the journal Chest. [Chest abstract] An accompanying editorial called the research promising. [MedPage Today]

News from our neighbours to the south
Why do doctors come in to work when they're sick and spread diseases? [Slate]

Maine doctors are being trained to perform basic dental procedures as the state experiences a severe shortage of dentists. [New York Times]

Dr Jim Kim, the world-famous Harvard global health and HIV/AIDS expert, has been hired as Dartmouth College's president. "Jim is going to galvanize the movement for health equity," Dr Paul Farmer told the Boston Globe. "To have a physician teacher at the head of a university will seize the imaginations of young Americans and help build this wonderful movement around global poverty issues." Dr Kim said, "The challenge is to not lose our focus in providing a great liberal arts education but also preparing students to make a difference in the world." [Boston Globe]

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  1. City Medical Centre Sydney8 March, 2009 11:27 PM

    It is horrible to hear that Justice Margaret Cameron's report essential reveals a governement coverup regarding providing the public with information to the extent of the issue.

    She has done a great job that should bring on change through many levels.


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