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IN THE NEWS: Is the H1N1 flu pandemic over?

H1N1 risk may have passed
It's unlikely 2010 will bring a feared third wave of the H1N1 flu, said Dr Yves Bolduc, Quebec's health minister. "Compte tenu du taux de vaccination contre la grippe A (H1N1) et étant donné que les personnes qui ont eu la grippe sont maintenant protégées, nous considérons fort peu probable l'arrivée d'une troisième vague," he told La Presse. ("Considering the vaccination rate against the H1N1 flu and given that people who've already had the flu are now protected, we consider a third wave very unlikely.") [La Presse]

The national vaccination rate is between 40-45%, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. There are major variations among provinces, however: Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and the territories have all vaccinated greater than 50% of their populations while Ontario and the prairies and the west all fall below 50%.

The PHAC reports that the current death count from the H1N1 flu stands at 415 Canadians, with only six of those deaths occurring since December 30. []

ON family health teams lucrative for MDs
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that Ontario doctors who practise in a family health team model have seen their average income rise 40% since 2004, while the province's fee-for-service physicians have seen their average incomes stagnate. Preliminary research also shows the FHT model appears to have benefited patient care.

"Anecdotal information suggests that the first choice of Ontario’s family medicine residents is now to practice in FHTs," wrote the four Canadian authors. "Family physicians who were initially skeptical are now seeking to participate."

The article lauds the idea of FHTs functioning as medical homes for Ontario patients.

In addition, the article mentions, the number of medical students electing to specialize in family medicine in Ontario has risen from 25% to 39% since 2004.

Prorogation of Parliament delays passage of Bill C-6
The Governor General's recent decision to prorogue Parliament, at the Prime Minister's request, has resulted in the clearing of the House of Commons order paper: in other words, all the introduced legislation that was in the process of being debated and voted on is now, formally speaking, dead on the floor. That includes Bill C-6, the , which included many health regulatory measures. Bills that were canceled as a result or prorogation, however, can be reinstated when Parliament resumes sitting.

Of course, though, the delay of debate on the Consumer Product Safety Act is hardly the most important effect of the prorogation...

More news from across Canada
Thousands of Canadians, including physicians and academics, have voiced their opposition to the appointment of Pfizer VP Dr Bernard Prigent to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The Canadian Medical Association's 2009 budget deficit will be smaller than projected, in part thanks to cuts made to the costly Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Dr Carolyn Bennett, the federal Liberal Party's health critic, wants to make sex toys safer. []

Newfoundland set to vote for next CMA president

It's a new year, so that must mean it's time to elect a new Canadian Medical Association president.

This year it's to choose a nominee for the national organization's top job for the 2011-12 term, to follow the current president, Saskatchewan's Anne Doig, and then the current president-elect, Ontario's Jeffrey Turnbull.

There are four candidates in the running.

Dr John Haggie, surgeon
Born in England, Dr Haggie moved to Newfoundland in 1996. He was president of the NLMA from '02-'03, when the province's physicians engaged in their only strike ever. He's since worked with the CMA extensively.

Dr Lydia Hatcher, family physician
Dr Hatcher is a professor of family medicine and pediatrics at Memorial University. She was also a president of the NLMA and has also served in multiple CMA board roles.

Dr Susan King, family physician
Another former NLMA president, Dr King was chair of the association's board during the 2002 doctors' strike. She's served in other NLMA positions as well and is now on the CMA's board of directors. Plus, she's now a black belt in tae kwon do.

Dr Brendan Lewis, orthopedic surgeon
Former president of multiple surgery societies, Dr Lewis is an accomplished orthopedic surgeon and now an assistant prof of surgery at Memorial. He helped introduce clerkships and residencies to the rural western part of Newfoundland.

More information about the candidates is available on the .

Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association members will get their voting info mailed out to them this week, and will have until February 25 to submit their ballot. The winner will be announced on February 26.

Photos: NLMA