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Morning Brew: February 20, 2008

Posted by Sisi / February 20, 2008

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Photo: "Montreal in HDR," by Midnight Poutine Flickr pooler nantel.

Your morning news roundup for Wednesday, February 20th, 2008:

Good morning poutiners, lots of health news for you today. First off, Montreal's Jewish General Hospital has a new robot surgeon. Dubbed "da Vinci," the robot gives its user an unprecedented level of precision and control. The surgeon relays his or her movements to da Vinci, who interprets them and reduces trembling. The robot is also equipped with a security device that allows the user to override any accidental gestures. Its four arms can do as much work as three people. Da Vinci will allow patients to spend less time on the operating table and recover faster. But Canadians will have to wait for the technology to take hold; at 4 million apiece, the robots are still considered a luxury. There are already 500 in the U.S., but only 3 here. The two others are in Vancouver and Edmonton.

In other health news: You might've noticed the private vs. public health insurance debate in Quebec these days. Yesterday, a provincial task force headed by former Liberal cabinet minister Claude Castonguay recommended user fees and greater privatization to "guarantee the viability" of medicare in the province. Basically, Castonguay wants Quebec to limit health care spending to 3.9 of its budget. How to cover the rest of the cost? By charging for visits to the doctor and hiking up the PST, of course. The task force also suggests that Quebecers pay up to $100 per year to access a clinic, and that physicians be allowed to work in both the public and private sectors. The PQ, on the other hand, says the province needs to improve public health care before addressing privatization. The party's health critic Bernard Drainville pointed out that private sector spending is among the highest in the world, and yet Quebec still has problems.

In gassy news: The price of gas in Montreal shot up to $1.20 a litre on Monday. Some stations downtown even went up to $1.24, but by Monday night prices had leveled out to their previous states. CAA-Quebec said the "realist" estimated rate for the region was $1.15. According to an AAA report, the average for regular unleaded gas in the States was $3.014 per gallon, which works out to 79.2 U.S. cents per litre. Since the Canadian dollar is almost at par with the American one, that means Montrealers were paying almost 40 cents more per litre than their southern neighbors on Monday.

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