Health Canada is asking doctors to update their prescribing guidelines for the first time in two decades, amid a surge in infections among women seeking gynecological care.
The department says it’s reviewing guidelines for certain conditions that were not covered by the previous policy and that women may be reluctant to seek help.
The guidelines were changed to cover infections that have occurred in hospitals and clinics, including those that are considered safe, such as a bacterial infection of the vagina.
Health Canada says it has received more than 700 reports of bacterial infections in gynecologists in 2017, up from 50 in 2015.
The move follows reports in March that one doctor had a bacterial discharge that he called “anomalous,” and two others had a UTI that was “very unusual.”
Some women have complained that they were unable to access care in the last year, which has also seen an increase in infections.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose has said the department will review the recommendations for OB-gyns in 2018, but there are no details on what that review will look like.
Health experts say the new guidance is unlikely to be an immediate fix, given the current crisis.
“I’m very much concerned about the quality of care in hospitals that is not safe for women to get in,” says Dr. Janine Blais, the chief medical officer for Ontario’s health system.
“There are many women who are not being seen in the way that they need to be seen, because of a bacterial outbreak.”
Blais says she’s concerned the new guidelines will result in fewer patients being seen, which will hurt women who can’t afford to see a doctor in their area.
This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. ET.