MAIL BAG

January 28 2008

MAIL BAG

January 28 2008

MAIL BAG

‘My five-year-old wants to be a doctor so she can help me and I can be at home more often’

CALL THE DOCTOR

THANK YOU FOR Cathy Gulli and Kate Lunau’s excellent article on the doctor shortage (“Adding fuel to the doctor crisis,” Health, Jan. 14). The perfect storm, as I see it, was created by the coming together of three issues: too few places for physicians to be trained in our medical schools, an increasing overemphasis on specialization, and a new generation of physicians—male and female—who are seeking more balance in their lives. The solution lies in creating more physicians to deal with our aging population, a more reasoned balance between generalists and specialists, and the greater involvement of a host of ancillary health providers, as well as more communication among all providers. We are all speaking the same language as we try to envisage a renewed medicare for the coming years. Val Rachlis, past president, Ontario College of Family Physicians, Toronto

I QUESTION THAT women are responsible for the scarcity of medical services because they are increasingly numerous in the profession and work fewer hours per week than men. The demographic crisis is probably a major factor in the scarcity of doctors. The welfare state is predicated on a classical demographic pyramid, but our pyramid is now inverted—each new generation is less numerous than the previous, while baby boomers threaten to become a huge burden on everybody else. This predicament jeopardizes all social programs.

Pierre A. Cholette, Ottawa

GULLI AND LUNAU’S analysis ignores the most important determinants of this crisis. In 1993, provincial governments had decided, based on the Barer-Stoddart report, that the increasing costs of medicare were due to too many doctors. Medical student enrolment and residency positions were slashed and most foreign medical graduates were cut off. It was over 10 years before the enormity of this miscalculation was recognized with the recent resultant increase in medical student places and increased retraining and licensing of foreign medical graduates. As for women doctors, we have learned that women are excellent world leaders, soldiers and even physicians. It is a welcome trend that the fine minds of women are increasingly applied to medicine. Dr Stanley Lofsky, Toronto

SOME PHYSICIANS give the impression that they have replaced the humanitarian aspects of a noble profession with greed. A senior in our complex told me that her doctor terminated her visit in the middle of discussing her diagnosis with the comment, “Your 15 minutes are up. You’ll have to make another appointment.” That’s a long way from the days when a family doctor would make a middle-of-the-night house call.

Bob Thompson, Victoria

IT IS FRUSTRATING that while millions of Canadians are waiting for a family doctor, scores of new Canadians and immigrant doc-

tors remain underutilized, their skills overlooked. With a high number of new Canadians with medical degrees collecting dust and nearly five million Canadians without a family doctor, the math does not seem to add up. While some work is being done toward integrating both internationally trained Canadians and immigrants into the workforce, a lot remains to be done to bring this pool of talent on board. There is need for further emphasis and funding for bridging programs and credential recognition strategies for foreign trained doctors.

Gaye Moffett, RN, Chairperson, Health Sector Working Group, Hire Immigrants Ottawa, United Way/Centraide Ottawa, Ottawa

AS A FEMALE family physician in an underserviced area, I am acutely aware of the

doctor crisis. My five-year-old daughter has told me she wants to be a doctor when she grows up so that she can help me and I can be home more often. I agree that physician burnout, particularly among female physicians, is at staggering rates, and I have found myself often struggling to meet the competing demands placed on me. The guilt we place on ourselves as physicians, mothers and spouses is far greater than people realize. It is in everyone’s best interest to have healthy and happy professionals providing health care, and this will require revisiting traditional expectations of physicians.

Dr Amanda Bell, Port Colborne, Ont.

AFTER OVER 30 YEARS of being well-served by family doctors here in Saint John, I found myself without one last spring. I wrote to New Brunswick’s Minister of Health Michael Murphy. He wrote back with a number I could call to be put on a waiting list. That was in May 2007. Still no call. If, according to another story in the same issue, Saint John is one of Canada’s happiest cities (“Go east, young man,” Good News, Jan. 14), I would suggest that if people are moving to New Brunswick, they should check out where the family doctors live: it might be as close as they will get.

Anne Baker, Saint John, N.B.

THE REASON FOR the high rate of absenteeism in the nursing profession is the severe shortage in Canada and the resulting backbreaking hours of overtime most nurses now put in to make up for the shortage and to ensure quality patient care. It is not possible for human beings to work as hard, for as long, and under such dangerous conditions as nurses do without eventually paying the price.

The reason for the current shortage of doctors—and nurses—has everything to do with cutbacks in the mid-1990s. Federal funding of health care was slashed then and has never recovered. Now, with the baby boom generation needing more care than ever, we are short of all medical professionals, both because many are retiring and because we haven’t trained sufficient numbers of health care workers in the past decade.

Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, President, Ontario Nurses’ Association, Toronto

JANEURQUHARTNOT MYSTERY WRITER

I WAS ASTONISHED and dismayed to read the Maclean’s article about Inger Wolfe and your completely erroneous assertions about Jane Urquhart’s purported authorship of The Calling (“Is Inger Wolfe really Jane Urquhart?” Books, Jan. 14). Based on your writer’s telephone call to me, I surmised that the article would be devoted to your speculations about who the author might be (one of whom seemed to Maclean’s to be Jane Urquhart) and the phenomenon of writing under a pseudonym. You had no basis to baldly imply that Ms. Urquhart is the pseudonymous author, with no mention of other possibilities. Furthermore, your reporter did not contact Jane Urquhart directly about this matter. I also wish to point out that Maclean’s should have been aware that Jane Urquhart, as one of the country’s leading literary writers, is already “commercially successful” with no need to add that description to her “byline.”

My position, and that of all of Inger Wolfe’s publishers, is not to engage in discussions about the author’s identity. However, owing to your egregious conduct, I must now definitely inform you that Jane Urquhart did not write The Calling.

Maclean’s has acted irresponsibly by inaccurately singling out Jane Urquhart exclusively over any other author who could have written this book, on the basis of tenuous “evidence.”

Ellen Levine, Executive Vice-President, Trident Media Group

REPAIRING THE REGISTRY

AS CORRECTLY NOTED in your article, our government “inherited a sex offender registry in desperate need of repair” (“A national embarrassment,” Justice, Jan. 14). A comprehensive review of the Sex Offender Infor-

mation Registration Act is not only overdue but is required. That is why this past fall I requested that the House of Commons standing committee on public safety and national security undertake a review of this important piece of legislation. Regrettably, opposition members on the committee have not yet put this issue on their agenda.

On the broader criminal justice front, our government has reintroduced key criminal justice reforms with the Tackling Violent Crime act. This important, tough-on-crime legislation will ensure that high-risk and dangerous offenders face tough consequences when they are sentenced and are strictly monitored if and when released. It also increases the age of protection for sexual activity from 14 years to 16 years to better protect our youth against sexual predators.

This vital legislation remains before the Senate. We ask Canadians who agree that these measures are important to join us in demanding that this important legislation be enacted as soon as possible.

Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, Ottawa

NICE PACKAGE, MOSTLY

I WAS APPALLED that Scott Feschuk would refer to “the dehumanizing stares of Air Canada’s flight attendants.” It is one thing to pick on a company’s policies, but to segregate and subject the working employees collectively to such a harsh comment is itself dehumanizing. Too many people look upon flight attendants as glorified waitresses in the sky, whereas what they are trained for—matters of flight safety in the event of a mishap—is totally forgotten and unappreciated. Donald Thomas, West Vancouver

WHAT A TREASURE the Jan. 14 issue turned out to be: it’s a keeper. First Andrew Coyne’s piece on the apathy surrounding the Schreiber affair (“Hear no evil, see no evil,” National). Coyne, whom I have long respected, is an important addition to your staff. I agree with

‘Mullah Krekar’s quote shows Brits are good global citizens, trying to rein in the global population’

his premise wholeheartedly. Let’s get to the bottom of the Airbus/Schreiber/Mulroney government goings-on once and for all. While I am not of Mark Steyn’s political stripe, I am in total agreement with his point that human rights commissions have no mandate to act as censors of free speech (“Here’s what offends this writer”). Will these commissions finally come right out and provide a list of permissible topics? Then Scott Feschuk’s column (“Tag your own bags! Then fuel the jet! ”, Comment). Scott, you slay me! I laughed so hard I fell off my chair. It was the first real bellylaugh I had in 2008. Thank you, Maclean’s. Birte Ertmann, Nepean, Ont.

NOT-SO-FREE SPEECH

WELL, HERE IS WHAT offends this reader: it’s the creeping censorship of free speech by minorities who don’t seem to have a history of democracy in their home states, and are trying to limit it in democratic countries to which they immigrate (“Here’s what offends this writer,” Steyn, Jan. 14). Freedom of speech doesn’t mean only some minorities can say what they think while the host society has to shut up and put up. As for Mullah Krekar’s quote on birth rates, it shows the Brits are good global citizens, trying to rein in the exploding global population. Maybe the good mullah should instruct his flock to be good global citizens too.

Eva Lyman, West Vancouver

I DON’T AGREE WITH a lot of what Steyn has to say, although I admire his writing and intelligently presented arguments. However, I am compelled to voice my support for him in this Canadian Islamic Congress/Canadian Human Rights Commission witch hunt: both social liberals and conservatives alike should be circling the wagons and coming to his defence. Who’s next? Rick Mercer?

Brian Robitaille, Ottawa

I HAVE READ STEYN’S book America Alone. I enjoyed it about as much as I enjoyed his panegyric to Conrad Black during Black’s legal tribulations in Chicago; that is, I didn’t. I must, however, give the devil his due: the Canadian Human Rights Commission and its provincial partners have gone too far in their quest for political correctness, and have become a millstone around the neck of scribes everywhere. Sigmund Roseth, Mississauga, Ont.

REMEMBERING OSCAR

THE PASSING OF Oscar Peterson has brought back wonderful memories of growing up on Notre Dame Street West in Montreal (“Death of a working-class virtuoso,” Music, Jan. 14). Among my classmates at Royal Arthur Public School was a fellow by the name of Oscar Peterson. Oscar never forgot his roots. Even after he became famous, whenever we would meet he would always remember his friends growing up. What wonderful memories of going to Victoria Hall on Saturday night to listen and dance to Oscar and the Johnny Holmes orchestra with the late Maynard Ferguson, and the good times with Oscar at the old Alberta lounge. Canada and the world has lost a musical genius and a great human being.

Bernard L. Bratz, Côte Saint-Luc, Que.

WHEN CULTURES COLLIDE

MY REACTION TO your story of a B.C. teacher removed from her school by a band delegation for a longhouse ritual: no means no (“Spirited away,” National, Jan. 14). If a nonnative Canadian was seized against her will and subjected to physical deprivation for weeks in secret rituals, we’d call that kidnapping, forcible confinement, torture and brainwashing. Why are the RCMP and the B.C. attorney general refusing to enforce Canadian criminal law in this case and to rescue Roxanne Harris? David McCaskill, Mississauga, Ont.

IN PASSING

Sir Edmund Hillary, 88, mountaineer. In 1953, he became the first person to climb Mount Everest, accompanied by Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. He also founded a group aimed at improving Sherpas’ living conditions. Among his other achievements: travelling to the source of the Ganges, and founding New Zealand’s Antarctic research station.

Christopher Bowman, 40, figure skater. Nicknamed “Bowman the Showman” for his on-ice flamboyance, the Olympic skater had a private life troubled by drugs and alcohol. A former child star who appeared on Little House on the Prairie, he won the U.S. men’s figure skating titles in 1989 and 1992.