The Mail

The Mail

January 22 2001
The Mail

The Mail

January 22 2001

The Mail

Health-care troubles

All power to Dr. Heidi Oetter for seriously considering a change from family medicine to running a bed-and-breakfast (“At the breaking point,” Cover, Jan. 8). She is not alone in feeling frustration with a medical system that has in no way kept up with demand for services. I am also 40 years old. I graduated from medical school in the United Kingdom in 1985 and came to Canada in 1991. For six years, I worked as a kidney specialist at the Ottawa Hospital. In June,

2000,1 resigned my position and I am now in my first year of engineering at Carleton University. My main reason for leaving medicine was that I found it increasingly difficult to provide the care to patients that should be available and that I am trained to deliver. Over the past five or six years, there has been a dramatic (and not unexpected) increase in patient volume together with an equally dramatic increase in the severity of these older patients’ diseases. There has not been a comparable increase in manpower to handle this escalation. As a result, many physicians are working longer and harder, with little hope of relief in the near future. I believe it can only be a

matter of time before patients begin to fall through the cracks of a system where doctors can, at times, simply put out fires in the sickest individuals, while attention to less-urgent problems is routinely delayed. I miss medicine a great deal. I miss my patients and my colleagues and the satisfaction that comes from being able to do a job well. However, I am unlikely to return to medicine unless and until it is understood that doctors and nurses cannot simply be wrung dry. Nicholas Argent,

Orleans, Ont.

Your feature concerning doctor burnout mirrors the prevailing mantra in most government circles in Canada. It’s too little, too late. All the doctors I know have had it. There are no incentives to stay in the system. Why do you think large numbers of new medical grads in Ontario are leaving and why so many full-time docs will quit or retire in the next five years? Seventy-hour weeks; $26.50 per office visit; demanding patients; six-month waits for an MRI; no hospital beds; constant harassment by government officials; no pension or standard benefit package; and a 50-per-cent personal income tax rate. The handwriting is on the wall—ignore it at your peril!

Dr. Earl F. Dobkin, Toronto

Inefficient Canada

I moved here from the United States three years ago, and I can assure you that Canada is approximately where the United States was 25 years ago (“Then and now,” Cover, Dec. 25/Jan. 1). At least twice a day, I find myself saying with great force to some apologetic member of the alleged service community of presumed employees in Canada: “This is just like doing business with the damned Russians!” There is a shocking lack of up-to-date products in most of the stores, there are hundreds of shops in Toronto that don’t even know they are out of something until a customer asks for it and have no idea when they will be resupplied.

It is impossible to get anything delivered or serviced outside of 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. And the volume of whining is deafening. When I lived in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1976, the bus drivers crossing at Fort Erie, Ont., always said: “We are now entering Canada, set your watch back 20 years.” Now, it’s 25 years. By 2050, it may be 100 years. The only thing y all do better than we did it in the U.S A is apologize. In fact, that should be over every gateway to Canada: “Welcome to Canada. We’re sorry.” Elizabeth Shaw, Toronto

I left nursing in the mid-1960s because I wasn’t able to spend enough time with my patients. I have never regretted this decision. From what I see, read, hear about and have experienced, working conditions have severely deteriorated since then. Health-care professionals should be treated like human beings. They should be allowed to work

the hours any other professional works, without overtime being considered part of the contract. And they should be treated with respect. Medicare should not give the public the right to expect health-care professionals to be on call all day every day of the week.

Lynn Wheeler, Westmount, Que.

As a registered practical nurse, I take issue with your article “I wanted to help people,” referring to my profession as “nurses’ aides.” “Nurse’s aide” refers to someone without any formal nursing training. As RPNs, we have been trained in nursing skills, and we are accountable to the College of Nurses. Irene Moreau, Palmer Rapids, Ont.

Whither Canada?

I believe Peter C. Newman is correct that Canada’s independence is going to be a major political issue in the future. Ever since high school when, in Grade 11,1 studied Bruce Hutchison’s essay “The Canadian Personality,” the elusive Canadian identity has been a pet project of mine. Prof.

W L. Morton wrote in his 1961 book, The Canadian Identity, that Canada is “an attempt to develop in a particular North American environment a civilization European in origin and American in evolution.” I think what is happening now is what is supposed to be happening. Such is the Canadian personality: never mind fighting for independence, let’s just wait for it to fall in place. Or better yet, let’s have a beer and discuss it.

Alan Baker, Ameliasburgh, Ont.

Peter C. Newman’s essay predicting “The end of Canada?” under continued free trade is nothing less than a fantasy (Jan. 8). His unfounded fears would reduce the destiny of Canada to the dictates of economics only, and this is not and never will be the case. Canada is a much bigger country than this with a complex web of unique peoples with their own very un-American culture. I

am sure Canada will be around for a very long time to come. Vive le Canada}. Dan Mailer, London, Ont.

An ‘honourable’ man

Following a lifetime of service to one’s country, surely there can be no crueller footnote than an inaccurate obituary in a well-respected national magazine (Passages, Jan. 8). Lt.-Gen. Gordon Reay was not the deputy commander of the Canadian Airborne Regiment during its Somalia mission. That job was held by a major, five ranks his junior, while Reay was 7,500 miles away in Montreal filling the position of commander of the Canadian army. His involvement with the Somalia mission was minimal. If it had not been for the broad-based criticism the Somalia inquiry saw fit to assign to just about every army general officer who could spell Somalia, Reay would have been a strong contender for chief of the defence staff His retirement was an honourable reaction to the government’s ill-founded decision to disband the Airborne and was not in any way related to the inquiry’s report, which had yet to be published. May he rest in peace knowing he did his duty.

Maj.-Gen. Lewis Mackenzie (Ret.’d), Bracebridge, Ont.

A mistaken location

The Dec. 25/Jan. 1 issue of Macleans featured an article on a teacher acquitted of sexual exploitation for having an affair with a 17-year-old student (“A teacherstudent summer of love,” Canada Notes). The item errs in stating that the teacher “was teaching in the northeast Alberta town of St. Paul,” and goes on to state that the school principal and school board are being sued. The only link to St. Paul for this story is that the trial was held here.

Terry LaBoucane, Chairman, St. Paul Education Regional Division No. 1,

St. Paul, Alta.