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Letters May 14: How to improve B.C.'s doctor shortage; why we should do more to support Ukraine

A family doctor's examining room. TIMES COLONIST

In a medical emergency, it’s better to be seen

There are two major issues in the health-care crisis that do not seem to be being dealt with, as two recent letters have said.

There are simply not enough residency positions available in family medicine for the number of people that need a GP. The governments over the past decades have known about this perfectly well.

The medical demographics have been well-described and known, but governments have not been willing to change anything in enlarging residency numbers, presumably because it would cost money.

The governments listened to their bean counters instead of people who knew demographics properly. And because of this, citizens are dying due to an inability to get attention and failure to have chronic conditions addressed continually such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and many others, and a failure to get repeat necessary prescription medications.

This is not acceptable, period.

Also, this is a “governance” problem. I have worked with physicians from Ireland, England, Europe, South Africa and the Australasian countries in my training and practice, and they are as competent or more so than Canadian-trained.

The governing body under registrar Dr. Heidi Oetter refuses to properly license them to practice independently. They are required to jump through all kinds of hoops and obstacles that are not necessary, and the governing body claims to be seeking only the best qualified.

The measure of the quality of a country’s health-care system is the country’s mortality rate, and Canada’s is not at the top. Independent reviews see countries in the Australasia level as the best, followed by South Africa, Europe, England and Ireland and Europe, the United States and then Canada.

Frankly, if one is having a heart attack or stroke, or asthmatic crisis, or diabetic emergency, or a surgical emergency, I am sure that that individual doesn’t care in which of the above countries the medical education and training was obtained. We are equally competent to provide the attention needed to save a life. It is better to be seen by someone competent than not being seen at all.

Dr. Paul Fenje Jr., MD, MSc

With no doctors to help, I am slowly dying

There is a critical doctor shortage and as a result I am slowing and silently dying. I’m losing the ability to walk, cook, clean, pay for expensive gluten-dairy-and chemical free food, and there is no place in B.C. where I can live given the poverty-level income I receive.

From boardroom to bedroom: Four years ago I was successfully working in Victoria when I ended up collapsing into bed from utter exhaustion. I have been in bed since.

The culprit is myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating illness for which there is no cure or clinical protocol, nor are there Island doctors who have experience treating patients.

Currently ME has no health-care code, meaning doctors and B.C. Health can’t track our cases. This isn’t just a health care, it is an issue that moves people into poverty and we are most certainly being left behind in all senses of the phrase.

Seventy-five per cent of people with ME are unable to work, 25 per cent are homebound or bedridden (like me). Moreover, 80 per cent of patients are women, making this a medical issue, and a gender, equality and justice issue.

We are asking the B.C. government to expedite physician and clinical training in post-viral illnesses, with a particular emphasis on ME patients. We have much to teach physicians.

Other folks need to recognize ME as the devastating illness it is. This way, we can bring our voices together so we can demand change. Enough is enough.

There is so much that needs to be done.

H. Cece Gardiner
James Bay

Fast health care possible — somewhere else

Re: “Waiting a year to check on two lumps,” letter, May 7.

I left the Lower Mainland and came to the Island seeking better health care with shorter wait times.

In 2012 my mammogram detected a lump. I waited weeks in the Fraser Health system, knowing from my surgeon that I had breast cancer. I was unable to get a breast biopsy to confirm the cancer and move me forward into the required treatment.

Fortunately, I had family in Alberta and was treated for breast cancer at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton.

This past winter I found a new lump. We were in Arizona at the time.

Within a week I had a 3D mammogram and an ultrasound. The total cost for both tests at SimonMed Labs in Queen Creek, Arizona, was $225.

B.C. medical paid for my surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment in Alberta. This year they reimbursed me for my U.S. tests in the amount of $216.54.

Don’t wait! Seek medical assistance in another province or in the United States. Your children need their mother.

Beth Pulford
Cobble Hill

Don’t forget the famine, the Crimea, and more

Re: “Insane to fight wars over ancient prejudices,” letter, May 12.

Maybe it’s just me, but I found the letter curiously simplistic, bordering on outrageous. The author states “what is described today as Ukraine” and “NATO had no right to bring into its fold … a state that is so historically and ethnically divided.” Really!

And the author actually thinks that Canada should “use every diplomatic means” to deal with a pariah state whose autocratic “leader” poisons opponents, suppresses human rights and who, along with his army, are the subject of multiple war-crime investigations?

Russia is a pariah state that invaded (again!) a sovereign democratic nation. Yet the author actually thinks there should be no military response when the historical oppressor (lest we forget the Holodomor, Crimea, Malaysia Air Flight 17, etc, etc., etc.) wishes to Russify a weaker independent nation by virtue of the fact that it can.

Instead of the author’s amusing ramblings, the West should dramatically increase its support to Ukraine to ensure the Rash Putins of this world are held to account for this war, and for the war crimes committed.

And good for you, Mr. Obee.

Gordon Zawaski

Well-meaning theories are the enemy of peace

Every war of territorial ambitions has a legacy of festering unresolved claims to legitimate ownership. Ukraine’s deep-water access has been coveted forever by its dry-land neighbours — especially Russia’s klepto-czar Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine resembles Canada in having enormous resource wealth, except it lacks natures geographic protection and a big brother. Politically, the majority share our family of values and disregard for dictatorship — not a happy situation for their neighbour.

Our reader who argues against Dave Obee’s historic perspectives seems oblivious to Putin’s motivations. Useless diplomacy is no substitute for a well-armed resolute opposition. The UN “dove stuff” is effectively a Chamberlain-like invitation for aggressors like Putin to snatch and grab the spoils.

While we spectators watch Putin slaughter innocents with such predictable hesitation on our part, the Russian chess master knows forced possession is nine-tenths of the ownership rule that he lives by.

We should know by now that well-meaning theories are often the real enemy of lasting peace.

Russell Thompson

Boulevard gardens are major benefits

The City of Victoria has deemed it my responsibility to take care of the boulevard outside of my home, or pay an additional tax. As a senior on a fixed income, anything I can do to avoid incurring more expenses, I will do.

So my options are to mow the grass, weeds and invasive plants that are growing there, whose main purpose is to hold debris, or turn it into something useful.

By planting vegetables we are doing a lot of very positive things. We are enriching the soil with organic fertilizers, we are keeping the soil covered so it does not blow away, we are providing tasty snacks for the wildlife and we are feeding people.

Nothing that is grown goes to waste. The border serves to keep the soil off the sidewalk, and acts as a deterrent to dogs not to urinate on the vegetables that humans will eventually eat.

Not only are these gardens encouraged by the city, but they provide a community project that leads to camaraderie, a sense of accomplishment and all-over well-being of doing something good.

We are not thieves, we are great neighbours, hard workers and charitable people doing our bit to survive another City of Victoria cash call.

Diana Sharo

Let oil companies recover from bad years

Re: “Let oil companies absorb the high costs,” letter, May 11.

The letter-writer thinks that oil companies are making too much money and should give some of it back. Well, imagine that you have been out of work for eight years and making ends meet as best you can, then at last you find a well-paying job.

How would you feel if the government told you that it’s going to impose a special tax on you because you’re earning much more than in previous years?

The oil industry has been in deep recession for the past eight years. Many companies went out of business, while the survivors laid off staff, froze capital investment and borrowed billions of dollars to stay alive.

Now that they’re one fiscal quarter into recovering and are starting to pay down their debts and re-invest, let’s kick them down again!

High gas prices are the result of high oil prices, which are the result of many factors: Eight years of depressed prices, low capital investment, Canadian and U.S. governments banning pipelines, low storage volumes, President Joe Biden using the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Resevre to try to save the midterms, the Green lobby and eco- and climate-activists trying to kill an entire industry, and the misguided closing of fossil and nuclear power plants in favour of wind and solar.

What could possibly go wrong? Now we have a post-COVID resurgence in demand. If you think prices are high now, just wait another year or two.

To those who favour a “windfall” tax, ask yourselves what taxes do to gas prices.

M.H. Ward

Give credit where it is due for COVID success

Although COVID is not yet “over,” perhaps we can now reflect on the success of British Columbia and Canada in saving the lives of its people over the past two years.

Out of Canada’s six largest provinces by population, B.C.’s COVID death rate was the lowest. And in comparing Canada to the U.S. and the U.K., we find a death rate of 0.104 per cent compared to 0.302 per cent and 0.288 per cent.

Basically, Canadian and B.C. public health policies and the common sense of 90 per cent or more of our people in following those practices (both pre and post the availability of vaccines), probably saved about 80,000 lives.

I can only hope that Dr. Bonnie Henry no longer requires police protection on her walk home.

Clive Jones

That money could have gone to a better use

Re: “Warhol’s Marilyn fetches record price at auction,” May 11.

With every additional news report it becomes harder to remain a conservative capitalist believer. Imagine what $195 million US could do to solve the great social issues of our time.

Suppose we had this surplus wealth to build affordable housing or hire more medical staff. That someone can spend such capital on a mere bauble of egocentricity is disheartening.

If I had found this picture at a garage sale I would have been delighted to buy it for five bucks (Canadian). Assuming, of course, that it was framed. And if my wife wouldn’t let me hang it in the house it would look great in the workshop between the Lucky Lager poster and the beer fridge!

This example of squanderous behaviour dramatically reveals a failure of capitalism.

Rick Kallstrom

Let’s get tougher with first offenders

Lately there has been the question about whether the penalties for first-time offenders are strong enough.

The answer is a definite no. If they were, then there would be far fewer second offences.

Recently a man with many many offences was found guilty in court again, and got one day in jail and a fine.

I guess on his previous, many, visits to the court he got the usual slap on the wrist and told to be a good boy.

Do you think that maybe the public might be getting to feel a bit frustrated with our judicial system?

Too often we see in the news about someone with many offences getting away with it yet again. These people are the “bad guys,” and it’s about time the “good guys” started treating them as such.

We have the laws, and we have the police force to administer these laws. But our judicial system has let us down, badly.

It’s not a great number of years ago that in some countries of the world, a person lost a hand for stealing a loaf of bread. And no, I am not advocating that we start that sort of deterrent. But that must have been a great deterrent.

Now, surely there must be somewhere in between what we are doing, nothing, and what happened in some countries long ago that would deter that second offence. Or that 21st offence.

Lyall Eriksen

Overloading the road that passes two schools

The restriction of traffic on Richardson, Gonzales and Despard, causing excess traffic on Warren Gardens, is also overloading Fairfield Road, which has two schools.

It is nonsensical. It should be remembered that less than 10 per cent of people use bikes, and 90 per cent are in cars. Please, can somebody in the city apply a dose of common sense?

Duncan Kemp

Election debates? Don’t call them that

Would you do me a favour and stop calling six people standing on a stage yelling at one another a debate? Because it ain’t.

Doug Poole


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