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Letters Jan. 10: The challenge of prescription refills; ChatGPT's real threat

A lab technician prepares a prescription at a pharmacy. A letter-writer says the process of getting simple prescription refills has become impossibly cumbersome and difficult in B.C. JACQUES BOISSINOT, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prescription renewal? Good luck getting one

I recently experienced over several days an intense, fruitless search to renew prescriptions for me and my husband. Our devoted GP left last February, alas no replacement. We have each taken all our prescriptions for more than three years and they serve us well.

I called all the help lines and followed direction only to be bluntly told by Oceanside Health Centre that they are not there to dispense prescriptions; they are an URGENT care centre. Fair enough, in a few more weeks my situation will be urgent.

The Help Line referrals to local “walk-in” clinics were complete dead ends. When I called back to report, the health navigator expressed surprise. Not helpful.

I turned to the online, but unacknowledged, health-care assistance site. After a credit card payment was provided, I was connected to a pharmacist in the U.S. Not helpful.

After running around in a few more circles, I finally called our pharmacist who was able to provide emergency assistance.

I guess my reason for writing, besides venting, is to express my extreme anxiety about the lack of information/direction/accessibility from our health-care system for such a simple request.

Filled prescriptions are a preventative action, why is this gap virtually ignored? Can we not dedicate some time from an “urgent care” physician/nurse practitioner to be there for prescriptions? I just don’t get it.

Joanne Van Boeyen


ChatGPT poses a threat to the way we think

Re: “What is ChatGPT and why are schools blocking it?,” Jan. 8.

The article on the latest example of how artificial intelligence is transforming our world provided an excellent primer on how it is creating both opportunities and challenges in the context of student education.

ChatGPT is a free AI program that can be used to generate text for everything from poetry, to news articles, to student term papers on demand. Just type in a few things to guide the program as to what you want it to produce and, voila, your 10,000-word essay will start printing itself out in nanoseconds.

ChatGPT joins the invention of the personal computer, word processing programs and the internet as transformational technologies with applications relevant to education and the world of the written word more generally.

Educators are rightly concerned about how AI could negatively affect actual intelligence, critical thinking, problem solving and creativity if its use goes undetected. One proposed solution is to require students to only turn in handwritten work done in class for some assignments.

Sadly, the use of word processing in the classroom has rendered most student handwriting unreadable and achingly slow to produce (an average of 13 words per minute with the pen versus 40 typing).

While cursive handwriting is somewhat faster than printing, it is no longer required or taught in the majority of classrooms in Canada.

All of this is to say that the real threat afforded by the use of AI to produce schoolwork is that it will have the same negative impact on the ability to think as word-processing has had on writing.

I look forward to our educators coming up with some solutions and only hope they don’t turn to ChatGPT to find them.

Dr. Howard Brunt

North Saanich

Get tough on drivers who ignore the law

It’s time for photo radar and red-light cameras to be brought back.

I commute by foot in Victoria. Every day I walk to work, I see drivers exceeding the speed limits with alarming frequency. The most egregious examples are in the 30-km/h zones where it is not unusual to see most drivers exceeding the limit, often by more than twice the limit.

People flagrantly deciding to ignore red lights in order to make turns is another problem.

The issue as I see it is lack of enforcement. If there are no consequences for speeding and disobeying traffic lights, what is the point of having rules? Our communities need safe streets and more money for health care and social services.

Why not tap into an obvious cash cow while reducing danger for everyone?

Bruce Davies


Not prolonging life, but prolonging death

Among the many topics brought up in the recent discussions in this forum on the MAID issue have been suggestions by some people that using this option is not the right way to be handling the situation.

My own father died of lung cancer many years ago, before assisted dying was anything more than an idea that a few people espoused; thus, it was not an option that was available to him.

But it was during his final days that I became aware of something that might not have occurred to me if not for that personal tragedy that my family was going through.

When anyone is dealing with the impending death of either themselves or a loved one as a result of a terminal disease or illness, there is a point where you are no longer prolonging life, but merely prolonging death.

And when that point has been reached, or passed, then who are we to presume that we can tell someone else how to deal with that?

Maybe not a pleasant thought, but I’d like to add it to the many other thoughts being put forward by the other people who are expressing their opinions on this difficult subject.

Richard Silver


Give it a more ‘dignified’ name

Perhaps to mollify, somewhat, the antipathy of aggrieved naysayers, a less contentious acronym could be considered: MAIDD (Medical Assist In Dignified Dying).

Not to be used, however, in the parlance of those who choose to contemplate necessary (needless?) “end of life” suffering.

Ron Irish, retired physician

North Saanich

Show some respect for medical assistance

People who call it “assisted suicide” instead of “medical assistance in dying” have no idea what their single-mindedness and tenacious intolerance has done to their compassion.

It’s more than semantics. It’s respect. And those who call it the former have none of that, but rather insist on propagating their singular and selfish point of view.

T.L. Pedneault-Peasland


Lighten up about medical assistance

All these letters to the editor about MAID are far too serious. Death is just part of life and none of us are going to avoid it. I also think we should be able to choose when to die whenever we want, regardless of health.

The government should stay out of it. The pills should be available at the corner store.

The classic film Soylent Green has a beautiful scene with Edward G. Robinson choosing to die in peaceful and glorious fashion. Unfortunately, the film’s plot doesn’t handle the bodies so well after death.

C. Scott Stofer


No, the MAID debate has not been settled

Re: “Let’s live, and support medical assistance,” letter, Jan. 6.

The trope that “the debate is over” — invoked in many important topics — is getting tired. New information comes from diverse and unexpected sources. Individual and social values change.

Even if the outcome is the same, re-engaging with a topic allows individuals to better understand the details.

If you believe that a debate is settled, then be confident in defending your position — encourage others to question you, walk them through your reasoning, and help them to develop their own informed perspective.

I applaud everyone who takes the time and effort to do this, as it can be hard work.

Was the debate settled after hundreds of years of geocentrism? Should the initiators of the heliocentric model have been dismissed because “the debate is over”? Knowledge changes all the time, be open to it, don’t dismiss it.

Scott Newson


Cats are efficient at killing birds

Re: “It’s for the birds,” Jan. 8.

There is a bigger problem with migratory birds in general: unrestricted cats. It is well known that cats kill hundreds of thousands of songbirds in North America every year.

I live in the Gordon Head area. Several neighbours allow their cats to roam free. It is a weekly occurrence for me to witness a cat with a dead bird in its mouth. They are very efficient killers.

It is notable that Saanich council recently voted unanimously not to restrict unattended cats.

R.A. Green


Not a good idea to eliminate fines

Re: “Vancouver Island Regional Library eliminates all fines,” Jan. 8.

Can someone please explain to me the logic of this? They are trying to say that having the thought of minuscule fines levied to those that hold on to materials longer than three weeks is preventing people from borrowing?

May I suggest they may be enabling those very people who already don’t appreciate the wonderful resources provided free of charge by public libraries?

I see books that have food, drink or whatever smeared across pages or CDs/DVDs that look like they were used for hockey practice by some of these unappreciative people.

Now those of us rule-followers have to wait even longer on hold for those items that are forgotten about by the uncaring?

Or maybe never get it?

Mark Barnes


Condo rental idea does not solve the problem

Condo owners have put hundreds of thousands of dollars into purchasing their homes, just like owners of single-family homes.

The condo owners I know in my “19 and older building” do not hate children or renters. Owners in my building have grandchildren who visit and we do allow a small number of rentals.

What I cannot explain:

Why this autocratic government feels it can just override our home ownership rights and turn our big family home into an apartment building. Owners of single-family homes would be outraged if the premier decided to arbitrarily change the use of their homes.

In an old 39-unit building with no soundproofing in the walls or floors, these units are not a suitable place for children who need an appropriate area in which to run and play.

No restriction on the number of units which can be rented in our small building will make it very difficult for us to form a strata council, as this difficult job will become much more problematic.

Young families often don’t have the time to participate on a strata council, and investor landlords have no interest in the units other than profit; however, turning our building into a 55-plus is not necessarily to our advantage.

I also cannot explain how this government feels that allowing investors to buy condo units for rental purposes is going to solve the housing crisis. Condos that come up for rent are going to be just as expensive, if not more so, than the rental units currently on the market.

Problem not solved, so back up on this one, Premier David Eby. Please direct your attention to finding ways to assist developers in building affordable rental accommodation (such as co-op housing).

Lorraine Mainwaring


Enough with housing, there are other topics

Every time I read the letters on the shortage of housing and high rental costs in Victoria, the same stories repeat.

The spiral of increasing housing cost and higher worker wages is inevitable.

I do not think it is useful to post more letters on housing in the letters column, and I really prefer to read about how to reduce global warming and improve health care with the availability of more family doctors and improved hospital care.

Harry Kwok


Province should pay for new medical equipment

I applaud the current efforts of Health Minister Adrian Dix to make significant improvements to the medical system, but regret it’s been much too long in coming.

Now maybe we can address the second stage of our seemingly forever medical deficiency, that being the provincial government’s offloading the cost of essential medical equipment onto hospital foundations, which are forever urging the public for donations.

Every year I get urgent requests from the local hospital foundation for a donation(s) to buy essential diagnostic, etc., equipment. My donations should be for hospital comforts for patients and visitors, not to displace the responsibilities of the government.

The government must live up to the universal health-care mantra (well, doctor and hospital services anyway) by properly equipping hospitals to do their health-care task effectively, meaning the supply of essential equipment must be part and parcel of hospital services.

I have written this challenge to the minister several times without ever receiving a reply. Perhaps it’s time for a groundswell of indignation by the public, as seems to be finally working with the doctor shortage.

Stanley Brygadyr



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