News

1. MyHealthNS

Jennifer Henderson reports on MyHealthNS and the decision by McKesson Canada to pull the plug on the online portal that gave doctors access to results for X-rays, MRIs, and blood tests. The portal also allowed patients to book appointments and correspond with their doctor through email. Health Minister Randy Delorey made the announcement last week, saying it was a business decision. Henderson reports on what might have gone wrong.

Clearly the uptake by family physicians and patients after three years of piloting and three years after the launch in 2016 was underwhelming. Only 300 family doctors and 30,000 patients were using the online system. There are about 1,100 licensed family docs in the province so only about 27% were using it.

Dr.Gerard MacDonald, chair of the IT steering committee for Doctors Nova Scotia, said one of the issues with the portal was integration with the current EMR system used by most doctors in the province.

While we have some disappointment with the fact the MyHealthNS portal is going to be phased out, I think it is a tremendous opportunity to look at newer products that may have much tighter integration with our medical records.

Click here to read “After $8.5 million was spent on developing MyHealthNS, the vendor of the online portal for health records is calling it quits.”

And Stephen Kimber also looks at what went wrong with MyHealthNS, including the money. McKesson was receiving a fee for every doctor who registered for the portal.

Whatever the cause of the lack of sign-ups, the result is that the actual cost to date for the project has been just $8.5-million. But that has also meant McKesson — which is paid based largely on the basis of the number of physicians and patients who registered and used its online portal — has received significantly less in fees than it anticipated. Just $4.5 million to date. Chump change for a company with revenues north of $200-billion a year.

A good guess is that McKesson wanted a bigger slice of the pie, or perhaps a guaranteed annual fee in order to continue managing it.

Click here to read “What went wrong with MyHealthNS?”

Both these articles are for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

2. Cyclist asks that driver who her hit to “own your mistakes”

Jodie Fitzgerald was riding her bike on Devonshire Avenue in Halifax’s north end on Saturday when she was hit by a driver in a white BMW, who drove away from the scene. Fitzgerald spoke with Haley Ryan at The Star Halifax about being hit; Fitzgerald says she was in a bike lane at the time.

Jodie Fitzgerald. Photo from Facebook.

“Suddenly I just felt like ‘bam’ – big, loud sound, the biggest pain in my tailbone I’ve ever felt.”

Fitzgerald made a public post about the incident on her Facebook profile. She says after she picked herself up, she saw the car drive away, with two children looking out of one of its windows. Another driver stopped to help Fitzgerald while other bystanders called 911 and her parents.

3. Ruff times for dog owners in the city

Dogs continue to make news in the city, this time with a new campaign from the HRM asking dog owners to scoop their pets’ poop because it’s polluting local waterways.

Alex Cooke with CBC reports that the Canines for Clean Water campaign will educate dog owners that dog poop carries bacteria that can potentially close local beaches. Dog owners can sign on and pledge to clean up after their pets.

The program will focus on Lake Banook and Lake MicMac. A pollution control study released by Stantec in April shows both lakes have high levels of canine E coli. The study also found high levels of bacteria from human and deer feces, but controlling the dog poop is more preventable.

Councillor Sam Austin says while most dog owners are responsible, the campaign will encourage others to clean up after their dogs.

You want to make sure that you’re doing all you can to minimize that so that we can enjoy the lakes for recreation

Clean up after your dogs if you like to swim in the lakes, if you like boating in the lakes, if you value the environment.

Scoop your dog’s poop (not exactly as shown.)

Meanwhile, the Stubborn Goat Beer Garden on the waterfront is no longer allowing dogs on its patio, after the owners got a visit from an inspector with the Department of Environment last week for violating regulations that bans dogs from restaurants (service dogs are permitted in eating establishments). Elizabeth Chiu at CBC spoke with owner Geir Simensen on Saturday, who says the bar had a policy for the last few years that allowed well-behaved and leashed dogs in a designated area in its self-serve area where no food is served. But after someone complained and the inspector visited, they changed their policy.

We expect daily visits, and then the fines would just start piling up.

Brightwood Brewery in Dartmouth recently started a petition asking MLAs to change the regulations. Two weeks ago, Brightwood got a visit from an inspector, too, after a customer complained about a dog inside the taproom. So far, that petition has more than 10,000 signatures.

I like dogs, I really do (but I have two cats). But I also like going places where strange dogs won’t jump on me. That includes parks, the beach, and restaurants. That’s not a personal anti-dog policy; I don’t want strange people at these places jumping on me either. I’ve been at on-leash parks where dogs were roaming free, and yes, I’ve had those dogs jump on me. The usual response from the owner is their dog is friendly and won’t bite. All dogs are capable of biting.

Some people are fearful of dogs. Others are very allergic. I also can’t imagine servers carrying heavy trays of drinks or hot food navigating a space with dogs on the floor.

I am also not a fan of people bringing their dogs to work, unless they ask their colleagues first. I remember at one office where I worked the dog of a staff member stuck its big head under my dress. But people feel uncomfortable saying they don’t want dogs in their workplaces because that dog in the office might belong to the boss.

Sure, we can change the regulations so restaurant owners can decide if they want dogs on their patios and then customers will decide where they want to eat. But lakes, parks, beaches, and waterways are shared public spaces. There are many dog owners who know how to handle their dogs in public and pick up after them. There are others who do not. Keep your dog on a leash, if that’s what the signs say.  And pick up after them wherever you take them.

4. Doctor shortages close more ERs

Six emergency rooms in Nova Scotia will be closed this week because of doctor shortages, reports Alex Quon with Global Halifax. Add that to five others that will be closed for other reasons not given.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NHSA) announced on Sunday that the Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital in Middle Musquodoboit will be closed until Saturday. Other ERs that will close include North Cumberland Collaborative Emergency Centre in Pugwash, Roseway Hospital in Shelburne, Annapolis Community Health Centre’s Collaborative Emergency Centre in Annapolis Royal, Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital in Sheet Harbour, and Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital Collaborative Emergency Centre in Tatamagouche.

5. Dream home owners get complaints over short-term rentals

This Dream Home is a nightmare for neighbours. Photo: Airbnb

A couple that won a home in last year’s QEII Foundation Lottery are in a dispute with their neighbours in Chester Basin.

Troy Fahie spoke with Jack Julian at CBC about the house, which is located in Skipper Hills Estates. Lahey and his fiancé Nina Tardif live in Middle Sackville, which is close to where their teenage son goes to school. But they plan on living in the house when they retire. The costs to own the property are about $13,000 a year, so the couple rent it out on Airbnb during the summer months for $400 a night. They’ve had guests from  Scotland, Texas, and the Middle East.

Fahie says the neighbours are not happy.

Someone actually called and put a complaint in because they’re playing washer [toss] at 9 at night. I mean it’s kind of ridiculous right?

Fahie says the developer John Dimick told him the family is also banned from the neighbourhood wharf because guests were using it for sea kayaking.

CBC received a copy of  the covenants, which don’t specifically ban short-term rentals.

Fahie says a meeting with Skipper Hill Estates and Marina Home Owners’ Association is scheduled for August 27.

I’ll never move into a community that has a [home owners’ association] ever again.

It’s like a bully system. It’s play by our rules, or we’re going to make it rough on you guys.


Views

1. Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison. Photo: YouTube

Evelyn C. White tells us about the time she met Toni Morrison at a lecture where she was introducing the author who was then to introduce Morrison.

I arrived backstage where Morrison and the acclaimed British author had just returned from what I gathered had been a lavish meal. Clearly close friends, the women were in a jovial mood. Transfixed, I listened as Morrison began chatting about the precision with which she’d crafted a passage in a recent book. As the writer told it, she’d toiled mightily to capture, for the reader, the exact make and colour (green) of a car she’d imagined for the scene.

Finally satisfied, Morrison said she dispatched the text to her editor who, indeed, praised the beauty of her prose. But there was a problem, she confided to her friend. “He told me that cars had not yet been invented at the time in which I’d set the passage.”

And with that, the Nobel Laureate, thoroughly enchanted with herself, let loose with a burst of laughter that filled the room.

White had a chance to chat with Morrison again, this time to get permission to reprint the contents of a letter Morrison wrote to Alice Walker.*

Click here to read “Toni Morrison: ‘White people have a very, very serious problem … Take me out of it.’”

2. The world is not a giant ashtray

On Saturday, I was driving down Bedford Highway when the driver of the red Jeep in front of me tossed his cigarette butt out the window. I’ve seen this too many times to count. Short of chasing these drivers down, I’m not sure what we can do to stop this behaviour. Fines, I guess (the fine for littering on a highway is $410.)

For some smokers, the world is their giant ashtray. Check out this flower planter my landlord recently brought inside the building:

I dislike cigarette butts and I cannot lie.

Littering is terrible behaviour, but not properly disposing of cigarette butts seems especially vile. A smouldering cigarette butt could start a fire in a ditch or hit a person near the car from which it’s tossed.

According to this article from National Geographic published on Friday, only about one-third of the butts of the 6.5 trillion cigarettes smoked around the world every year make it to the garbage. That means the rest are going out car windows or onto the ground. According to this article, cigarette butts are the world’s most littered plastic item and they’re damaging the environment.

Cigarette filters are made of a plastic called cellulose acetate. When tossed into the environment, they dump not only that plastic, but also the nicotine, heavy metals, and many other chemicals they’ve absorbed into the surrounding environment.

The article chronicles the evolution of cigarette filters, including today’s e-cigarettes, which are made mostly from plastic. Cigarette butts can stop plants from growing and they pollute waterways and the ocean, where they can be eaten by marine wildlife.

One of the solutions suggested is banning cigarette filters completely. India banned plastic packaging on cigarettes in 2016.

But why do people litter in the first place? Can’t drivers just put the cigarette butts in the ashtrays in their cars?

I found this interesting piece on the psychology of littering that includes an interview with California State University social psychologist Wesley Schultz, who studies littering. Schultz says people litter for all kinds of reasons.

We found that the distance to a trash receptacle was the strongest predictor of littering. So the farther away you are from a trash can or a recycling container, the more likely you are to litter.

The presence of existing litter was strongly predictive of littering behavior. So if you’re in a place that’s already highly littered, you’re much more likely to litter than if you’re in a place that’s clean or free of litter.

This weekend, RCMP in PEI tweeted out this reminder to drivers that cigarette butts are not biodegradable.

On Saturday, Clayton Park West MLA Rafah DiConstanzo led a cleanup of litter, including cigarette butts, in her riding (this is where I live).

This is a behaviour we have to make socially unacceptable, with more fines, leading by example, and helping smokers quit. Our communities are not your trash can.

3. Sciences proves you people are pissing off your servers and bartenders

You can help avoid this.

In March, I wrote about Vanessa Myers, a psychology student who was researching how customer interactions affects the blood pressure of servers and bartenders in Halifax.

This weekend, Myers sent me her masters’ thesis, The Cost of Service: Exploring customer interactions and emotional labour on front-line employees’ emotional exhaustion and ambulatory blood pressure. Myers monitored the blood pressure of servers and bartenders for a full working day, having them complete hourly three-minute diary entries after their blood pressure was taken. It turns out a lot of people are pissing off their bartenders and servers. In an email, Myers told me:

In terms of workplace interactions, I found that both supervisor and manager interactions influenced restaurant servers’ physiological health through increased blood pressure at work. In addition, negative interactions with managers, coworkers, and customers influenced employees’ self-reported mental health via an emotional exhaustion survey.

Myers found 41 bartenders and servers to take part (just over half of the recruits were bartenders).  She recruited them through social media and newspaper articles about the study. The average age of the sample was 27.39, and about two-thirds of the participants were female. Most (68.3 per cent) were college or university graduates. Four were supervisors, 21 worked full time, 14 part time, and two were casual employees. The average years in the job was 3.78 while the average time working in customer service was 10.95 years. The typical work day for the sample ranged from five to 12 hours and seven to 45 hours a week. Most of the recruits wore the blood pressure monitors when they worked a night shift. No one reported a previous diagnosis of high blood pressure, 19.5 per cent were smokers, and the average body mass index was 23.9.

Each participant’s blood pressure was measured hourly and each person had to fill out a diary with questions about their posture and their consumption of food, caffeine and cigarettes in that past hour. They also had to record who (manager, customer, coworker, supervisor) they had interactions with in the 15 minutes before their blood pressure was measured and were asked to rate those interactions, with a one being negative and a five being positive.

Myers was focusing on the emotional labour of the work and two factors in particular: surface acting (faking the required emotion) and deep acting (changing inner feelings to match the required emotion). Myers says she learned that early on in their work shift, employees who used surface acting had higher self-reported emotional exhaustion levels. But over time, the employees who engaged in deep acting were more drained.

Myers says she was surprised by some of the results:

I thought (and hypothesized) surface acting would be more detrimental for employees’ health, however, when looking at the longitudinal effects of emotional labour it appears that deep acting may be more draining for employees to engage in.

(Myers says more longitudinal research is needed to support this finding, though). Her thesis will be posted in Saint Mary’s archives in the next month or so.

Myers says because workplace interactions can have a negative impact on employees’ physical and mental health, and customer interactions are too unpredictable to improve, she says it’s important for managers and supervisors to create a positive and supportive environment where staff can thrive.

My study supported that both surface acting and deep acting can have negative implications for employees’ mental health. Moving forward, I hope managers and supervisors support their employees by informing them that the customer is not always right and they do not need to continuously engage in organizationally-desirable behaviours (emotional labour) to please the difficult customer.

At the end of the day, the employees’ health should be the first priority, not the customer.If employees are provided with the appropriate resources to improve their health (e.g., support from leaders, recognition, ability to delegate work tasks), inevitably successful organizational outcomes will follow because a healthy worker is a productive worker.

Managers and supervisors, be good to your staff. And customers? Be kind and tip well, too.


Noticed

Dean’s Flowers on Stanley Street in Halifax’s north end closed its doors and had a half-price sale on Saturday. Halifax ReTales shared the news on Friday. According to this story in the Truro Daily News, owner Holly Winchester sold the building to a “couple of guys.”

Dean’s Flowers

The flower shop celebrated its 100th anniversary earlier this year, but according to a Facebook post Winchester made on July 30, the media exposure wasn’t translating into more revenue.

Because my flower shop is 100 years old, we have had a ton of press over the last six months, on two television stations, in two newspapers, in a glossy magazine, and more. Everywhere I go, people tell me that they have seen me and my business being celebrated.

Strangely enough, all this fantastic exposure hasn’t generated the income that we hoped it would. But it didn’t occur to me why, until now.
I was chatting with my son about Google the other day. As a joke, really, I put my name in the Google search bar, and rather than something relevant to me, the ads for two local flower shops came up. My name brought up their ads. I was shocked and saddened.

A conversation with a Google Ad-words representative this morning confirmed that these two local flower shops have used my personal name and my business name as search words for their ads. So, if someone Googles me or my business, they are hijacked away.

I wonder what people think about that. The Google guy actually said that I should do the same thing, and use their names and business names in my search words. That is not even remotely something that I would do. Personally I don’t think its worth the bad kharma.

Smith’s Bakery

Smith’s Bakery, another north-end business, had its final day on Saturday. I actually drove by on Sunday and owners Dennis Evans and Tara Fleming were getting ready for a sale for the community because the store has to be empty by Aug. 22. They say the building won’t be torn down, but they’re not sure about the future for any new business that will be established there. Says Fleming:

Hopefully, another restaurant moves in and people go to it and support it, especially if it’s locally run. That’s important.

Evans has been working at Smith’s for 15 years, five as its owner and 10 before that when his father, Frank, owned the business. He’s says he’s seen a lot of changes in the area. He says most of the neighbours are young professionals and parents who don’t have vehicles. Still, he says Smith’s had its fans.

If you go on the Facebook page, it’s a diatribe of memories.

Both say the community is changing with new businesses and new neighbours and Fleming says the change was inevitable.

I notice the demographic from here keeps moving. So, Fairview might be the new north end. You get businesses there opening up and people moving out that way. It’s like any other city; the downtown core is just going to be for the elite and the people who can afford it and the outskirts are going to be for the people who can’t.

Both say they will miss the staff and the customers, but they won’t miss the early mornings or all the “fires” they had to put out, like the mixers or the ovens always breaking during the Christmas baking rush.

Evans and Fleming say they know the building won’t be torn down. They said they’d come back to visit, but they live in Boutiliers Point, so they are more likely to support local businesses there.

Fleming works at NSCAD and Evans will be looking for a job. They’re also looking into writing a Smith’s Bakery cookbook that will include all the bakery’s original recipes, like its birthday cakes.

We will certainly see new local businesses set up shop in the north end and elsewhere and we should support them. But we can probably expect the loss of other community staples like Dean’s and Smith’s.


Government

City

Monday

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Bedford – Hammonds Plains Community Centre) — a single apartment unit at 103 Bedford Road.

Tuesday

Executive Standing Committee (Tuesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — a special in camera meeting to deal with a personnel issue. Presumably, this is related to CAO Jacques Dubé himself.

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda. Tim is threatening to live-blog the meeting from a cottage in the woods, but that probably won’t happen.

Province

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — Dalhousie Medical School and its Role in Health Care Sustainability.


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Dalhousie Muslim Student Association Eid AlAdha BBQ (Monday, 5pm, the Quad) — to celebrate the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. The event is student-centered and is the first of its kind in recent years to be held following the ratification of the DMSA (Dal Muslim Student Association) by the DSU this summer after it has long been inactive. More info here.

Tuesday

Thesis Defence, English (Tuesday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Brandi Estey-Burtt will defend “When the Messiah Comes: The Postsecular Messianic in Contemporary Literature​.”


In the harbour

05:00: YM Essence, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:00: Glenda Melanie, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Antwerp
06:00: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
15:30: Bomar Rebecca sails for sea
17:00: YM Essence sails for Rotterdam


Footnotes

I’m collecting postings of jobs that pay less than a living wage (less than $20/hr), but require a significant skill set and/or a post-secondary education.  If you see anything out there, send it to me at suzannerent@outlook.com.

* As originally published, Morrison’s and Walker’s names were mixed up. We regret the error.

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. I didn’t know about Myhealthns until I saw the story. My doctor(s) weren’t part of it but I didn’t know that until I signed in and looked for them. Not very useful.

  2. Are there that many white BMWs registered in Halifax that the police couldn’t check each of them?