News

1. Doctor: COVID isn’t the main cause of ER wait times

Emergency room doctor Kirk Magee fills out some charts at the emergency room at the QE 2 infirmary site. Photo: Nova Scotia Health

Jennifer Henderson interviewed the chief of emergency medicine for Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone for the Examiner and she writes about that conversation this morning.

The biggest takeaway: COVID is not responsible for long waits at emergency rooms for ambulances and patients, and the situation will not improve when the pandemic is finally over. 

Long ER wait times have been reported for a while now. Last week, the Examiner counted 16 ambulances lined up and waiting to offload patients at the Halifax Infirmary. And on Monday, patients at the Halifax Infirmary waited on average 40.9 hours to get admitted and ambulances waited on average 433 minutes (seven hours) to offload their patients. That’s a startling statistic. But it turns out COVID isn’t exacerbating the problem as much as we thought.

From Henderson’s article:

[Dr. Kirk] Magee said emergency medicine is “the canary in coal mine” for a health care system that has been at the breaking point for so long it is unable to cope with the additional staffing challenge posed by the pandemic.

Some patients wait a day or two in the emergency department because all the beds are filled and ambulances can’t offload new patients and leave to respond to 911 calls.

“If the emergency department were an Olympic swimmer and you threw her a 10-pound COVID weight, she should easily be able to catch that and keep above water and be fine,” said Magee. “But our swimmer is shackled with cinder blocks that have been added to years and years of neglect and now when you throw the extra pressure of COVID, she struggles to keep her head above water.”

Read the full story here to get a better sense of what a doctor on the inside is finding, how these delays got so bad, and what can be done to fix the system.

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2. COVID update

Photo: Jeremy Bezanger / Unsplash

Another Nova Scotian, a woman in her 80s, has died from COVID-19. She lived in Nova Scotia Health’s Eastern Zone and is the 122nd person to die from the virus in this province.

There are 73 people who’ve been admitted to hospital for COVID and are still in COVID units; 15 of them are in ICU. The average hospital stay is 6.4 days.

There are also 64 people who were admitted to hospital for other reasons but tested positive for COVID during the admissions screening or who were admitted for COVID but no longer require specialized care; and 112 people in hospital who contracted COVID in the hospital outbreaks. Speaking of hospital outbreaks, there were two new ones reported yesterday: one at Yarmouth Regional; and another at Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital in Pictou.

As for new cases, the province announced 415 on Tuesday. The total estimated caseload is now 5,511. It’s important to remember that these numbers continue to be backlogged and, as such, likely don’t accurately reflect the current numbers in Nova Scotia.

You can find more information on COVID in this province at Tim Bousquet’s full Tuesday update here. There’s info on pop-up testing sites and vaccination bookings (remember, booster shots are now available to Nova Scotians 18 and older), as well as a deeper breakdown of numbers announced yesterday.

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3. Prince Andrew High School to change name

Prince Andrew High School, Dartmouth

What’s the most important lesson of the 21st century? Fossil fuels aren’t as fun as they seem? Don’t eat Tide Pods? Or is it: Stop naming things after people — we’ll just have to change it later?

It’s a complicated issue. In November, Philip Moscovitch wrote a fun article on the stories behind the names of some of Nova Scotia’s schools. Turns out not all buildings and places are named after terrible people. But some are. Here’s an excerpt:

In Nova Scotia, I was surprised to learn, vanishingly few schools are named after major contemporary or historical figures.

There’s Joseph Howe, of course, a couple of prime ministers…and, uh, Prince Andrew, whose name is unlikely to grace the high school in Dartmouth much longer.

Looks like he’s right on that last point.

The CBC reported last night that Prince Andrew High School, named after the disgraced royal whose been mired in accusations of sexual abuse of a minor and involvement with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, will have a new name come September.

The school was named after the prince when he was born in 1960. At the time, his record was squeaky clean, so you can’t blame them for naming the school after someone who had accomplished nothing. But that’s the risk you run in doing that, I suppose.

It’s no surprise the school will be renamed. I think people have been waiting for it to happen since allegations against the prince first started to circulate. Now, the school’s principal has finally made the official announcement that a change is coming.

“The name of a school should be reflective of our school community and uphold our values as a safe and inclusive learning space for all,” principal Craig Campbell wrote in an email to CBC. “Our hope is to continue to build our identity as a positive, supportive and respectful community, with a name to match.”

Any suggestions? The school is currently named after an alleged sex offender from an elitist family, so the bar for improvement is very low.

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4. Road funding

Highway 103

Anyone hit that pothole on the 101 earlier this month? Which pothole, you ask?

Terrible roads have long been a fact of life for Nova Scotia drivers. The province is hoping to change that though.

The Canadian Press is reporting that the province, with the help of the federal government, will be putting nearly $500 million toward improving Nova Scotia’s roads, highways, and bridges in the 2022-23 fiscal year (which starts April 1). The province will contribute about $340 million of the total cost.

There will be more than 150 major projects coming from this funding. The highlights: 12 new bridges and 18 replacements, doubling spending on improving the province’s 8,400 km of gravel roads, and the ongoing twinning of highways 101, 103, 104, and 107.

A German friend of mine once told me the difference he most noticed between his home and Nova Scotia was the roads. Theirs were drivable, and ours were, well, let’s say subpar.

Maybe they’ll be fixed forever now. Or at least fixed for a year.

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The many joys of reading out loud with others

The book’s upside-down, but you get the idea. Photo: unsplash.com/Ismail Salad Osman Hajji Dirir

A handy trick, if you want to improve the flow and clarity of your writing, is to speak out loud as you write. It helps you pick up on the rhythm of your prose, the holes in your arguments, what pops, what drags, what’s redundant, and so on.

It’s not much of an insider tip. If you attended high school, you’ve likely heard this advice before. That’s where I heard it first, before it was hammered into me through five years of English and journalism courses. It definitely helps. So I try to write out loud (it’s more of a whisper when I write early in the morning). And editing out loud is a must.

But what about reading out loud? That’s something that I’ve started to pick up over the past few months.

Well, I’ve started to pick it up more, at least. I’ve often read out loud while trying to decipher a difficult work or to better understand a character’s colloquial speech. Reading articles to others is also something I’ve done in the past. I think back fondly to a summer afternoon at the Beaches in Toronto, reading what’s still my favourite feature the Globe and Mail ever published — this one on capybaras who became folk heroes after escaping from the High Park Zoo — to my sister and barely getting through it because we were laughing so hard.

Reading an entire book out loud with someone I know is a novelty for me, though.

I started trying it in October. It was a way to spend time with the woman I was seeing at the time (while simultaneously ensuring I hit my book club deadlines) and has developed into a pleasant pastime that I’d like to continue. We had such a great time doing it, I had to ask myself why the activity isn’t more prevalent.

I mean, maybe a lot of people are doing it and I’m just oblivious. I know some couples who like to read a book together while also reading others on their own, but I think they’re in the minority. And yes, we read to kids, the sick, and others who need comfort or human connection. And writers often read publicly while a room full of people listen respectfully. But those are special circumstances.

When we think of reading — at least, “reading for pleasure” — I think most of us picture the solitary bookworm, tucked away in a nook or beneath a tree, silently focused on the book at hand. We think of libraries with their quiet stacks, isolating study rooms, and shushing librarians.

Getting lost alone in a good book is one of life’s coziest pleasures, so it’s not surprising this is the image we associate with reading. The silent, solitary approach to books will almost certainly continue to be the predominant way I read for the rest of my life. I just wonder, now that I’ve been trying it, why we don’t leave a little more room for communal reading. (Some say it’s the way people used to read before the 2oth century when literacy levels rose and new media took over, though there’s some debate).

I mentioned in my Morning File last week that I’ve been reading Don Quixote with my girlfriend since the end of November. It’s been a lot of fun. There’ve also been a lot of unforeseen benefits to reading together. From this brief experience, I thought I’d compile a list of benefits. So here’s my personal, unscientific look at the joys of reading out loud with others:

  • You know when you’re reading and you’ve been going along for a while before noticing you haven’t taken anything in for a page and a half? That doesn’t really happen when you read with someone else. When you read aloud, and you know someone’s listening — or you’re listening and you don’t want to embarrass yourself by revealing you haven’t been paying attention — you tend to be more engaged with the text. Even if you’re dog-tired, you’ll retain enough mental energy to ensure you aren’t wasting the other person’s time. It forces you to pay attention. You don’t miss as much.
  • It makes the story come to life. Especially dialogue. When you read out loud, it’s easier to tell the tone of the author and characters. Were they being sarcastic? Aloof? Misleading? Is this a tense interaction with plenty of subtext? It’s also a lot of fun to hear how your reading partner tries to do the character voices. Take this quote from author Roxana Robinson, speaking in the New Yorker about how hearing herself record her first audiobook added a vitality to her book she hadn’t encountered before: “My voice is familiar but strange in my ears — formal, precise, magnified. The words are both known and unknown: known because I wrote them, unknown because I have never encountered them like this. I have never drawn these written words through my lungs and throat, making them into something new.”
  • You get to rib each other endlessly over mispronounced words. My number one worst offence: pronouncing misled, “my-zuld.” Yes, I do have a BA in English. Inside jokes will also abound.
  • Hearing each other try to perform the story adds a nice personal touch that you don’t get with mass-produced media. You get to enjoy something of (hopefully) professional quality, but you also get to imbue it with your own style. Even if you or your partner aren’t great at reading out loud, there’s a human element about hearing how people you know interpret and perform what they’re reading. It can be quite endearing.
  • Remember how I said reading your own writing helps clarify what you’re trying to say? The same goes for other people’s work. This is perhaps the best benefit to reading out loud. Especially if you’re reading a 400-year-old Spanish epic that was translated into English 300 years ago. Last night, my girlfriend and I had to stop to figure out what was meant by the word “wallet” in the chapter we were reading. Turns out, aside from a place for your cash, a wallet used to refer to a bag of provisions, often carried by pilgrims. I can look things up on my own while reading, but I’m far more likely to do so if there’s another person who also has no idea what’s being said.
  • It’s intimate. Or, as a Conversation article puts it, it’s “seductive.” (This one obviously hinges on who you’re reading with). “Reading aloud takes longer,” reads the Conversation article, “but that is part of the point. Slow reading is sensuous reading. As opposed to the audiobooks now so firmly a part of the cultural landscape, for adults as well as children, reading aloud is responsive, intuitive and embodied.” Hearing your partner’s voice while reading in bed definitely adds a little spice to a normally wholesome or academic activity. When I was in the Foundation Year Program at King’s College, I had to slog through the entirety of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The scene I remember most is when Dante meets the forbidden lovers, Paolo and Francesca, who started an affair after reading to each other about Lancelot and Guinevere’s dalliance. When they reach the part of their book where Lancelot finally kisses Guinevere, Dante gives us the hottest line in Western literature: “That day, we read no further.”
  • Reading together is like having the book club experience in real time. Who’s that character again? What do you think will happen next? Why did she do that? What does the vase represent? Figuring a book out with someone else as you read it adds so much to the experience. It also makes you think about what you’re reading that much more
  • Lastly, it’s fun. Why not try reading with someone you know and see how it goes? Try it below with the Noticed section!

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Noticed…

“Hairy types get the word to clean up”

Let me share a little something I noticed from an odd present I received this past Christmas.

Last month, in the spirit of thrift, sustainability, and anti-consumerism, my sister decided to try to buy all her Christmas gifts secondhand. She told me this early in December, a few weeks before she flew home from Toronto, so I had lots of time to speculate what used item she might scrounge up for me. I assumed a book from a secondhand shop would be in the mix and maybe some vintage clothing but outside of that, I was as clueless as I was curious.

I was right about a secondhand book, but no clothes. She gave me a few other used odds and ends too, like an old bookend set that resembles two halves of a ship, which I’ve dubbed the HCMS Tetanus Shot for its numerous jagged metal points.

By far the strangest and most unexpected gift she gave, though, was a stack of old Montreal newspapers from the summer of Expo ’67. My sister had somehow found them on an online marketplace for Toronto. For some reason, she decided to buy them. Stranger still, she decided to give them to me. They seemed like a more appropriate gift for my parents, both of whom had gone to Expo when they were 10 years old. (My mom grew up in Montreal and my dad came up on a family road trip; they’d meet several years later at Acadia).

The Montreal Gazette from April 28, 1967.

I’m glad I got them though. This week I finally started to peruse a few of the papers in earnest — I’d flipped through them on Christmas day, but hadn’t read much — and there’s some great stuff in there. There’s a letter to the editor complaining about legislation requiring food products to have labels in French and English. There’s another that asks whether the fiery crash of a cosmonaut in April and the fatal failure of Apollo 1 in February weren’t proof that man was meant to stay on the ground and rule over the earth, leaving the heavens to God, as intended.

There’s a full-page piece of what we’d now call “sponsored content” for a life insurance company that explains to young people that even “our most popular rock ‘n’ roll singers” are prudent enough to invest their earnings in things like stocks, bonds, and, of course, life insurance. It’s not square to be fiscally responsible.

My favourite article is from a copy of the Montreal Gazette, dated April 28, 1967. Expo had kicked off the day before, but there were some hitches. A brief security guard strike had to be resolved on day one, reads one article. There were also issues with the professional appearance of workers at the Expo grounds. In an article headlined, “Hairy Types Get the Word to Clean Up,” we learn that some dangerous style choices have been nipped in the bud before festivities get too far underway.

From the Montreal Gazette, April 28, 1967.

“An Expo executive issued a memo Thursday,” the article begins, “‘banning ‘beards, beatle hair and mini-skirts’ during work hours.”

It’s not like the controversial debates over dress codes and appearance in the workplace have gone away in 2022 — assuming you still have a workplace — but it’s hard not to laugh at how ridiculously dated this is. I also like that beards and beatle haircuts are only banned during working hours. If you wanna grow a goatee and a mop, no problem, just make sure you do it after 5’o’clock, and make sure you hit the barber before 9am.

So why the ban on these styles? Is it just an older generation being stuffy? Not at all! Expo executives are just being practical:

[Executive] W.R. MacLean based it on the close contact between his largely mini-skirted underlings and a large number of visiting writers and reporters.”

He said that because visiting press ranges from ‘very liberal individuals to very narrow ones, we strongly urge staff to take the conservative road.’

‘Therefore, beards, beatle haircuts and mini-skirts are unacceptable during working hours in the administration building and on site.’

Two things here. First, “mini-skirted underlings” is exactly how I would expect the female workforce to be described in 1967. Second, as a somewhat liberal reporter, I feel it necessary to defend myself here. I want to make it clear I’m a professional on the job; I’ve never once let my weakness for beards, beatle haircuts, or mini-skirts get in the way of my work, no matter how strong the temptation.

It’s a shame the ban had to be implemented because the execs apparently don’t have any personal problem with these styles. But it seems the radicalism and wild animal lust these liberal looks provoke put them in a bind:

The memo added that ‘we like beards, beatle hair and mini-skirts’ but circumstances had forced the crackdown.’

‘This is good office decorum that must be put in force immediately,’ the memo concluded in capital letters.

The executive said “the order applies especially to the ‘records and research unit’ from which reporters often seek background.”

The last line leads me to believe there were a few specific incidents at the records and research unit that led to this anti-beard/beatle-cut/minidress witch hunt.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this time capsule of an article. Laughing at the silliness of the past always beats crying over the silliness of the present.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Province

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — location not listed; Operational and Department Oversight Failures at Island Employment and Government Oversight of Third-Party Use of Public Funds


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

An African Nova Scotian Community Calling In (Wednesday, 6:30pm) — Online panel discussion brings together respected members of the African Nova Scotian community representing a variety of life experiences and knowledges. Together they will generate a conversation concerning systemic issues facing the community. Register here.

Thursday

Delineating spinal interneurons involved in task-dependent control of locomotor behaviors (Thursday, 11am) — Ying Zhang will talk via Teams

Conversations on HIV RESEARCH: Social Work and Our Work for Justice (Thursday, 5:30pm) — Eli Manning, Michael Parsons, and Andre Watkis will talk via Collaborate Webinars. With CART Transcription.

ESS lecture: A Conversation with Elizabeth Kolbert (Thursday, 7pm) — Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer and journalist, author of Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (2021) and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014), will talk via Zoom. Email here for the link.

Mount Saint Vincent

Black and Indigenous Speaker Series: The Healing Thereafter (Wednesday, 12pm) — a virtual panel discussion of intergenerational trauma and the soul wound resulting from residential schools and the Sixties Scoop.

Our emphasis is to unpack the causal arc that brings us to this current moment, the effects of intergenerational trauma on resultant contemporary conditions, and paths, programs, and policies of healing, resilience, and restoration. The focus of this presentation is healing of identity and a path forward through understanding the dynamics that perpetuate cycles of the soul wound. Registration here.


In the harbour

Halifax
05:30: Boheme, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
06:00: Tanja, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
07:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
10:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
10:45: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
15:30: Boheme moves to Pier 31
22:00: CMA CGM J. Adams, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures


Footnotes

I’m getting close to the end of the book, but still haven’t come across this song. I’m beginning to think it’s not in there.


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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. All that money spent on roads won’t improve the maintenance – pot holes or snow/ice clearing. In Nova Scotia we spenmd money on building roads not maintaining them.

  2. Reading Out Loud: “Lastly, it’s fun. Why not try reading with someone you know and see how it goes?” Your comments ring true. I often read out loud and think out loud, talking to myself in essence. My Mom told me, you are not crazy if you talk to yourself, only if you think you are talking to someone else who is not there. I have often told that to people who hear me talking to myself and wonder…

    1. I tell people that hearing me talking to myself that I do it because I like to have at least one intelligent conversation a day. 🙂

  3. Am I the only person wondering why the Province is spending half a $billion on roads rather than hospitals? I strongly suggest our provincial government re-prioritize and place those funds immediately toward our desperately unhinged health care system.

    Can you imagine a life threatening event which sends you to Emergency where you wind up stuck in an ambulance for 40 hours ??!!??

    Personally I would prefer to spend a few years bumping and cursing down the highways, my irritation interrupted by the happy knowledge our hospitals are being expanded.

    Secondly, who is the beneficiary of all this cement and road making ? In New Jersey it’s the mafia. Does Nova Scotia have a roadworks mafia?

    1. It’s an Old Boys Club that includes senior managers of what used to be called the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) … which proved very resistant to any innovation in the design and construction of the new Summer St Parkade for the QE2 Infirmary, dropping a hidden “Easter Egg” gift for the NS construction industry in the RFP, a buried notice that they would not consider any proposals for automated (robotic) valet parking systems, which could have provided NSHA a much greener, healthier, smaller, safer, more user friendly and less expensive solution on an existing parking lot next to the Soldiers’ Memorial building.