News

1. Lisa Banfield’s 19 years of abuse

Lisa Banfield speaks with a police investigator in Portapique in October 2020. Still from an RCMP video

Tim Bousquet’s latest article from the documents from the Mass Casualty Commission details the abuse Lisa Banfield endured from GW for 19 years:

Dozens of people knew about the abuse. Her family knew about the abuse. The Wortman family knew about the abuse. Her friends knew about the abuse. Her work associates knew about the abuse. Her neighbours knew about the abuse.

Police were called to one scene one night she was abused, but don’t appear to have taken any action. They were called a second time years later by a concerned neighbour, but again took no action.

The documented pattern of abuse is detailed in an exhaustive document released by the Mass Casualty Commission today, entitled “Perpetrator’s Violence Towards Common-Law Spouse.” The document names 17 “key first responders,” mostly police, and it cites and quotes from police records, and police and commission interviews with 29 civilian witnesses, whose witnesses statements are now publicly available.

As well, Lisa Banfield conducted four interviews with police investigators in the immediate hours and days after the murders, and another five multi-hour interviews with commission investigators. The transcripts of all those interviews are also now publicly available. Additionally, in October 2020, Banfield went back to Portapique with police and explained on video what happened the night of April 18 and morning of April 19; that video is available here: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

The article chronicles the time from when Banfield first met GW at a bar downtown, the first time he abused Banfield, how he controlled her finances, and the weeks they spent in isolation at the home in Portapique before the killings on that weekend in April 2020.

Click here to read the full story.

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2. Nova Scotia offering low interest mortgages for nonprofit housing purchases

Trisha Estabrooks, a resident of the building behind her, speaks at an announcement in Halifax on Wednesday. — Photo: Zane Woodford

On Wednesday, Zane Woodford attended an announcement about the Community Housing Acquisition Program (CHAP), which provides nonprofits with up to $10 million in low-interest financing toward the purchase of existing affordable housing, up to 95% of the sale price. As Woodford reports, the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia purchased several buildings using the program, including an apartment complex on Crown Drive in Halifax. Trisha Estabrooks has lived there with her two kids for five years. She pays $857/month in rent, but was worried about being renovicted. Now with the trust’s purchase of the building, she doesn’t have to worry anymore. Woodford writes:

“It’s hard … I reached out to a couple places and didn’t hear anything back. so I was basically sitting on my hands worrying.”

It was a relief when Estabrooks found out the buyer was the non-profit Housing Trust of Nova Scotia, and it plans to keep it affordable.

The building was one of five the Housing Trust acquired in a $30-million deal that includes 295 units. Two other buildings are in downtown Dartmouth, and two more are in Fairview. As the Halifax Examiner reported in May, the Housing Trust recently pivoted to buying existing homes rather than building.

Click here to read Woodford’s story. 

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3. Long waits continue at emergency departments

The emergency department at Cobequid Community Health Centre. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont.

“Significant” patient capacity and staffing challenges continue to hamper Nova Scotia Health’s (NSH) ability to provide timely care in all four of the province’s health zones.

On Wednesday, NSH shared a public service advisory informing Nova Scotians that patients can expect “longer than usual waits” in emergency departments and also for admission into hospital beds from emergency departments. 

“Nova Scotia Health apologizes for the increased wait times in emergency departments and the impacts of these high demands for services on other patients and our health care providers,” the advisory states. 

“We know these past two years have been very difficult for everyone and we continue to ask a lot of our staff and physicians. We are aware of too many situations where our staff have been subjected to abusive behaviour and language, including personal threats. This is not acceptable and is adding to our staffing recruitment and retention challenges.”

The advisory concludes by asking people to “please be kind and know we are here to help.” 

The statement reminds anyone experiencing an emergency to visit the nearest emergency department without hesitation. Emergency departments at regional hospitals and the QEII Health Sciences Centre are open 24/7, while smaller sites experience “periodic closures.” 

Residents are advised to look for those smaller site closures here

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4. The Tideline, Episode 87: Halifax Pride/Partner

Partner—aka Lucy Niles and Josée
Caron

On this week’s episode of The Tideline, riotous gay rock band Partner — aka Lucy Niles and Josée Caron — joins Tara Thorne on the show from Montreal ahead of its Sunday afternoon show at the Garrison Grounds for Halifax Pride. Here’s a bit more about the show:

They dig into what it was like putting out an album in the pandemic, what pride means to them now, the lives they’re still changing, and guitar solos. Plus Adam Reid from Halifax Pride returns to chat about this year’s event, back to full strength for the first time since 2019. Plus a song from Jazz Fest headliner The Weather Station.

Click here to listen!

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Views

Dealing with difficult patients in health care

Dr. Leisha Hawker. Photo: Doctors Nova Scotia

My kid and I are in Day 11 of recovering from COVID-19. On Monday, I called my family doctor to see if I could get a prescription for my daughter’s very persistent cough. Before I even got to speak with anyone to make an appointment, the line, as always played a message about the office’s COVID protocols for in-person appointments. But there was a new part in the message I hadn’t heard before. It said the office has an anti-bullying policy and that no abuse of staff will be tolerated. Patients who do harass or abuse staff or doctors may be discharged as patients.  

We’ve been hearing about abuse of health care workers for months now, although hearing that message still surprised me. Remember when the IWK shared a post on its Instagram page asking patients to be kind? People’s nerves are collectively frayed because of COVID and more and they are taking it out on all workers, including health care staff (last year, I wrote here and here  about the abuse customer service workers are facing). 

A graphic the IWK Health Care Centre shared on its Instagram page in December.

After hearing the message, I wanted to learn if doctors are dealing with more of this abuse lately, so I reached out to Doctors Nova Scotia, who connected me with Dr. Leisha Hawker, the president of the organization, and also a practicing doctor at the North End Community Health Centre. 

Hawker studied abuse of health care workers for her residency research project back in 2012. She said even then, the abuse of family physicians in Nova Scotia was incredibly high. 

“We found that universally almost everyone, 90-some percent, had experienced minor abuse, like name calling or aggressive or agitated statements toward them,” Hawker said.  

“And then about half of the family doctors had what we call major abuse. So, physical aggression, destructive behaviour, kicking down a door or equipment, sexual harassment. Sexual harassment was, surprisingly, 10%, and almost 10% was stalking. That was really quite shocking to me and eye opening because I wasn’t yet in practice. That was scary to see.” 

Hawker said her research also found that physicians who are female, visible minorities, and those trained outside Canada were at a higher risk for abuse.  

She didn’t have any data on abuse of health care workers more recently, but Hawker said anecdotally she knows it’s on the rise.  

“Everyone is under significantly more stress, the health care system is so strained, it’s very hard to access care these days, so patients take out their frustrations on the very people who are working so hard and dedicated to trying to help them,” she said.  

Hawker said it’s important to understand the patient perspective, too. In her job at the North End Community Health Centre, she said many of her patients are people who live on the margins. They may have mental health issues or addictions and are often in an out of institutions like foster care, hospitals, and correctional facilities.  

“They don’t always receive the best treatment,” Hawker said. “They face a lot of judgment, sometimes discrimination. When they’re coming to see a health care provider, they’re not always initially trusting of that health care provider, so we have to work to gain their trust. When we see aggressive behaviour and the patient acting out in some way, we have to remember that that behaviour actually worked for them at some point in their lives. And that’s why they’re doing that. So, we have to make sure we see the patient for them, and not their behaviour.” 

Hawker said doctors are trained in medical school and during their residencies to deal with this behaviour. She said they take courses in communication and work with “simulated patients,” who are actors who have scripts about an illness.  

“I do think there could be more done on trauma-informed care and de-escalation techniques,” Hawker said. “That’s definitely something I’ve tried to get as a provider individually through continuing medical education since I finished my training. I see the need for it more and more.” 

As for advice for patients, Hawker said ideally, don’t go to the emergency department where you’ll face a long wait, unless you have truly no other options. She said get on the list to get a family doctor; she assured me that list does move. She said about 2,000 to 3,000 patients are taken off the list per month.  

And once you’re on the list, she suggested patients register for Virtual Care NS where you can access a physician or a nurse practitioner virtually for more minor health care concerns. 

As for that message on my doctor’s phone line, Hawker said it’s likely there was a recent incident that inspired the clinic to add that message. Hawker said doctors do struggle when they have to end a relationship with a patient and it’s often based on their individual judgment and if they feel they or their staff are unsafe. 

The Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons does provide guidelines on how to end that patient relationship. Section 5 of those guidelines said a doctor can immediately discharge a patient if there’s a safety risk or if the patient is abusive to them or other staff members. Hawker said during her 10 years of practice, she’s had to discharge two patients. 

“For me, it was a very clear safety risk for me and my staff,” Hawker said. She did say she and her staff try very hard to work with patients who may be challenging and may struggle with their emotions. She and her staff collaborate with social workers, family doctors, mental health workers to discuss how to help the patient succeed in their care. They make accommodations for a patient, such as booking them for time slots when they won’t be waiting in the waiting room too long or giving them a quiet space to wait. Hawker said sometimes the clinic will take a break with a patient, not ending the relationship, but rather setting them up with prescriptions, and asking them to come back in a few months. 

Hawker said doctors see difficult behaviour in all sectors of health care from pediatrics to geriatrics. The bad behaviour may come from parents or family of patients or the patients themselves.  

“People are trying to advocate for themselves or their loved ones and we can see where they’re coming from,” she said. “They’re just trying to get the best possible care for their child, parent, or whomever. But they also have to realize the system we’re working within and the person you’re yelling at or threatening is not the intended target. If you’re upset about the system, the best bet is to talk with your local politician and advocate that way. 

“The nurses and doctors are working their hardest. The nurses are facing significant burnout and understaffing. Their patient-to-nurse ratios are too high.”

Hawker said Doctors Nova Scotia is advocating for a primary care action team that brings together stakeholders in primary care to look at all the evidence, the human resources, and so on, on how to improve primary care in the province.

“We have to look externally for the causes of issues,” she said. “Patients are sometimes having these aggressive behaviours because of their frustrations with the health care system. We need to be looking at our primary care system because that’s the foundation of a strong health care system. If we have a strong primary care system that would alleviate so many of the other issues in the rest of the health care system.”

I reached out to Nova Scotia Health, too, to find out what new protocols they have in place to help reduce the abuse that health care workers deal with. I haven’t heard back as of publishing this, but if I do, I’ll update.

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Noticed

A screenshot from a TikTok video that shows two people taking a swim from the bottom of the stairs into the Halifax Harbour.

It’s been fascinating to read the comments over the last week or so about the stairs going into the Halifax Harbour. I can’t remember what else on the waterfront has inspired a mix of anxiety, excitement, and catastrophic thinking.

I will say it: I like the stairs. I haven’t seen them yet, but I hope once I am out of this COVID isolation, I can make my way down there to check them out. Now, I won’t go for a swim, but maybe I’ll dip my toes in there. Who knows.

Last week, Karla Renić at Global had this story about safety concerns about the stairs after a TikTok video of two people swimming off the end of the stairs went viral. Renić spoke with Deborah Page from Develop Nova Scotia, who said they are putting signage on the stairs, although they always expected people would want to check out the water. Page addressed some other concerns, too:

Page said there is currently security that monitor the waterfront.

One safety concern is other vessels in the water, said Page, like boats, Sea-doos, and kayaks. “We’ll be looking at some interventions as well to separate the swimmers from the boaters.”

When it comes to the cleanliness of water in Halifax Harbour, Page said it is “absolutely” safe to swim.

“Halifax and Nova Scotia spent quite a bit of money cleaning up the harbour, and you really do see it,” she said. “It’s a working harbour, but it also has great tides so it flushes on a regular basis.”

A couple of days later, Paul Hollingsworth at CTV had this story about more safety concerns about the stairs. Hollingsworth spoke with mom Sarah Marshall, who took her kids down there. She’s concerned people might get “sucked in” to the water:

“I pulled them away because I almost fell in the water myself because the stairs are huge,” said Marshall, who added there is a fine line between her kids having fun and being in danger. “You could drown, you could get sucked in because the waves are coming up.”

Oh boy.

On Tuesday, Halifax Noise shared a photo by Tim Krochak of a 12-year-old boy jumping into the water from the side of the steps. Let’s read some of the comments from this photo and the other stories from last, shall we?

  • An accident waiting to happen. The steps are there for a reason. Stay safe, Health care is no longer a right but a privilege.
  • Honestly what did Halifax expect when they installed the stairs lol. People won’t even stay off the black rocks
  • A swim in some of that harbour water would skeletonize a living creature in about ninety seconds flat, that’s probably why
  • Also – who didn’t anticipate this? Have planners/designers/muni learned nothing from all the recurring Idiots of Peggy’s Cove on the black rocks?
  • I’m shocked the stairs were ever approved. This is a major accident waiting to happen. And unfortunately signage won’t do it. These stairs were a horrible idea. Nothing will happen until someone drowns.
Crews cleaning the stairs in the winter.

Tens of thousands of people visit the waterfront every day, walking along the boardwalk that isn’t fenced in and has an edge that’s maybe several inches high, yet somehow people manage to not fall in all the time. As Matthew Halliday pointed out on Twitter, cities across the world have stairs going into the water.

One comment I’ve seen a number of times said drunk people will fall down the stairs. Well, if we have so many drunk people around who are at risk of falling into the harbour at any given moment, then architecture is not our problem.

There are legitimate concerns that the stairs pose a danger for people who are blind and partially sighted. Back in December, Milena Khazanavicius, who is blind, spoke with Haley Ryan at CBC about the stairs. Khazanavicius, who I interviewed for a series on accessibility in the city, told Ryan there are no tactile markers at all on the stairs that would alert people who are blind or partially sighted about an elevation change. There are tactile markers on many street corners or in front of the Central Library.

This is an important request, and I don’t know if those markers have been added yet, but they should be.

But many of the complaints seem to be becoming from people who just don’t like the stairs or don’t want to go into the water. If you don’t like the stairs or the water, don’t go on the stairs or in the water!

The comparison to Peggy’s Cove isn’t fair either. The conditions at Peggy’s Cove are considerably different than in the harbour. Peggy’s Cove has those rogue waves, black rocks, and even doing a rescue there is dangerous.

The stairs in the harbour are not unlike the platform at Peggy’s Cove, though. They give people access to the water and while there are plenty of comments against them, there are many other people who are enjoying the stairs and their visits to the waterfront. Plus, there are no cars down driving around the boardwalk. That may make the waterfront the safest place in the city.

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Government

City

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda here

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

PhD defence, Mathematics and Statistics (Thursday, 9am, online) — Shen Ling will defend “A New Method for Multi-Class Classification with Multiple Data Sources, with Application to Abdominal Pain Diagnosis.”

PhD defence, Microbiology and Immunology (Thursday, 9am, online) — Landon Getz will defend “Genome-Wide Investigation of Vibrio Parahaemolyticus Type III Secretion System-1 Regulation and Chitin Metabolism.”


In the harbour

Halifax
05:30: SFL Conductor, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
14:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Wilmington, North Carolina
15:00: SFL Conductor sails for sea
15:00: Algosea, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Montreal
18:30: NYK Rumina, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
03:00 (Friday): Barge MM161 and Barge MM143, with tug Tim McKeil arrive at Cherubini dock from Sydney

Cape Breton
07:00: Barge MM161 and Barge MM143, with tug Tim McKeil sail from Sydport for Halifax


Footnotes

Speaking of difficult people, last week Maritime Noon did a show on dealing with difficult people. When I heard the promo for the show I thought, “Gee, they’ll need more than an hour to talk about this.” The experts seemed so nice and patient with their advice! Carolyn Ray was filling in for regular host Bob Murphy last week, but I have to say these hosts do a good job of handling the callers, who can be, umm, a challenge.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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9 Comments

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  1. If we forget the stairs… the built environment outside witing the Queens marque has several aspect that did not follow and do not adhere to safety code!!!! Ask the Armour group about this… because they have a pot of gold and are happily engaged in bed with the Houston governement.

    Safety codes broken and how does one get away with this except with copious amounts of money.

  2. I don’t think the stairs are all that much of a safety hazard, but I just don’t like them. I see no purpose for them at all and they are not aesthetically pleasing. Maybe they are useful as a gauge for sea level rise? In 50 years they will likely be submerged anyway.

  3. No problem with the stairs. I would even be tempted to go for a swim myself as the harbour needs a public swimming spot.

    My issue is the built environment that surrounds them. Where is the rest of the city? All we see is that building and all it’s claustrophobic glory. Is it a paean to a developer’s ego that we citizens can only look thankfully on having a sliver of the harbour accessible and the rest of the boardwalk by two gloryholes?

    Take a look at other harbour or lake stairs in other cities. They are gateways to expansive cities or coastlines, not circumscribed sops to commercial interests.

    https://www.contiki.com/six-two/12-reasons-obsessed-lake-como/

  4. Nope! No tactile markers…because who cares about the Blind and partially sighted. Add to that the 4 foot platforms in the court yard with no railings that have tables and chairs…kurk plunk onto cement from that, and now the Rise Again stairs, no railing, no markers..nothing for the Disabled folks, but lets help the sighted and able bodied! And,yes, the bike lane as stated over and over is a mess. sigh…

  5. The government and Health Authority are happy to blame COVID for everyone’s impatience, anger, and unaccrptable behaviour. It’s a convenient scapegoat, distracting us from the real problem – consistent under-funding, preference to privatize, and abuse of staff by successive neo-liberal governments, provincial and federal. Angry people should be contacting government representatives, not attacking health care staff. And, they should stop voting in right-wing governments.

  6. I think the bike lane out front of “that building with the stairs” are a design disaster…. why encourage biking right into seemingly natural pedestrian routes for less than 100 meters? It’s confusing and reeks of being there just to say you did it with little consideration of people actually using it. The stairs are fun, though proper tactile marking is a must.

  7. The stairs are very nice but they are an awkwardly high step. There are no hand railings. A bit enticing but then not so much. There is probably a greater danger of someone hurting themselves trying to negotiate the stairs.

  8. Oh f.f.s. The stairs at the harbour are too dangerous? Grow up people. Stop making everything worse because of your fearful tiny nasty irresponsible boring outlook.