There’s going to be weather today, they say. Charge your devices.
The last time Halifax didn’t see significant snow until late January was in 2015. Then this happened:
That winter, twice I said ‘the hell with it,’ and decided then and there to go to the airport and get on the first plane heading somewhere warm. Alas, both times the airport was closed due to ice.
2. Migrant worker receives cancer bill
“A migrant worker from Jamaica who learned she had cervical cancer shortly after she started working at a farm in Nova Scotia says she owes the province nearly $65,000 after her private insurance was cancelled,” reports Matthew Byard:
Kerian Burnett, 42, recently completed chemotherapy treatment, but she said she’s yet to receive a CT scan needed to track the cancer after being turned away from a scheduled appointment just days into her radiation treatment.
“I went to the hospital to do a scan and I was denied a scan because of not having a health card, so I’m not sure what is happening,” Burnett said in an interview with the Halifax Examiner.
On Wednesday, Burnett was granted permanent resident status until January 2024.
She said it’s unclear how or if this will affect the treatment she still requires or if she’ll still owe the province $65,000 for her chemotherapy treatment.
“Premier Tim Houston says a quality review by Nova Scotia Health into the circumstances surrounding the death of 37-year-old Allison Holthoff at the emergency department of the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre will be shared with her husband, Gunter, and her family,” reports Jennifer Henderson.
“The province’s overwhelmed emergency departments could be helped in the short and long term by more spending on public health,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
That was one of the messages shared with the legislature’s standing committee on health on Thursday. The meeting’s focus was funding for public health in Nova Scotia.
“The returns may not be immediate, and I appreciate that this may perhaps be the very worst day in years to be talking about funding public health rather than things like emergency services,” Dalhousie University professor and researcher Katherine Fierlbeck told the committee.
“But as we’ve learned in Nova Scotia, it’s pay now or pay later. We build hospitals knowing that there is an upfront cost and if we don’t want to be treating patients in yurts, we know that it’s something that we have to do. And public health infrastructure is no different.”
5. Province House
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
Government denies sweetheart deal for Lunenburg
The Houston government continues its “due diligence” to determine whether it should seal a deal to buy the Lunenburg Foundry and Marine Railway. The complex is part of the the province’s shipbuilding heritage, dating back to the first Bluenose schooner.
Houston told reporters Thursday that while the government didn’t intend to get into the shipbuilding business, when opportunity knocked last fall, the government decided to walk through the door.
“In this case, you have a shipbuilding asset that is a railway going into the ocean,” said Houston. “You should take the steps to preserve it, if you believe in the industry. Once it is gone, you are probably never going to get it back. When we look forward to the future, I believe we can have a strong shipbuilding industry in the province”.
The province, through Build Nova Scotia, offered to buy the foundry and railway from the Kinley family for its asking price of $3.29 million. At the time the offer was made, Houston said the province had no idea if there were other bidders.
In fact, the East River Shipyard owned by Brad Boutilier offered $2.1 million to buy and operate the properties. And Edward Peill, the producer of the mind-numbing TV series the Curse of Oak Island, had also put up a bid to assume the $1.9 million mortgage on a historic part of the waterfront.
The majority ownership of the Lunenburg assets is held by members of the Kinley family — whose pedigree includes both a deceased senator and lieutenant-governor. The business has lost money in recent years.
The current generation of Kinleys, led by Lunenburg Foundry president Peter Kinley, have been involved in a long-standing legal feud with minority shareholder and seafood businessperson Jerry Nickerson.
Another minority shareholder is Shona Kinley MacKeen, who just happens to be married to Cameron MacKeen, the co-chair of the Progressive Conservative election campaign in 2021 and a member of Houston’s transition team.
In Nova Scotia, there are not always six degrees of separation between people in business and friends in government.
Did the PC government, through the Minister of Economic Development, offer a sweetheart deal to the Lunenburg inlaws of Cameron MacKeen as a thank you for MacKeen’s hard work in helping the PCs come to power?
That suggestion was passionately denied by Economic Development minister Suzanne Corkum-Greek.
“I really have no time of day for that,” said Corkum-Greek, who is also the MLA for Lunenburg. “People can imagine all kinds of things. When I grew up, the Kinley family were the biggest Liberals on the face of the earth. Partisan politics had no part in this. This is a strategic asset and that is the only lens through which this has been considered.”
The purchase of the Lunenburg Foundry and Railway has not been finalized. Corkum-Greek said the business case is undergoing careful analysis to ensure the province is getting value for money. If the province goes through with the deal, she said Build Nova Scotia will want to find a good company to operate the business as a going concern.
New Infirmary will get cost analysis
Speaking of value for money, the accounting firm Deloitte is once again doing a job for the provincial government in relation to the QEII New Generation project to replace services when the Victoria General hospital shutters.
According to Build Nova Scotia minister Colton LeBlanc, Deloitte has been hired to analyze the proposal put forward by the consortium Plenary PCL Health to build a second Halifax Infirmary next door to the current building.
“We acknowledge our duty to deliver health care to Nova Scotians,” said LeBlanc. “But we also have a duty to manage risk and control cost. So there will be a value-for-money analysis done prior to finalizing an agreement with the proponent.”
LeBlanc said the government “recognizes the urgency” and “it is our intention to have shovels going in the ground this summer.” He said the report will be released to the public, which means the public may finally get an idea of what the cost will be for the new Halifax Infirmary.
Deloitte has already billed $10 million for work associated with the hospital regeneration project, including a study for the McNeil government that determined the lowest cost option was a P3 arrangement that would see the successful company design, finance, build, and maintain a new hospital complex at the corner of Bell Road and Robie Street.
Last month, the Houston government broke that former P3 megaproject into several smaller components. They include a new emergency department in Dartmouth and a new or expanded emergency department at the Cobequid Community Health Centre in Sackville, as well as a new build in Bayers Lake, to add beds for hospital patients waiting for places in long-term care or treatment facilities.
LeBlanc said Kasian Architecture, which did the original design for the new and improved Halifax Infirmary for a previous government, is still on the payroll. The consultant has also been involved in the design of a cancer centre and the Summer Street parking garage.
Now it’s working on another design of the Infirmary — version 3.0 — to accommodate a growing population.
Another media outlet, allnovascotia.com, has reported Kasian’s billings related to its work on hospital infrastructure over the past eight years are now in the vicinity of $50 million, a figure that was not contradicted by LeBlanc.
Air ambulance questioned
Finally, one last value-for-money story. Amid both the immediate and future changes to health care announced by Health Minister Michelle Thompson Wednesday was one journalists questioned at the scrum following Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.
Ambulance response times are a worry in a province that has a shortage of paramedics. In order to keep more vehicles available on the ground, Emergency Health Services (EHS) has proposed leasing a fixed-wing airplane for five years to transport hospitalized patients in Sydney and Yarmouth who require tests or treatments from specialists in Halifax.
Unlike the helicopter LifeFlight service that is used only for critically ill patients, the plane would move patients who require paramedic support but are not urgent cases.
EHS senior manager Jeff Fraser told reporters Wednesday the plane could carry two patients and would enable four paramedics and two vehicles to remain available per shift to respond to urgent calls. The estimated cost of this additional air ambulance service is $4.5 million each year.
As many as 300 heart patients a year have been ambulanced from Cape Breton to Halifax for catherization. Last October, the government announced a cardiac catherization lab will be built in Sydney as part of the redevelopment of the Cape Breton Healthcare Complex. It’s clear the lab won’t be ready for a couple of years, but the Examiner asked Thompson to explain why the government couldn’t lease the plane for a shorter trial period instead of signing a five-year contract with Provincial Airlines.
“This isn’t like an Air Canada plane,” explained Thompson. “It needs to be purpose-built and equipped with very specialized equipment. So, we are going to need emergency equipment in case someone deteriorates and it will be able to accommodate the neonatal pod. By the time you made that investment, one year isn’t enough, so I think five years is reasonable in this case.”
At which point the clock ran out on the time for questions. The Examiner will request an estimated price tag for equipping the additional air ambulance.
There are, as the premier and his ministers are fond of saying, “a lot of moving parts” when it comes to governing. One of those moving parts appears to have hit a nerve among stressed out health care workers.
On Wednesday, following a “summit” with the most senior government managers, unions, and professional licensing bodies for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, Houston said his message to the decision makers was to “go like hell” to fix the crisis in health care. That message prompted this response from Darren Machardie a couple of hours later on Twitter.
Labour minister responds to safety concerns at Donkin
CBC News reported that since re-opening just four months ago, the country’s only underground coal mine near Donkin Cape Breton has been repeatedly cited for workplace safety violations.
About 100 people work there.
According to CBC, Kameron Coal Management Ltd has received 14 warnings, 19 compliance orders, and eight administrative penalties or fines from provincial inspectors since reopening in mid-September. The mine was closed by the province in 2020 after experiencing roof falls and multiple reported safety problems.
Yesterday, Labour Minister Jill Balser was asked if she considers the mine to be a safe operation. Here is Balser’s response:
I have full trust in the safety officers in doing the work that needs to be done. They are regularly inspecting the mine and if they see anything, they are reporting it. The list of orders, warnings, and fines don’t impose an immediate risk but should anything arise, the team does have the tools to implement ‘stop work’ orders, if needed.
We take safety very seriously and we know the history of mining in the province, so this is top of mind.
It’s hard to feel reassured the mine is not another accident waiting to happen.
6. Five more COVID deaths
Yesterday, Nova Scotia reported five new deaths from COVID recorded during the most recent reporting period, Jan. 10-16. None of the five deaths occurred during the reporting period — that is, they predate Jan. 10. The reporting of deaths lags, so there likely were COVID deaths in the reporting period, but they won’t be captured in the data until next week or later.
So far, through the pandemic, there have been 706 people in Nova Scotia who have died from COVID, 594 of whom are considered Omicron deaths (occurring since Dec. 8, 2021).
Additionally, during the Jan. 10-16 reporting people, 45 people were hospitalized because of COVID; this is slightly down from 50 people hospitalized in the previous week.
Nova Scotia Health reported the COVID hospitalization status as of yesterday (not including the IWK):
• in hospital for COVID: 40 (nine of whom are in the ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID: 95
• in hospital who contracted COVID after admission to hospital: 123
That last figure — people who contracted COVID in hospital — continues to be too large, imo.
I no longer report new case figures because outside of long-term care facilities, the data are essentially meaningless.
7. Icarus report
I’m reporting this here just because I don’t think it’s been previously reported elsewhere.
On Dec. 5, a bomb threat was received for a Sunwing Airlines Boeing 737-86N then en route from Toronto to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The plane was about 300 nautical miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina; when informed of the threat, the crew declared Mayday and diverted to Wilmington International Airport, where it landed without incident.
Bomb threats for airlines are relatively rare, but Sunwing has been the target of a couple of other bomb-adjacent issues in recent years. In 2014, after he was informed that certain duty-free items were not available, a passenger on a flight out of Toronto threatened to blow up the plane, causing it to return to Pearson International.
And in 2017, as a prank, a Sunwing employee stuffed an antique radio battery into a pilot’s mailbox at the Sunwing complex in Toronto, but the pilot mistakenly thought it was a bomb and so two buildings were evacuated and Toronto police’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive Unit responded, ruining a lot of people’s day and causing a big to-do.
Budget Committee Meeting (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall) — agenda
Decarcerating Disability through the Courts: Deinstitutionalization and Prison Abolition (Friday, 12pm, online) — Liat Ben-Moshe from the University of Illinois at Chicago will talk
‘These small sumptomes of my obediense’: Negotiating Father-Son Conflict through Letter-Writing in Early Modern England (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, changed to online only) — Adriana Benzaquén will talk
In the harbour
05:00: NYK Nebula, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
06:00: ZIM Shekou, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
08:20: Iver Ambition, asphalt tanker, arrives at Pier 26 from Trois-Rivières
11:30: ZIM Shekou sails for New York
13:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
13:30: Algoma Hansa, oil tanker, sails from Pier 25 for sea
14:00: MSC Tampico, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
14:00: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Portland
15:30: NYK Nebula sails for Port Everglades, Florida
18:00: AS Felicia, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
20:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 42 for St. John’s
22:00: Lagrafoss sails for Reykjavik, Iceland
04:00 (Saturday): CMA CGM Callisto, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Tanger Med, Morocco
22:30 (Saturday): AS Felicia sails for Kingston, Jamaica
07:30: Advantage Summer, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Yoho Offshore Terminal (Nigeria)
Nobody will care if I go back to bed.