Category Archives: Health

Surviving the Borg

More stories pour in about the crisis in our residential care homes.

No article I’ve written for Focus has provoked so many impassioned calls, emails, posts to my website, and interceptions in the street than my feature about long term care of the elderly (“Who has the Right to Control Your Life?“, January).

Many relatives of seniors said the stories of deteriorating conditions in care homes and people being unfairly stripped of their rights reflected their own experiences. “On Christmas Eve in 2006, my mother was abducted,” described one woman. “[They began] transferring her to different nursing facilities where they were drugging her with so many drugs that she could not lift up her own head…”

Another wrote, “[S]taff have frequently written reports itemizing problems, and the numerous reports are consistently ignored. Continuing issues such as filth-still there; toileting-constant struggle; activities-not very many that actually engage people…”

For these people, seeing the issues publicly aired was heartening.

But many frontline care attendants accused me of being negligently selective in my examples and grossly unfair to them. Continue reading “Surviving the Borg” »

Disaster for Sale, 15% Reduced!

I was contemplating how to stay healthy while preventing environmental catastrophe, as I’m wont to do these days. The bus to the ferry stopped next to a billboard. It was a bad omen, fitting for the times.

Nestle, the world’s largest bottled water seller (owning Perrier, S. Pelligrino, Vittel etc) wanted me to know about their “Eco-shape” bottle for Pure Life water. It uses 15% less plastic than some water bottles. A whopping 15%! Nestle added that this 15% less waste allows each of us consumers to positively “make a difference” in the world. (In U.S. ads it’s 30% — those bigger Texan bottles?)

Unfortunately, widely-publicized research has been reminding us recently of the enormous waste, pollution and carbon emissions bottled water production and distribution generate, even while most North Americans can access cheap, safe, efficient public water supplies. Also, bottled water cleanliness is spotty, and recycling of plastic bottles is itself messy and inefficient.

So, from where I was sitting, the most remarkable facet of this ad campaign was that Nestle could run it without fear of being openly mocked throughout our media. Apparently, the corporate ad executives and expert package designers who daily take the pulse of the masses know something: Despite our awareness of the depth and breadth of the environmental and health crises we’re facing, we’re still eager to swallow inane sales pitches and flimsy quick-fixes hook, line and sinker.

Why? Continue reading “Disaster for Sale, 15% Reduced!” »

Our Government’s Deliberate Helplessness

The Victoria Times-Colonist ran articles last fall about delinquent doctors remaining licensed to practice. Evidently, doctors’ secretive, self-funded, self-regulating disciplinary and licensing body, the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons, is more interested in protecting doctors than in protecting the public. Under questioning, provincial government representatives pleaded helplessness; they had no authority over the college.

But after continuing scandalized media coverage, Health Minister George Abbott pledged to legislate more public accountability for our public doctors.

I was skeptical. After all, this scandal wasn’t new. I wrote about it myself for Monday Magazine ten years ago.

A former chief of psychiatry of Victoria’s Eric Martin Pavilion had been found guilty of drugging a female patient into a “zombie-like” state and sexually assaulting her over months while working in Ontario. He was back practising psychiatry here. I interviewed government representatives locally, regionally, provincially and nationally, and they responded in a chorus of, “That’s troubling, but we’re helpless. The college has authority.” Continue reading “Our Government’s Deliberate Helplessness” »