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Emergency rooms at capacity and treatment in hallways are inconvenient but they can also be deadly.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Hallway medicine

Yet again, André Picard has written what we consider to be a seminal column on hospital crowding, the latest in a long series of excellent pieces on this national public health disgrace (Jam-Packed ERs Aren’t The Flu’s Fault, Jan. 8).

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There is little additional commentary required with one notable exception. Mr. Picard notes that crowding forces patients to wait in misery on “uncomfortable plastic chairs for countless hours, and stripped of their dignity, lying exposed on hospital gurneys.”

What he doesn’t mention is that crowding causes people to die. Our Australian colleagues call it “granny killing.” It has been known for decades that crowding is associated with increased and preventable mortality. Patients are at risk of being denied timely access to life-saving therapies, and others die ignored and forgotten in emergency room waiting rooms and toilets.

This is Canada’s legacy of failed vision: sick young people leaving crowded ERs because of prolonged waits, only to die alone in their beds, and society’s most vulnerable dying on wheelchairs and toilets in public areas. Disgraceful and unacceptable.

Alan Drummond, co-chair, public affairs, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, Ottawa

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Mr. Picard rightly points out that the answer to our current hospital capacity challenges lies outside the walls of the hospital system. However, what is needed is to bolster home and community services to address long-term capacity.

Many Canadians are unaware that community services go beyond home care and are comprised of programs that support individuals to live independently in their homes. These include community support services such as adult day programs, transportation services, Meals on Wheels, attendant care and supportive housing. These services are critical for frail seniors and people living with physical disabilities. When funded appropriately, these programs protect against decline and the need for more expensive health care.

Some community support services can help transition clients out of acute care by taking a load off needed active care beds in hospitals. Entities such as reactivation centres, as well as community-based transitional beds, provide necessary support to patients. In one such program in Toronto, community support transitioned 323 patients during the first six months, resulting in 13,185 saved alternate level of care days and freeing up bed space.

Modest investments in home and community care have proven to have a remarkable return on investment and have addressed some of the cyclic issues presented by Mr. Picard. If we want to truly end hallway medicine, we have to wisely invest into preventative and supportive services.

Deborah Simon, chief executive officer, Ontario Community Support Association, Toronto

Non-apology apology

The “apology” given by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe to the Sixties Scoop survivors is less of an apology and more of a statement of harm suffered (Saskatchewan Apologizes To Sixties Scoop Survivors, Jan. 8).

A real apology specifically accepts responsibility for causing the harm, not just a “sorry for the harm.” It’s like this type of apology: “If anyone was offended by what was said ...”

A real apology would be in the name of the Saskatchewan government and would name the actions, committed by the government and its employees, that were wrong. It should also make recompense to the victims and promise not to repeat the behaviour.

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Doreen M. Peever, St. Catharines, Ont.

Paving paradise

The Ford government in Ontario is moving toward a monumental decision about the future of Ontario Place (A Downer On The Toronto Waterfront, Jan. 9). Will the path forward be commercialization or public space?

Torontonians should understand that the leading cities of the world vary enormously in their green space. Some have more than 50 per cent green space, and some are in the low single digits. What about Toronto? It’s at about 13 per cent, according to the World Cities Culture Forum. And New York City? About 27 per cent.

Will the Ford government concretize Toronto?

Peter Woolstencroft, Waterloo, Ont.

GM’s unhappy workers

When Matthew Barrett, one of Canada’s most successful bankers, was chairman of Bank of Montreal, he was asked what was the most important element of the bank’s success. “Happy employees,” he said. “If we have happy employees we’ll have happy customers and we’ll make money.”

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General Motors has obviously never learned this (GM Rejects Union Proposal To Save Oshawa Plant, Jan. 9).

Nor, apparently, has it understood that Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford paid his workers what was, then, the outrageously high wage of $5 a day because he wanted them to be able to buy his cars. I doubt if GM will be selling very many Mexican-made cars in Oshawa.

Ray Argyle, Kingston

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No surprise here. GM’s decision to close its Oshawa, Ont., assembly plant and transfer production to a plant in Mexico where workers are paid $2 an hour is a textbook example of the effects of globalization and proof that government bailouts of failing corporations are never a good long-term investment for taxpayers.

Barry Francis, Toronto

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Policing theatre

J. Kelly Nestruck’s interesting piece on Galt MacDermot, Mirvish Productions and Hair brought to mind another encounter between Toronto theatre and the morality squad (How Galt MacDermot’s Hair Changed Toronto Theatre, Jan. 10).

In its second season (1972-73), Tarragon Theatre staged The Stag King. Given the title, it too attracted the attention of the morality squad. When the police officers attending the performance discovered it was a delightful, commedia dell-arte-style fairy tale, complete with colour-coded characters (white-clad innocent heroes, black-clad scheming villains and purple-clad clever and clownish servants) and music by John Mills-Cockell, they took action. They returned with their families for the pay-what-you-can Sunday performance.

The actors wore masks, but one stood out in memory: the distinctively-voiced George Sperdakos. He played the villainous prime minister whose evil plotting includes the transformation of a young king into a stag. Revisiting the program many years later revealed that the engagingly buffoonish servant was played by a young John Candy.

Gillian O’Reilly, Toronto

Paycheques for some

Re Trump Walks Out Of Shutdown Meeting, Jan. 10:

Are the U.S. President and members of the Congress and Senate still being paid?

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Graham Duncan, Mahone Bay, N.S.

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