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Nursing crisis

Re “How Canadian hospitals grew dependent on expensive out-of-town nurses” (Feb. 17): How can this possibly happen?

I have no doubt that providers of contract nurses are sorely needed. What I can’t accept is that various governments, in their wisdom, are willing to pay excessive amounts of money for these services, but unwilling or unable to pay nurses on staff in our hospitals.

What I am witnessing looks like a calamity of errors orchestrated by every health minister in Canada.

Edward Charters Montreal

I suggest that nurses should be trained in hospital nursing schools, as they did until about 25 years ago.

Vancouver General Hospital used to turn out 200 new qualified registered nurses a year. This was but one major hospital among many that had nursing schools within their jurisdictions.

There were no tuition fees. For three years, we students were given rooms in a residence and worked for our education under amazing instructors. We worked together, ate together, discussed our experiences endlessly and propped up one another as necessary.

From Day 1, we partially staffed the hospital. When we graduated, we stayed on or travelled to other parts of Canada and the world.

In 1998, the Vancouver General School of Nursing closed after 99 years. Somehow, with little warning, hospital nursing schools disappeared and colleges and universities – alongside politics and money – took over.

Sharon McKenzie Stratford, Ont.

Your incisive investigation about the false promises of privatized nursing echoes my own experience as a national union representative (now retired). It was frustrating to find my own union nurses repeatedly being denied work, to avoid overtime, in favour of more expensive agency nurses.

Then there are the knock-on effects of “travel nursing.” One U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research study reported that almost half of long-term care infections during the pandemic were driven by multisite staff. As the courts, most recently in Ontario, are belatedly confirming, a better solution to understaffing would be to stop shortchanging health care workers.

Tom Baker Burlington, Ont.

Stay or go

Re “Provinces harm family finances by playing politics with $10-a-day child care” (Report on Business, Feb. 17): I work as a nurse practitioner providing primary care to more than 700 patients. I’m passionate about my work, but I’m distraught by my recent rent increase and the rising cost of living.

My husband and I are both 31. We have been delaying starting a family for fear of less income and high child-care costs. We don’t want to move but, despite our dual incomes, we do not earn enough to invest in the market.

$10-a-day daycare will not fix the affordability crisis, but it is a necessary step. Not having access to affordable child care forces us to consider other cities or provinces and thus, once again, decrease access to primary care for British Columbians.

The next crisis in primary care will arrive when those who provide care are unable to afford living in the same community as their patients.

Mallory Alcock Coquitlam, B.C.

Old fears

Re “In defence of aging at the top” (Report on Business, Feb. 19): Many people are of the view that U.S. President Joe Biden should stand down on serving a second term.

Recently, he has been unable to correctly recall the names of leaders of important countries. Those are leaders he deals with on a regular basis.

The best evidence of Mr. Biden’s mental failings is to observe him on television. He does not appear to be robust or healthy. But he can still take great pride in his many achievements.

Regarding the countless advisers to a U.S. president: The advice must still be vetted by the president. Go back to the Cuban Missile Crisis and much of the advice to John F. Kennedy was to bomb Cuba. He disagreed and the world was the better for his decision.

Our world faces many crises. Hopefully a new candidate for the Democratic Party can, as president, lead everyone to more peaceful times.

Scott Van Alstine North Saanich, B.C.

Next act

Re “Canadian theatre companies face ‘crisis’ as economic woes continue in wake of pandemic” (Feb. 17): In the case of the venerable Prairie Theatre Exchange, I would suggest the 57-per-cent drop in subscriptions is due to risky, unappealing programming.

PTE is currently presenting not one, not two, not three but four world premieres of relatively unknown Canadian playwrights. Two other shows are also by Canadian playwrights and only recently had world premieres.

Any world premiere is inherently risky and often a licence to lose money and subscribers. A Canadian world premiere is even more risky as Canadian shows are often underworkshopped and underfunded. They should only be presented if a theatre can withstand the losses.

I can’t fathom what PTE leadership was thinking and suggest they accept their audience’s verdict. I am confident that if management reconsiders its programming choices, the company will return to its position as a pillar of Winnipeg’s theatre scene. Crow’s Theatre and the Musical Stage Company show that people will put aside health and financial concerns for great theatre.

PTE would do well to follow that lead – the company’s very existence depends on it.

Gail Asper OC, OM; chair, Asper Foundation Winnipeg

Artificial art

Re “The coming AI wave is more like a tsunami” (Feb. 16): I’ve always been irritated by people who reject any possibility of artificial intelligence ever coming for the humanities.

“The arts will forever be endeavours exclusive to humans,” these critics like to say. But as the latest leaps in AI development have shown us, the arts – from film and photography to literature and poetry – are fodder for the machines, no matter how cold or unfeeling they may be.

AI is not going to get worse. It’s only going to improve and get better at improving, exponentially. It will likely soon be capable of making better movies, writing better prose, creating better screenplays and painting better portraits.

AI doesn’t need to have a soul, consciousness or emotions. It just needs to be competent. Competence is what we should dread, not malevolence or evil.

Anything a human can do, a competent AI could do better – and cheaper.

Mark Bessoudo London

Spice of life

Re “Making time for sensation is essential for mental health” (Opinion, Feb. 17): Now I know why the fragrant smell of making curry from scratch (no premixed curry spice) is so good for my chronic depression.

Alison Dennis Calgary

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