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Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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The price of pain

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Re Health Minister Vows Action On Illegal Double Billing (June 12); Paying To End Their Pain (Focus, June 10): This is exactly the conversation about our beleaguered public health-care system we need to have.

For too long, our patients have suffered from the constraints of a system that no longer works. They wait to see a specialist and then they wait again for surgery, often with their conditions deteriorating and more often than not in pain. That so many seek private medical assistance is not surprising. It's only surprising that it's taking all of our partners in health care – the federal and provincial ministries, the regional health authorities, and the hospitals – so long to respond to the suffering of the taxpayers who fund the system.

Many of our members have come up with innovative solutions, but we are only one cog in the wheel and we must have the co-operation and leadership of our partners in health care to provide the proper and prompt access to orthopedic care that all our patients deserve.

Alastair Younger, president, Kevin Wing, immediate past president, B.C. Orthopedic Association

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We have a serious health-care problem in Canada, but it isn't doctors working in private clinics. Rather it is a health-care system that professes to excellence but practises mediocrity due to inadequate resources.

What other system in the world forbids access to care outside of that which is rationed by the government? Why does Canada think it knows better?

Brian W. Rotenberg, associate professor, residency program director, Otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, Western University

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In Australia, it is legal for doctors (including surgeons) to bill at a rate anywhere from the government rebate amount to much, much more.

Local "group practices" often have a few overbooked bulk-billing physicians, and then others charging up to $140 for appointments which happen to run past 15 minutes. Sudden illness can force low-paid workers into seeing the profiteering practitioners. Having a child's health held for ransom can cause immediate financial stress, which is the last thing families need.

It is my view that doctors must be regulated, as worldwide experience reveals that many medicos ultimately surrender to a form of convenient group-think in which they can shelter and rationalize away their effective abrogation of a community-service ethic.

There is, I believe, ample reason to assert that "extra billing" doctors are violating the oath which entreats them to "First, do no harm." Pricing their healing services at whatever they think the market will bear is, frankly, reprehensible with its risks of restricting access to a vital service and causing hardship.

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It is too late for us in Australia, but Canadian authorities may yet be able to put this appalling genie back in its bottle. For your sakes, I pray that you can.

Ross Kelly, Canberra

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Is the implication that the lack of prompt access to health services is the fault of greedy entrepreneurs/doctors who have the temerity to offer those desperately needed services separately for a fee? As a senior with first-hand experience with waiting lists, I would suggest the blame rests squarely upon our expensive, mismanaged health-care bureaucracy, which, despite ferocious spending, has been unable to fulfill the "essential services" mandate promised by its political masters in a timely fashion.

Rather than trying to force citizens to capitulate to the sclerotic public system, a better plan might be to help fund the private clinics, as many European nations have done with considerable success.

Herb Schultz, Edmonton

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The Minister replies

Re Canada's War Against Merit Marches On (June 10): Margaret Wente questions my attempt to bring greater equity, diversity and inclusion to the sciences, particularly through the Canada Research Chairs program.

How is it that after almost 20 years running, only 30 per cent of researchers being successfully nominated to the program are women?

The trend has remained constant despite multiple warnings to improve. The tragic evidence speaks to a culture in science that privileges some over others.

As Minister, I am challenging the status quo by taking action to reverse a pattern that has denied the ambitions, talents and abilities of so many women in science.

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I firmly believe equity and excellence are not mutually exclusive and I will remain unequivocal in my support for greater diversity in research.

Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

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1 % vs. 10.8 %

Re Hiring Surges, But Wage Growth Lags (Report on Business, June 10): The average overall hourly wage growth in Canada was 1 per cent last year. Yet the median pay changes for CEOs of Canada's biggest companies was 10.8 per cent.

What's next, "Let them eat cake"? This wanton disregard or ignorant disconnectedness is what led to the fall of the Christy Clark government in B.C. and possibly others to follow.

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Is it any wonder young people feel anger toward government, big business and the older generation that "has it all" while they languish with little chance of advancement?

Don Rutherford, North Vancouver

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Mr. Trump's pants

Re Trump Strikes Back At Comey (June 10): President Donald Trump accuses former FBI director James Comey of lying and says he would be "100-per-cent willing" to share his own version of events under oath.

Does anyone believe that speaking under oath would make any difference to Mr. Trump?

He lied during the Republican leadership campaign (about not releasing his tax returns because he was being audited, about being respectful to women). He lied during the presidential campaign (about Barack Obama, about immigrants, about young black men and police). He lied at his swearing-in ceremony (about the size of the crowds, about his popularity). He lied during his first 100 days (about the news media, about voter fraud, about climate change being a Chinese hoax).

Now he lies about James Comey committing perjury – but oddly enough saying Mr. Comey's testimony actually vindicates him (Mr. Trump). I think we should all start calling Mr. Trump what he really is, President Pants On Fire.

Susan Ellis, White Rock, B.C.

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A mensch indeed

Re A Charming Rascal (Books, June 10): I never had the pleasure of meeting Avie Bennett, but Guy Vanderhaeghe's tribute to him presents a clear portrait of the man.

Bless his heart (as my mother used to say) for stepping in and saving McClelland and Stewart and, almost equally important, for supplying Mordecai Richler with Scotch to help him survive an inexorably long commencement ceremony.

A mensch indeed.

T.M. Dickey, Toronto

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