This article was in the local news today — http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/updated-entire-health-pei-board-of-directors-resigns-over-concern-with-government-direction-212349/
Okay, first of all, this article says the changes will align Health PEI with other systems across the country; second, the changes will increase accountability within the health care system; third, they will create stronger linkages to community; fourth, they will clearly define roles and responsibility for both the ministry and the health authority. I don’t see how any of that is bad. No healthcare system should be isolated from the people they serve; no healthcare system should exist without great accountability, since our lives depend on it; no healthcare system (or any other system) should operate without clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
While MacBeath thinks Health PEI has done a phenomenal job in creating a single and unified health system for the island, that does nothing for the actual delivery of health services. Ask any islander who has sat in the emergency waiting room for anywhere from 3 to 12 hours before being seen by a doctor or even a nurse; emergency room intake clinics with only one in operation; emergency room doctors being caught asleep instead of attending to patients; emergency room staff chatting or doing things other than attending to patients, while patients wait to be seen; patients with critical symptoms who are sent home; patients who are unable to make an appointment with their family doctors without having to wait anywhere from one week, if they are fortunate, to three weeks, a month, or even more if not — usually, by then, the conditions patients need to consult their doctors about could have worsened considerably or disappeared; islanders who still do not have a family doctor despite having grown up on the island; family doctors who do not listen to their patients’ concerns and dismiss them summarily without even checking them; the conspicuous lack of specialists; the inability to keep emergency rooms open 24/7 all over the island; the inability to be admitted into a nursing home or long-term care facility without a waiting list; the absence of dental care for all islanders; the limited vision care; the lack of mental health professionals; and the list goes on — as far as I am concerned, these all sound like gross mismanagement and an inability to deliver quality services worthy of a first-world nation, in which case it is a good thing the board has resigned.
Don’t get me wrong. I respect and admire doctors for their skill and their service. I grew up around hospitals and physicians in a third-world country where I never had to wait more than an hour, at the worst, in an emergency room in a private hospital where my health insurance covered everything; where I could see my family doctor on the same day I showed up at the clinic; where specialists were not difficult to find or access. I’m not saying that system was perfect, because most health care was private, and what was provided by the government was equally excellent if difficult to access because of the sheer density of the population being served.
I am fortunate to have a caring, concerned family doctor–I am fortunate that I already have a family doctor! I am fortunate that I have not had to be a frequent visitor to the emergency room, and the few times I had to go on my own, without being brought by an ambulance, I had to wait no more than an hour before an intake nurse saw me and only somewhere between three to six hours before a doctor saw me.
I wonder how doctors and nurses can take an oath to heal and serve yet tolerate this appalling lack of quality service or even selflessness that is needed in their professions. I wonder why it is so difficult new doctors or doctors from out-of-province to set up a practice here. I wonder why some doctors are able to tuck away over a million dollars in salaries and vacation once or twice a year, leaving patients without anyone to see. I wonder why booking with some specialists has to be done up to a year in advance. I wonder why islanders even have to go off island to see certain types of specialists. I wonder why there is an ambulatory clinic where you can’t just ambulate in to be seen when you have the time or the need for attention to something that is not an emergency. I wonder why we can’t communicate directly with our doctors by email — they don’t even give out their email.
If copying the systems in other provinces brings us up to the standards of other provinces so that ER waiting times can be cut down to an hour or less; so that every islander has a family doctor; so that ERs are open 24/7 all over the island; so that patients always see their health service professionals genuinely concerned about their health instead of idling away time while ER patients wait; so that triage procedures are followed; so that we have all the specialists we need on island; so that every member of the healthcare system is accountable to the islanders , whose taxes pay their salaries; so that hospitals are operated with absolute efficiency and no complexity — because the best management system is that which makes the complex seem effortless and simple, rather than cumbersome and difficult. If the health care system is delivered by the government, then by all means, it should be directed by the government. Why should they resist improvement and change, when it is crystal clear to every islander that it needs improvement and change? A mass resignation like this shows a lack of concern for the community they should be serving.
Let them be reminded of the Hippocratic Oath they swore to, which, nowhere, says that they should enrich themselves, vacation in southern countries, limit access to their services, and allow patients to wait hours on end suffering varying degrees of pain, discomfort, and anxiety from simply not being attended to.
A Modern Version of the Hippocratic Oath
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
On the evening of April 21, 2018, at The Guild in Charlottetown, I met eight immigrant women who told their stories in front of a full house. The women were part of a teaching initiative founded in Toronto in 2011, and directed by novelist Katherine Govier, who taught writing workshops to help immigrant women improve their written and spoken English. In the process, the women wrote their stories—centered on shoes, because the project’s home is in a shoe museum and it was the one condition required so they could hold workshops on the museum premises for free. Thus, The Shoe Project was born.
The women shared how they arrived in Canada between 2003 and 2017 at different stages of life for various reasons, from love to the pursuit of a better life to seeking refuge from war and strife. Each woman’s story was different and yet the same, because each woman’s story spoke of the same struggle and trauma experienced when a life is uprooted and transplanted in an alien environment. The women were from different countries—Syria, Iran, China, South Korea, Colombia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Tibet—and all were old enough to understand the change, the necessity to leave their old lives and start new ones in a new country. They were old enough to remember all the friends, family, memories, and possessions left behind. Several were successful professional women whose careers were abandoned because their new nation would not recognize their credentials and required complete re-education—something that would take too much time, money, and effort; something that these women did not have the luxury to choose because they had to obtain gainful employment almost as soon as they landed. Employment that often would have been considered demeaning and beneath their station in life in their home country. Despite the difficulty, pain, and depression, these women forged on, put on brave faces, and claimed Canada as their new home, whether in Halifax, Calgary, or Toronto. They created new memories and while they continue to struggle with pain, depression, and trauma, they have found humour, love, and community.
I was eager to attend this performance because I knew their stories would be my story, and I was not wrong. Each story touched a raw nerve in me because I, too, was an immigrant to Canada and still feel what Govier has called a lifelong process of adjustment. I was glad to see so many immigrants in the audience as well, because these were their stories too, and hearing these eight brave women speak was almost as if they were speaking for us. I am glad this project exists because the voices of immigrants need to be heard, especially the voices of immigrant women, who are often unable to express themselves, let alone tell their stories. I am glad there were so many people in the audience and that the performance is touring the country because Canadians need to hear these stories and acquire greater understanding and compassion for immigrants. In most cases, Canadians born in country and who have lived in Canada all their lives will never be able to truly understand or imagine the experience of being an immigrant, let alone a refugee. Stories generated by initiatives such as The Shoe Project are a powerful way to provide others with a glimpse into what immigrants go through just to fit in and adapt to their new country. Hopefully, this will open up the eyes of decision-makers, employers, and policy-makers who persist in antiquated policies and practices that instantly discriminate against immigrants. I was once told it normally takes about 10 years before an immigrant is fully assimilated into the (PEI) community. Not every immigrant can or will wait that long. It is time people step into the shoes of immigrants, even if only for an evening, because an evening can stretch into forever.
It’s been a while since I last posted an article, a whole month and some days to be precise. I must apologize. Besides preparing for the Seniors College class on stories by Alice Munro, which began three weeks ago and will be in its fourth week Tuesday, I spent every minute of my spare time researching and preparing materials for a Math Camps program for grades 1-12 for the LDAPEI, where I tutor everyday after school. Yup, my main occupation at the moment is tutoring, which is both a good thing and a sad thing. Good, because students who need help and are struggling with reading and math, regardless of whether they have a learning disability or not, get the help they need. Sadly, there are just not enough tutors to help everyone. But that’s not the sad thing. The sad thing is that there are so many students who need the help, and these aren’t just students with learning disabilities, particularly when it comes to math. In my years of subbing and tutoring, I’ve encountered students who insist on performing basic math operations the wrong way because their teacher taught them that was how to do it. Those students will have to unlearn those wrong procedures and relearn the right way; meanwhile, they will experience frustration because they will never get the answers right. I discovered elementary schools do not have math majors teaching math, hence the development of concepts and skills is not approached the way teachers trained specifically to teach math would teach. Where I grew up, we always had a dedicated period for math only and math teachers who were math majors or minors teaching math in grade school; in higher grades, our math teachers had majored in math and were trained to teach math. The basic concepts were ingrained in us so that by the time we were in seventh grade, we had mastered all basic operations and knew our multiplication, addition, division, and subtraction forwards and
Good, because students who need help and are struggling with reading and math, regardless of whether they have a learning disability or not, get the help they need. Sadly, there are just not enough tutors to help everyone. But that’s not the sad thing. The sad thing is that there are so many students who need help, and these aren’t just students with learning disabilities, particularly when it comes to math. (I’ve a different rant for students who don’t learn correct grammar and spelling!)
In my years of subbing and tutoring, I’ve encountered students who insist on performing basic math operations the wrong way because their teacher taught them that was how to do it. Those students will have to unlearn those wrong procedures and relearn the right way; meanwhile, they will experience frustration because they will never get the answers right. I discovered elementary schools do not have math majors teaching math, hence the development of concepts and skills is not approached the way teachers trained specifically to teach math would teach. This is definitely a call-out to PEI’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development: Kids are bad at math because they’re not taught the right way, they don’t have the proper foundational training. Kids need real math teachers from the very start so they develop sound concepts correctly. Kids need real math teachers throughout elementary school because these are the foundational years. If they don’t learn it right at the start, they’ll have difficulty understanding concepts that build on the basics. It’s not like there aren’t any math majors available. If you can get specialized teachers for music and gym, why not math? Math is an essential skill to real life because math concepts are relevant to nearly everything they will encounter.
Where I grew up, we always had a dedicated period for math only and math teachers who were math majors or minors teaching math in grade school; in higher grades, our math teachers had majored in math and were trained to teach math. The basic concepts were ingrained in us so that by the time we were in seventh grade, we had mastered all basic operations and knew our multiplication, addition, division, and subtraction forwards and backwards. We were ready for algebra, geometry, and trigonometry–the basis of pre-calculus, which students in senior high need to understand to complete their GED requirements. If the foundation is weak, students will have greater difficulty coping as the concepts become more complex and the calculations become more complicated. By then, students will have a greater dislike for math than at the onset because of repeated failure and lack of understanding. That is where the idea of Math Camps came from–giving students the opportunity to encounter math in friendly, fun, and practical
If the foundation is weak, students will have greater difficulty coping as the concepts become more complex and the calculations become more complicated. By then, students will have a greater dislike for math than at the onset because of repeated failure and lack of understanding. That is where the idea of Math Camps came from–giving students the opportunity to encounter math in friendly, fun, and practical acpplications that reinforce the basics. And yes, that’s because I was a math major and a teacher trained to teach math before I decided to focus on writing and literature. Math rant over.
My fall literature class for Seniors College is three weeks in and we have five short weeks to go. So far, we have read and analyzed three of Alice Munro’s short stories. When we began, half the class knew of Alice Munro, the other half barely knew her, had only heard of hear, or did not know her at all. Of the half that knew her, they had read a bit of her but could not remember much of what they had read or had not read enough to form an opinion of her. Many times, we read literary works—in this case, short stories—and either like them or don’t like them. Unless we look more deeply into those works, we are unable to create an honest, informed opinion about them. At most, we might say we liked the works because they were interesting or entertaining, or we didn’t like the works because of the exact opposite—we thought them boring or uninteresting. The point with classics and works by acknowledged literary giants is that there is more to them than just mere entertainment or surface interest. That would apply to nearly every book in national and international bestseller lists. When does a literary work climb from being a bestseller to a classic, besides being a bestseller year after year, decade after decade, century after century? What is it that prize committees look for in works that earn their authors accolades and the status of laureate? Probably the most important quality a great literary work has is genuineness. Not impeccable grammar or perfect form. Not even masterful sentences or brilliant plots. This is where I bring around Alice Munro’s writing. The one thing that stands out in all her works is genuineness. Her stories are populated by genuine people, characters we can easily and quickly identify with, dealing with situations and problems we have all encountered or dealt with at one time or another. Her characters live real lives in a familiar world and, like many of us do, live mundane lives of quiet desperation or struggle through daily routines and encounters as heroically as they can. She makes readers see there can be pleasure and happiness in the littlest things, despite the hardships we face on a daily basis. She opens our eyes to the ideas, practices, and beliefs that define our behavior and affect our relationships. She reminds us that sometimes, we cannot change who we are, especially when we aren’t aware of why we think, act, or feel the way we do about what happens to us, what we do, or who we interact with. She points a spotlight on relationships in every imaginable form and makes us think about our relationships, how we live our lives, what we do, what motivates us—because it is exactly what motivates her characters and makes them think, feel, and do what they do.
When you write, the temptation is to explain everything because you want to make sure your reader understands your story. You don’t want to leave any stone unturned, especially if it has any connection at all to the story you want to tell.
You try to explain your characters’ backgrounds because you know that provides your characters’ motivation, why they behave in certain ways or say things the way they do or even just say whatever it is you make them say. As you do that, you talk about their upbringing, their family and friends, their family history. You try to develop a whole character report, including what could pass for a decent psychological evaluation. You include birth dates, places, schools, past jobs—a complete dossier on each character.
You try to explain the setting because you believe the readers need to see your characters’ environment, the environment of the story, where it is happening and where it all began. You present no less than an historical treatment of the village, town, city, or country your characters move around in. You describe every room, house, street, and building in detail because you don’t want your reader to miss anything.
All that work and you still haven’t started telling your story! All that preparation and the first thing your editor does is chop it all out. All those painstaking details and it gets thrown away. Really, I have seen psychological evaluations that run as long as forty pages. And all for just a single person. And that doesn’t even include a comprehensive background or family history. You argue and agonize and complain and try to sneak the material back in, maybe even dump your editor and find a new one because you think your writing was brilliant and detailed.
It doesn’t matter how meticulous or brilliant any writing is that went into background because that is all it is—background. Any time you try to explain things to prepare the reader for what will happen merely takes away from how much time and space you have to show the reader what is happening—the true action of the story. How do you avoid this common pitfall?
When I teach fiction writing, I encourage students to imagine they are in their character’s shoes—whichever character’s point of view it is—and provide descriptions for anything as the character encounters it. For instance, don’t describe a house until your character sees it, from approach to entry. That way, your reader sees the house from the character’s perspective. Refrain from describing anything inside the house until the character has opened the door and looked in. Don’t describe the upstairs rooms if the character is moving around in the kitchen—unless your character is thinking of the upstairs rooms. If your character never sees the basement, there’s no need to describe it. Unless you have another character who’s thinking of the basement or is in the basement. It’s the same thing with characters encountering other characters. If the character knows nothing about another character and you’re setting them up to meet, don’t describe the second character until your first character sees him or her. That way, your reader also sees others through your character’s eyes. That way, you can introduce action and dialogue from the very start of your story instead of providing details that the reader is likely to forget as the story progresses.
It’s somewhat different with novels, of course, but it also depends on the type of novel you are writing. If you can carry on a brilliant dissertation on the creation and evolution of an island over a thousand years before it becomes populated with people the way Michener did, then, by all means, go right ahead. Otherwise, cut it short. After all, not everyone is a huge fan of Michener.
I did it! Yes, I wrote a novel in 3 days. Okay, it’s a short novel. But that was expected. The average submission in past editions of the contest expected novels was 100 pages, so I made it with 117 pages. Sure, there were only barely 31,000 words in my novel, but it was chock full of dialogue, which takes up a lot of white space. The point is, I completed the story. Whew.
Did I doubt I could do it? Absolutely! I did not think I would be able to sustain writing for three straight days to reach the 100-page mark. In fact, I managed 4-5 pages an hour and finished the novel 50 hours after the contest began, after I started writing. That even gave me the third day to review, make some revisions, and proofread as much as I could. And I even got some sleep in, meals, and showers!
The best thing that little experience did for me is to give me a little more belief and confidence in myself–something I’ve never been sure of all my life. Now, I know I can sit for three days straight and write away. Well, I actually know I can because I’ve done it before, just never for a contest. So now, I have that confirmation. I know I still have it in me because that passion for writing just pops up every now and then. I know I have it in me because the stories keep on running and growing and expanding in my head. As long as I don’t write them, they continue to plague me and haunt me like ghosts in the ether and skeletons in my closet. That is why I write.
Writing is a continuous journey that never ends and writers learn constantly from their writing. No one writer can claim to be such if they think they already know everything about writing, everything about what and how to write. If you know anyone who claims that, that person is a total sham.
In reality, writers need to dig deep inside themselves to write. They need to find out how long they can sit at a desk or wherever they like to write. If they can’t sit for an hour at a time and devote that single hour to pure writing, they won’t be able to sit for days on end, writing the stories that haunt their dreams in their sleep or their thoughts when they are awake. They need to know what motivates them to write. If they don’t know why they want to write—nay, if they don’t know what they need to write, they won’t be motivated to finish anything. They need to understand what makes them want to live, because that could be the reason their characters want to live. They need to know what makes others live, because that will be what motivates other characters. They need to know what moves them to act, to do things, to behave in certain and specific ways, because that knowledge is what will move their characters as well.
Imagine how boring and limited a writer’s works would be if they only knew one person. All their characters would think, feel, act, and react like that person. Imagine how egotistic that character would be if the writer thought he or she knew everything. Every story you write is based on something you learn about yourself, about people. Your story started long before you were born and will, most likely, continue long after you die. Your job, as a writer, is to understand the minutest details of your story, how it evolved and unfolded throughout the generations that resulted in everything your are, which means you need to understand everything and everyone involved in your story. Your writing will continue at least (hopefully) until you shed your corporeal being, thus you need to keep up with your life, with everything that evolves and unfolds inside and around you until the words no longer flow from you, because that will keep your stories going.
Every story you write is based on something you learn about yourself, about people. Your story started long before you were born and will, most likely, continue long after you die. Your job, as a writer, is to understand the minutest details of your story, how it evolved and unfolded throughout the generations that resulted in everything your are, which means you need to understand everything and everyone involved in your story. Your writing will continue at least (hopefully) until you shed your corporeal being, thus you need to keep up with your life, with everything that evolves and unfolds inside and around you until the words no longer flow from you, because that will keep your stories going.
Whew! That is all I can say. As many of you know and have followed on Facebook, I signed up for the 3-day novel writing contest that ran from September 2 at 12:01 a.m. and ends September 4 at 11:59 p.m. The average submission expected is about 100 pages of double-spaced manuscript in a standard font of 11 or 12 points.
Why would I do something like that?
My first and strongest motivation was to prove to myself that I could do it. My second motivation was to jump start a new novel, get myself pumped up and inspired to write, especially since I have just completed the sequel to my second novel.
I did not write the third book to my series. Instead, I came up with about a dozen ideas I’d been toying with over the years. I narrowed that down to about half a dozen ideas, and then was playing with a single idea that I really liked. By the time midnight of September 2 arrived, I started writing that idea, but after a page of writing, I figured I needed something with a clearer progression of events.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a script that I intended to develop into a screenplay for a tv show. It was based on a story that had been playing in my mind, developing for several years. I took that script to a workshop and developed a bible for it, with two- or three-line descrioptions for twelve episodes. I had mentioned to a friend that I might just turn it into a novel, or a series of short novels and worry about the screenplays later. I never got to start that.
I pulled out my notes for the script bible and, using that as an outline, wrote the novel for the 3-day contest. I never touched the script and developed the novel completely from the characters and story that had been living in my head for the last 5 years or so.
Thank goodness for typing fast. I churned out an average of 4 pages per hour, so that in 50 hours since I started, I had my novel. My story developed mostly the way I had intended, but by characters did surprise me a little and a development I had not planned for crawled into my story. I don’t feel bad about that, because I quite like the way it turned out.
How did I survive? On coffee, hard-boiled eggs, bananas, apples, watermelon, peanut butter, chips, and pop. For the first time in a long time, I did not turn on the TV and leave it playing in the background as I usually do. I did not even read my bedtime book. I did not check my email.
I did, however, post my intent and my progress on Facebook. The best part about doing that was that so many friends kept me going, cheered me on, urged me on, and supported me throughout this whole weekend. I did start at 12:04 because I wanted to make sure I was well into September 2 when I started. That meant I had not slept since I woke up around noon on the 1st. I kept writing until almost 6:30 in the morning of the 2nd because I wanted to get a headstart and I wanted to see what my pace would be for the weekend. I took my first nap until 10 in the morning, then went promptly back to writing for another 6 hours or so. At that rate, I hit the 70-page mark after my first 24 hours and had about 2 more chapter to go to finish the story. Hurray! I didn’t think I could do it–actually thought I’d be writing all the way to the last minute. The good thing about that was I could catch up a bit on sleep Sunday morning and didn’t get up till 10, so I got a full 8 hours! Then I wrote straight till 6–8 hours of writing! and completed those last two chapters, which turned out to be 3 chapters because of that little twist my characters threw in. That gave me a lot of time to start proofing a bit and beefing up my descriptions, checking for a bit of consistency, all those little things. I got to sleep by 1 a.m. Sunday night or thereabouts, didn’t get up till around 10:30 in the morning of Monday, and worked straight until I finished my first pass around 5:30.
Of course, when I say I wrote straight, that included bathroom breaks and drink breaks, and a snack break here and there, mostly 5-minute breaks after a couple of hours or so. Everytime I reached a logical stop, I’d post an update on Facebook.
I have to admit I wouldn’t have survived as well without my Facebook friends watching and cheering me on–they are my village and they kept me going. Naturally, it helps to be a manic writer. I am so pumped up now, I’m ready to jump into my next novel writing project!
I am celebrating with pizza!