Kimber's Nova Scotia (Aug 5, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

August 5, 2007

And you think telemarketers are annoying

A Bridgewater man, who claims he’s gotten hundreds of unwanted confidential medical reports and referrals on his home fax machine over the past five years, took his concerns public last week.

The man, who asked not to be identified, told the Bridgewater Bulletin he’s been writing to South Shore Health and the Department of Health since 2002, alerting them to what’s been happening and asking that something be done. Nothing has. In one recent seven-day period, he got 40 more faxes.

The problem is that the man’s number is similar to the fax number for South Shore Health’s rehabilitation services and doctors are apparently mistakenly sending their referrals to him. Some of the referrals came from Capital Health’s rehab centre and the IWK in Halifax.

“One of the most disturbing things about this,” the man told the newspaper, “is most of it is not marked ‘Confidential.’ It’s not marked anything. It’s just sent.” The documents include patient names, health card numbers and medical diagnoses.

South Shore Health CEO Kevin McNamara says there isn’t much he can do. “I cannot be accountable for dialing somebody else’s phone,” he told the newspaper.

Perhaps, but perhaps that isn’t being accountable at all.

Calling Anne Murray

An American-based company has erected two test wind towers on marshlands near Amherst as it scouts for a location to plop a new $200 million, 40-turbine wind farm.

“Everyone has said… there’s plenty of wind in the Tantramar Marsh area,” Invenergy Canada director Mark Bell explains, “and we’re here to prove it.”

Get in line.

At least two other projects are already in development. Atlantic Wind Farms wants to build a 20-27-turbine project near Pugwash while Wind Dynamics of Saint John is pushing ahead with its $60-million development on the Amherst side of the marsh.

Bell, who says his company is planning a series of community meetings, adds he isn’t worried about opposition from local residents. Developers and communities “can co-exist as long as [wind farms] aren’t shoved down people’s throats. You have to be sensitive to the concerns of local residents and meet those concerns in an appropriate forum.”

Speaking of hot air

The Gulf Shore Preservation Association has quietly dropped its planned lawsuit against the Municipality of Cumberland over the Atlantic Wind Farm project.

Last spring, after municipal council approved a new bylaw requiring wind farm projects to provide only a 500-metre buffer zone between their turbines and local residences, opponents threatened legal action and talked about taking the issue to the provincial Utility and Review Board.

But the board recently ruled the dispute is outside its jurisdiction and Lisa Betts, a spokesperson for the group, now says she believes “a non-confrontational” approach may work better. “We know council was divided on this issue and feel if we can sit down as adults and discuss this that we can come up with something that works for the county, the developer and us.”

Given that other developers are pitching even more wind farms, she says it’s important for the municipality to come up with a better bylaw.

“We’re not opposed to the notion of setting siting requirements but we have to make sure these things aren’t right up against people’s homes,” she told the Amherst Daily News. “We’re talking about people’s health here; we have to make sure this is done right.”

Fixer-upper with a view

Two Cape Breton historical societies are hoping to use an innovative revolving heritage fund to save the… wait for it… Sydney tar ponds. Well, not the tar ponds. Just the neighbourhoods around them, including as the Kolonia section of Whitney Pier, which includes distinctive company houses built near the former steel plant.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there hasn’t been a market for those properties in recent years. But a report to Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s heritage advisory committee suggests that could change as the area’s environmental cleanup progresses.

The Old Sydney Society and the Whitney Pier Historical Society want to create a seed-money fund to buy and renovate one home, then sell or lease it to provide funding for the next and so on until the neighbourhood is revitalized.

Tom Urbaniak, chair of the committee, says such revolving funds have helped refurbish older homes in down-at-the-heels urban neighbourhoods in the United States.

The project, which could be up and running within the year, could be the first of its kind in Canada — or not. Vancouver is apparently considering a similar scheme.

“They may beat us to it, but we don’t mind,” Urbaniak told the Cape Breton Post. “The more, the merrier.”

The ER as family physician

This summer’s emergency room closures are just the canary-in-the-health-care coal-mine’s much more serious crisis: a critical lack of family physicians, especially in rural areas.

That became apparent recently when officials in Digby began reviewing emergency room visits over the past year to help them develop plans for limited weekday reopening of the Digby General Hospital’s ER this fall.

Barb Johnson, a spokesperson for South West Health, says three-quarters of the ER visits were for what she described as non-urgent problems. Often, she says patients only come to the emergency room because they have no family physician of their own.

South West Health has just received provincial funding to hire several new nurse practitioners who will assist a local doctor at his primary care clinic, freeing him up to take ER shifts. Though the nurse practitioners can’t run an emergency room, they can refill prescriptions, perform pap smears, run baby clinics, order diagnostic tests and prescribe medication

Johnson says the hirings mean “we’re moving in the right direction. We will have a little more ER service as well as help for those without a family physician.”

To complicate matters, however, health authorities may need to recruit two new doctors just to take the place of Dr. Roy Harding, who closed his practice at the end of June. Harding had 2,300 patients on his active list, but most new physicians accept only 1,000 to 1,500 patients, some even fewer.

Last month, MEDIC (Medical Emergency Digby in Crisis), a seven-year-old committee established to help recruit doctors to the area, hosted its latest out-of-province physician recruit.

Spokesperson David Irvine says the doctor “was very impressed by the scenery, the friendliness of people and the number of artisans in the area,” but there’s no word yet on whether the physician will relocate.

More canaries singing

Annapolis Valley Health has announced its Outpatient Clinic at Eastern Kings Memorial Community Health Centre in Wolfville, will be closed every weekend from Aug. 11 to Sept. 3.

And South West Health says Shelburne’s Roseway Hospital ER will be closed for 24 hours next Sunday.

The most recent closures, the health authorities say “are due to lack of doctor coverage for these times.”

And so it goes.

Unfriendly fire

It’s probab
ly not often the web site of the San Franscisco-based American magazine Mother Jones gets inundated with messages from readers in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.

But news that the left-wing magazine’s latest issue contains a graphic account of the death of a young Stellarton soldier killed in Afghanistan has prompted demands from local residents that the magazine remove the story from its website, and touched off an investigation by the Canadian military into whether the story’s author breached doctor-patient confidentiality.

The controversy centres around an article entitled Talk to Me Like My Father: Frontline Medicine in Afghanistan by Kevin Patterson, a Canadian medical officer and captain, who wrote a compelling first-person account of his stint this year treating coalition soldiers and Afghani civilians.

On Mar. 6, 2007, Patterson writes, “four Canadian infanteers run in through the emergency entrance carrying a fifth. ’Gunshot wound,’ they yell, as they heave him onto a stretcher…” The story goes on to describe in gory detail the failed effort to save 25-year-old Kevin Megeney, a corporal who’d been accidentally shot by a roommate.

The family first learned the story was being published in a letter from the magazine, offering to send them copies prior to publication. Neither the author nor the magazine had asked for permission to include the details.

That’s a no-no, according to Lynette Reid, assistant professor of bioethics at Dalhousie University Medical School. “If I read an article like this,” she told the New Glasgow News, “I would assume that the doctor had the patient’s or family’s permission (to use the name) and I would be very surprised if they didn’t.”

Be surprised, be very surprised.

Sign of the times?

Sidnee Falkenham says she was “overwhelmed” when she was crowned the 46th annual Parsboro Old Home Week Queen last month.

Fortunately — or unfortunately — the 17-year-old may get to keep her crown.

Lloyd Smith, the chair of the Lion’s Club-sponsored pageant, says only two local girls had ofgfered to compete by the time entries closed this year, and organizers spent two weeks “scrambling” to flesh out the field to six contestants.

“I believe the Lions Club has to really look at whether the queen’s pageant is going to continue as part of Old Home Week,” he told the crowd gathered for the ceremony, “or whether we look at another avenue to fill this spot.”

As for Sidnee, she was understandably less concerned with the pageant’s future than with her present. When asked how she felt, she simply said: “Awesome!”

Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King’s College. His column also appears in Thursday’s Daily News.



  1. Dr. Kevin Patterson was in Afghanistan as a civilian physician. He left the Army 15 years ago.


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