Category: Ramsay Writes

The Best of Healthcare. The Worst of Healthcare.

There are two health-care systems in Canada. Not just the public and private ones. But the Toronto system and the…well, let’s call it The Rest of Canada system.

If you happen to live in the Greater Toronto Area, the 6.2 million of you are luckier than the other 31.8 million Canadians who don’t.

Got cancer? Get treated at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the Top 10 oncology centres in the world.

Heart disease? The Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, one of the top heart hospitals in the world. 

If you’re a sick child, or their parent, take them to Sick Kids, the best children’s hospital anywhere.

Need physical rehab? There’s the  Toronto Rehabilitation Institute whose research arm is also the best in the world.

There’s No Denial Like Systemic Denial

We now know that systemic racism is largely unconscious because it’s baked into our culture. It took the remains of hundreds of Indigenous and Inuit children to make Canada understand its own systemic racism, and in the US, the death of George Floyd changed how we view race by reminding us of so many other Black men and women who have died at the hands of police.

But these deaths, by craven indifference in the case of Canada’s children, and by craven involvement in the case of America’s Black people, also exemplify the power of systemic denial.

Why no WiFi on the subway?

Toronto regularly makes it onto the lists of the world’s great cities (as in ‘great to live in’). But the world’s safest cities? I doubt that, if by “safe” you mean resilience around the pandemic, in addition to things like personal security, clean air and water, traffic, modern infrastructure, and digital life.

But, as often happens, I am wrong. Last week, the Economist Intelligence Unit released its 2021 Safe Cities Index. It ranked 60 cities across 76 safety indicators. Toronto not only finished in the Top 5, it is Number 2, next only to Copenhagen.

This got me thinking that maybe Torontonians suffer from a kind of reverse NIMBY, i.e. we think we’re dreadful until we compare ourselves to places we envy, only to discover they’re worse. Like Churchill’s definition of democracy as the worst form of government, except for all the others.

Depression: The Good, the Better and the Ugly

I was checking my Instagram feed one night three years ago when I scrolled past this post: “Where has my beautiful love gone? It’s been a mere week and the pain feels like it’s lasted a millennia.”

These were the first words of a friend announcing that her husband had died suddenly. His death shocked me no less than the announcement of it on social media. I was slow in viewing Instagram as the place to reveal great tragedies as well as luscious dinners and stunning sunsets.

Hunters and Hunted

Whistleblowers don’t use whistles anymore. They rarely pass manila envelopes.

Today, revealing secrets is done online, whether that’s ransomware which can make your private medical records public, or bank records sent to investigative journalists, the juiciest of all being from offshore banks whose very purpose is to never be revealed.

Books About Big Things

Hostage books take up a tiny speck in the vast universe of books published each year.

The stories themselves may be harrowing, but their half-lives are short, as the news cycle moves on and another terror grips our gaze.

That said, Canadians seem to be punching above our weight, mainly because our hostages are mainly from the media, like Amanda Lindhout, or they’re diplomats, like Robert Fowler,

But maybe it’s also because we’re Canadians; we travel internationally much more than Americans do (63% vs. 40%), and we think our Canadian passport somehow protects us from being scooped up on the street.

Not any more.

Amusing Themselves to Death

So many people are dying of COVID in Alberta’s ICU wards that their passing is creating room for new patients. That’s the only good news coming out of what many have called its disastrous response to the pandemic, and which is actually ruinous.

In fact, doctors are now triaging COVID patients, making on-the-spot decisions as to who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t, and dies. Some of those choices will be made about children, age 5 to 11, who make up the fastest growing group of COVID patients. As one doctor said concerning these kids: “The curve is almost vertical.”

How Will You Die?

Likely from heart disease or cancer, which is what 52% of the world’s 8 billion people will die from, no matter their age or homeland. But most of us don’t believe that. We reliably underestimate the fact that cancer and heart disease will take one in two of us. We also chronically overestimate how many people will die via murder, auto accidents, drug and alcohol addiction, terrorism and even lightning.

Terror Times Two

I was in New York on September 10, 2001 to meet travel editors. I wrote a lot. I travelled a lot. So, I thought, why don’t I do both at the same time?

A friend got me an interview with the managing editor of Condé Nast Traveler, which was like talking with God. He casually said: “A place is not an idea.” His point was travel writing shouldn’t be an endless “we went here and then we went there, and this place was lovely and that wasn’t.”

Five Royal Scandals

My wife is the ultimate realist. But she’s always been a royalist too, which proves you can hold two opposed ideas in your head at the same time and still function.

But it’s getting worse. She used to glance sideways at the cover of Hello Canada in the supermarket check-out line. Now she subscribes to Quora Digest which gives her a morning fix of news and gossip from the Palace. She can barely keep up with all the scandals these days.

The Good, the Baad, and the Lucky

“None of our staff has been beaten, attacked, killed, as far as I know,” she said.

That’s what an Afghan woman who runs a women’s shelter said last week after the Taliban over-ran her town. By any account, women in Afghanistan, already among the most wretched of the earth, are in for an even more dreadful time.


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