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Past President of Doctors Manitoba reflects on Manitoba’s severe doctor shortage

Past President of Doctors Manitoba Dr. Michael Boroditsky

By BERNIE BELLAN As president of Doctors Manitoba for the past year, Dr. Michael Boroditsky maintained a high profile within the media, often being called upon to react to various issues, especially the pronounced shortage of doctors within Manitoba.
Doctors Manitoba is an advocacy group for the more than 4,000 physicians in Manitoba – both active and non-active, engaging in policy development. As Dr. Boroditsky, now the Past President of Doctors Manitoba, said, “We’re more of an advocacy group than a union.
“Our main mission is to strengthen and support doctors in Manitoba,” although not just in the area of “renumeration,”, he explained.
According to its website, Doctors Manitoba “advocates for our physicians, so that they can stay focused on providing exceptional care to Manitobans.
“We strive to work collaboratively with partners to help develop a better health care system for Manitobans. We work to improve health policy so patients have better access to physicians across Manitoba, and so physicians have the supports they need to meet their patients’ needs.
“We regularly connect with the provincial government, Shared Health, regional health authorities and other organizations to ensure the physicians’ voices are heard and have an impact on decision-making.”
On Thursday, May 23, Dr. Boroditsky, who started in practice 25 years ago as an obstetrician gynaecologist, spoke to over 40 attendees at the weekly Remis speakers luncheon group at the Gwen Secter Centre. The focus of his talk was the “physician shortage” in Manitoba.
Using a series of slides that showed graphs detailing just how much Manitoba has slid almost to the bottom of all Canadian provinces when it comes to the number of physicians per capita (only Prince Edward Island has a worse ratio), Dr. Boroditsky was candid in describing the challenges that Manitobans face when it comes to finding doctors.
While the total number of physicians in Manitoba has grown by 21% in Manitoba over the past 20 years, this is actually the lowest growth of any province. Dr. Boroditsky explained that growth hasn’t kept pace with the growth in Manitoba’s population, nor has the number of physicians here per 100,000 (215) kept pace with the national average, which is 247/100,000.
To give an idea how far Manitoba has fallen in terms of physicians per capita, in 2002, we had the fourth highest ratio of physicians/100,000 population, while in 2023 we had fallen to ninth. Manitoba needs 445 more doctors just to get to the Canadian average.
To add even more gloom to the picture, Dr. Boroditsky said that, in a 2023 poll of physicians here, to which one third of active physicians responded, 12% of physicians said they were likely to retire within the next three years; 14% said they were likely to leave Manitoba; and 26% said they were likely to reduce their hours.
He did offer a glimmer of hope though, when he said that preliminary results from the 2024 Annual Physician Survey showed a slight improvement with physicians intending to stay in practice here in Manitoba.
Dr. Boroditsky cited six different reasons that doctors gave in explaining why they were either thinking of retiring or leaving the province. They included: frustrated by the “system”; feeling “burned out” or “distressed:”; don’t feel “valued”; “personal reasons”; “red tape”; or too heavy a “workload”.
While “burnout and distress are still high,” Dr. Boroditsky observed, the situation is “improving.”
“We’re seeing a different tone in government.”
Yet, in another moment of candour, Dr. Boroditsky said, “News flash: It’s hard to recruit (physicians) here in Manitoba.”
When it comes to physician retention, he described the number of years a physician needs to put in before they can begin practising as a doctor (beginning with three years of pre-med studies): For a family physician – nine years; for a specialist – 12 years; and for someone who undertakes a fellowship – 15 years.
Dr. Boroditsky touched upon the area of immigrant doctors – and why doesn’t Manitoba allow more of them?
There are two types of International Medical Graduates (IMGs), he explained: Canadians who have gone overseas for their medical education, to such jurisdictions as Ireland or Australia; and physicians from abroad looking to relocate to Canada.
Until now, the Manitoba government has only offered 20 training spaces for IMGs each year, Dr. Boroditsky explained, but that figure will double to 40 this year. Unfortunately, we need to add 445 doctors here altogether even if we were just to meet the national average, so adding 20 more IMGs to the total isn’t enough on its own to fix the shortage.
Still, there was some good news in the area of physician retention. The average net gain in doctors in Manitoba over the past five years has been 60 a year, Dr. Boroditsky noted. Putting some more flesh on that figure, he said that, on average, 213 new doctors have begun practice here each of the past five years, but 153 have either retired or left the province. This year, however, of the UM medical school graduating class, 79 have committed to doing their residencies in Manitoba, he said. (Manitoba does not have mandatory residency requirements for graduating medical students, he added.)
Turning to other areas where there has been much-needed change to the system, Dr. Boroditsky noted that “cloud storage” now allows doctors anywhere in the province to access the results of blood tests and imaging sessions e.g., CAT scans, MRIs. The one crucial area that still remains to be accessible by doctors, however, remain “clinical notes,” but that’s coming, he predicted.
In the question and answer session that followed, I asked Dr. Boroditsky about a recent Maclean’s Magazine article which analyzed in some detail the dire state of the Canadian medical system. That article noted the increasing privatization of medical services, the proliferation of nurse practitioners in many areas where there are severe doctor shortages, and the advent of what is known as “virtual medicine,” especially in areas where patients find it difficult to see a doctor in person. (I had written an article about a service that began in Manitoba in 2022 known as QDoc, which describes how successful a foray into “virtual medicine” by two Winnipeggers, Dr. Norm Silver, and Dave Berkowits, had been. You can read that article at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/qdoc-a-new-venture-that-promises-to-change-the-way-patients-interact-with-doctors/)
I asked Dr. Boroditsky whether Doctors Manitoba had a problem with the expanded use of nurse practitioners and what he thought of virtual medicine?
He said there’s been a “significant increase” in nurse practitioners (who are allowed to see patients, diagnose and prescribe in certain limited areas) and fully agreed “that team-based care with providers working with physicians is the way to move forward.” As for “virtual medicine,” Dr. Boroditsky said, “its’ a game changer.”
It was toward the end of his talk that Dr. Boroditsky talked about the heightened antisemitism of which many Jewish doctors have expressed deep concern. His comments can be read in another article on our home page at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/jewish-physicians-in-manitoba-form-association-in-response-to-antisemitism/

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RBC freezes client’s bank account by mistake – and keeps it frozen without explanation

By BERNIE BELLAN (June 14, 2024) What would you do if, one day, you tried to use your debit card to pay for something or to take a cash withdrawal – and the card didn’t work? But then, after contacting your bank to try and find out why that’s happening, you’re simply told your account is frozen – without any further explanation? And, only after deducing that the bank froze the account of the wrong individual, does the bank finally admit its error.
Such was the case recently with an RBC client who happened to be a relative of mine and who enlisted my help in trying to figure out why their account had been frozen by RBC.

On May 1 I was contacted by my relative asking for my help. They couldn’t understand why their debit card wasn’t working. They told me that their card had stopped working five days prior. (It should be explained this individual does not have sophisticated knowledge how to deal with a problem of this sort and they simply thought there was a glitch in using their card that would be corrected in short order by the bank.)

After several days of not being able to use their card, my relative explained, they had phoned RBC on April 30, but were not offered any explanation as to why their account had been frozen. They were told, however, that the matter was in the hands of a Vancouver branch of RBC. My relative was even further puzzled. They lived in Winnipeg and had never even been to Vancouver. What did their account being frozen have to do with a Vancouver branch of RBC, they wondered?

The day my relative contacted me, I told them to come over to my house and that I would try and get an RBC customer service representative on the phone to obtain some sort of explanation as to why their account had been frozen. After getting an RBC customer service representative on the phone and explaining who I was, I asked permission to listen in on the conversation between my relative and the RBC customer service representative. The customer service representative agreed to allow that, but during the course of the conversation they said they were not able to offer any information as to why the RBC client’s card had been frozen.
Both my relative and I were totally puzzled. RBC had frozen their account but would offer no explanation for why that had happened.

Later that day, however, my relative contacted me again to say that they wondered whether it was possible their account had been frozen by mistake because they had the same name as another relative? That other individual does live in Vancouver, so it began to make sense to me. I don’t know that individual well, but was able to contact them after getting their phone number from someone who knew them.
I phoned that person but just got their voice messaging, so I left a message asking them to call me. In a few minutes that individual did call me back and did say, not only that they had an RBC account, but that they had some legal issues related to debts (without going into specifics).

Immediately it occurred to me that my Winnipeg relative’s account had been frozen by mistake and that it was this Vancouver relative whose account was the one RBC had intended to freeze.

I phoned RBC back again and said that it was apparent RBC had frozen the account of the wrong individual. When I gave a detailed explanation of what evidently had happened, this time the RBC customer service representative told us to go down to the branch where my relative does their banking, where we would be met by a banking representative.

At the branch we met with a very nice RBC representative who said they had been brought up to speed as to what had happened. The bank representative explained that my relative’s account had been frozen as the result of a court order that had been issued in Vancouver to freeze the account of someone with the same name. The representative said that my relative could still not use their debit card to access cash, but the representative would be able to give them cash that they could use until their account was unfrozen.

At that time I suggested that what RBC had done was an outrageous mistake and that RBC ought to offer compensation to my relative. The branch representative said RBC was willing to waive bank fees for my relative for six months – apparently worth something in the order of $80 altogether.
The representative also gave me the name of the law firm that had applied for the court order that had led to the wrong account being frozen.

I contacted that law firm the same day and explained what had happened to a lawyer from the firm. The lawyer told me that the court order that had been applied for and had been issued by a court specifically gave the number of the bank account that was to be frozen. The lawyer sent me a copy of the bank order.

It was apparent that someone at RBC had made a huge mistake. They had ignored the order to freeze a specific account belonging to a specific RBC client and instead had frozen the account of a totally different RBC client who happened to have the same name!
When I discovered how egregious a mistake RBC had made – after reading the court order, I contacted the same RBC branch representative who had offered to freeze the fees on my relative’s account and said that my relative expected a lot more in compensation for such an outrageous mistake than simply having bank fees waived for six months.

On May 22, the RBC branch representative wrote in an email to me:
“Your request for compensation has also been escalated to our RBC client care department. They will reach out directly.”

On June 11 we contacted the branch representative to say that my relative had not heard anything from the client care department. On June 12 the branch rep wrote to me to say that an RBC client care representative had indeed attempted to contact my relative – both via phone and email. The phone number that was given in the email though was no longer in service and when we checked with our relative they said they hadn’t received an email.

On June 12 we emailed the RBC client care representative to ask them to attempt to contact our relative again. We did not hear back from that representative. To date our relative says they have not heard anything from the client care representative.

The upshot is RBC made a huge mistake and froze an account of the wrong individual – causing them distress and frustration, and only after we were able to figure out what had led to the wrong account being frozen, did RBC unfreeze the account. And, even though we asked for compensation over a month ago, no response has been received from RBC.

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Record crowd of 50,000 turns out for pro-Israel Toronto event

By DAVE GORDON (June 11, 2024 / JNS) More than 50,000 pro-Israel people turned out for the UJA Walk with Israel in Toronto on Sunday, a record turnout for the event which is in its 55th year.
Adam Hummel, a lawyer in Toronto, told JNS that it was “remarkable and uplifting to see so many Jews come together” this year for the 5K walk (about 3 miles.)
“I was dumbstruck how many people were gathered and feeling the energy and community, especially when we have been struck by so much sorrow,” Hummel said.
Although it seemed in prior years that people attended out of inertia, this year was different, according to Hummel.
“It felt like people needed to be there,” he said. “Because of everything we have gone through as a community, and what Israelis went through, people needed to show up to stand with Israel.”
The event, a project of the UJA Federation of Toronto, moved from the heavily-Jewish neighborhood at the Bathurst Street corridor at Lawrence Avenue to the Federation’s Sherman Campus, which was rebuilt several years ago. 
Guidy Mamann also told JNS that this year’s event felt different.
“I’ve been to many, many walks for Israel since I was a kid,” the Toronto lawyer said. “Normally, people go because they want to have fun and see old faces, but I think this year it was driven by a need to go.”
“There was a sense of needing to go to this walk-a-thon because of the trauma we’ve been through together,” he said. “We needed to feel each other and see each other in large numbers. I think the community really needed that.”
Brendan Shanahan, president of the Maple Leafs, the Toronto hockey team, and the singer Montana Tucker, who sang the Israeli national anthem, were among the celebrities present.
“We are thrilled by the overwhelming support for the walk this year from our community and our friends and neighbors across Greater Toronto,” stated Jeff Rosenthal, chair of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. “To see a record-breaking turnout this year speaks volumes about our community’s pride, resilience and determination to show our city who we are and what we stand for.”
Exceptions for Jews
Michael Kerzner, the solicitor general of Ontario, and Melissa Lantsman, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, attended the event. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Olivia Chow, Toronto’s first Chinese-Canadian mayor, reportedly were not present.
Chow, who had skipped what she called a “divisive” annual Israeli flag raising at City Hall the prior month, said in an interview with a popular Toronto radio station on Monday morning that she had a prior commitment and couldn’t attend Sunday’s event.
“She wasn’t missed,” said David Burstein, a Toronto dentist.
“It was one of the most outstanding communal Jewish experiences of my life, and I’ve lived in Toronto my entire life. The energy was fantastic,” Burstein told JNS. “The fact that they got the four hostages out the day before, really helped morale and added to the joy of the day.”
Kevin Vuong, a federal politician of Chinese descent, told JNS that he was disappointed that Chow skipped the pro-Israel event, which she attended previously as a federal politician.
Vuong noted that Chow told the Jewish community that “you’re never alone” after a shooting at the Jewish girls’ elementary school Bais Chaya Mushka in Toronto in late May.
Chow’s statement implied that “she stood with Toronto’s Jewish community,” Vuong said. “She lied.”
“It’s clear that if it was any other community, she’d have been there. No mayor, nor prime minister for that matter, would skip an event attended by 50,000 Canadians,” Vuong added. “Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in the aftermath of Oct. 7, these so-called leaders make exceptions when it comes to Jews.”
Vuong and his wife attended the event “to show our support for Jews both here at home in Canada and abroad, and that meant walking the talk and walking the walk.”
‘I was shocked at the depravity’
The politician had harsh words for the hundreds of pro-Hamas demonstrators, who used bullhorns and loudspeakers to broadcast anti-Israel chants and Islamic prayers and who reportedly sought to enter a place where the event was taking place and had to be barred by law enforcement.
“One thing I couldn’t believe was that pro-Hamas supporters brought in speakers and blared the rocket sirens that go off when Israel is under attack,” Vuong told JNS. “I was shocked at the depravity that someone would think to do that in the hopes of triggering participants.”
“Sadly, I was not surprised when other counter-protesters gave up all pretenses and started cheering outright for Hamas,” he added.
Hummel, the Toronto lawyer, called the protesters “pathetic, paltry and sinister.”
“We celebrate life and they clearly do not. We were there in blue and white with our children, singing songs about life. There was a world of difference,” he told JNS. “They were wearing black and had their faces covered.”
“They stood with swastika signs. Repulsive and pathetic,” he added. “The visuals could not have been starker of what we’re fighting for, and what we are fighting against.”
Mamann, the other Toronto lawyer, told JNS that some of the protesters tailed Jewish community members after the event in a harassing way.
“These people come clear across town and out of town to disrupt us. The police were on our side. But at the end of the day, the protection doesn’t finish when the walk finishes,” he said. “There are thousands of people trying to make it home, and there is still work to do.”
Ali Siadatan was among the non-Jewish Canadians of Iranian descent who participated in the event to voice their support for the Jewish state.
“I stand with Israel because I wish to live in a free world. Israel is at the epicenter of a global ideological war,” Siadatan told JNS. “Israel’s victory will push back the forces of Islam and Marxism. Israel’s defeat would encourage these very forces to explode in the West and in Canada.”
“Even the future of Iran very much depends on the victory or defeat of Israel against the regional forces of Islamic militancy,” Siadatan added.
At the end of the walk, JNS caught up with the rapper Nissim Black, who performed at the festival, which also had kid-friendly activities and musical performances.
“Incredible energy,” Black told JNS. “It was so special seeing all those people together celebrating Eretz Hakodesh,” the Holy Land.

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Women Wage Peace to hold Zoom meeting in June

The late Viivan Silver z"l

We received the following email about a group that will be holding a formative meeting via Zoom this month:

Dear Friends,
Many of you may have heard of the Israel-based group called Women Wage Peace
(WWP) – Nashim Osot Shalom, which Vivian Silver (z”l) helped found ten years ago.
Some may have read the recent article about the group by Sharon Chisvin in the
Winnipeg Free Press. The group now has over 50,000 members, many all over the
world, for example, in Germany, Australia, the UK. The group is non-political and nonsectarian.
There are Jewish, Arab, Bedouin, Druze, Muslim, Christian and secular
women (and some men) across the political spectrum. It has partnered with a
Palestinian Women’s Group called Women of the Sun, and the heads of the two groups
made Time Magazine’s list of women of the Year – ‘extraordinary leaders who fight for a
more equitable future”. We just learned that Vivian has been posthumously awarded
the Hessian Peace Prize in Germany for her efforts.
WWP believes in the active participation of women through all stages of negotiations
and that we all have common interests, desires and needs for a peaceful resolution of
the conflict. WWP recognizes the need for diverse voices; the more partners there are
in the process, the greater the chances of achieving a long-lasting peace.
We are writing to you now, as we are setting up a group in Winnipeg, to support and
amplify the work of this remarkable organization. Please let us know whether you
would like to be involved with a Winnipeg/prairie group. We welcome input from all of
you.

There will be an initial Zoom meeting on June 18 at 7 pm to give everyone a chance to get to know one another and to brainstorm. Even if you are too busy to be an active participant, your support, both moral and financial, will help. And, if you know others who would be interested, please let them know about this initiative.
A major goal of WWP is to implement activities aimed at promoting the vision of a
shared society and co-existence.
Shalom/Peace/Salaam-
Esther Blum and Chana Thau
Please RSVP to wwpwinnipeg@gmail.com as to whether you would like your name to be added to our mailing list as a potential member or to follow WWP events, also to obtain the link to the Zoom meeting.
For more info on WWP, go to www.womenwagepeace.org.il

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