CBC listeners in New Brunswick and elsewhere will recall fondly the witty and erudite journalist Donald Edward “Paddy” Gregg who, sadly, departed this earth last May. He was a force of nature who could not be fooled or intimidated. It seemed at times like there was nothing he couldn’t do.
I had the honour of working with Paddy on CBC Radio’s Information Morning in the 1980’s. He gave me some very good advice one day after I had an unpleasant encounter with a particularly ascerbic local politician. Here’s what he told me:
“Don’t ever wrestle a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig enjoys it.”
I should have listened to his suggestion.
Writing this blog has been a very time-consuming venture. It has added substantially to an already busy schedule, but most importantly, other than allowing me to vent some anger against government and NBMS mouth-breathers, it has not accomplished much of anything other than to remind me of how power can corrupt.
And so, having battered my skull against the brick wall of indifference for weeks on end, I now say enough. This is going nowhere fast. Don Cherry was right about one thing. It does feel good when you stop.
Remember when the talented Russian Red Army hockey team toured North America in 1976? You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1976_Flyers-Red_Army_game
This immensely talented and highly conditioned team was chased from the ice surface by a pack of goons known as the Philadelphia Flyers, AKA the Broad Street Bullies. At the time I laughed about it, and disparaged the Soviets mightily, like ever other Canadian hockey fan. Yes, the Flyers were goons, and yes, many of them appeared to have I.Q.s which could be the real reason the games were referred to as the 76 series. But for the Soviets to leave the ice and threaten not to come back? I couldn’t imagine how anyone could do that.
I understand now. When you step on the ice expecting to play hard but respect the rules both of the game and human decency, then find out that the rules are out the window, and the game is rigged, what other option do you have? Stay and be a punching bag?
If I had a department of civil servants working behind the scenes to ensure that my goals are met, or if I had a big-budget sales and marketing team at my disposal. I would be happy to stay and duke it out. But I don’t and I won’t.
Like every other doctor in this province, I am but a pawn in a complex game between the NBMS on one side, trying to coax doctors to sign on to an expensive and doomed EMR program, and the Minister of Health, hoping to use the EMR program to demolish the NBMS.
I should have known better.
My first clue should have been getting an email from the Minister of Health about three weeks ago advising that me that he and I “should talk sometime soon.” Why would a minister of the crown suddenly want to talk to me? He had already blown off a couple of missives, tossing the problems with the provincial EMR program back to the NBMS. A petition I hand delivered to him signed by 94 health care professionals went unanswered. Now he wants to talk to me? Hmmmm…
A few days later we did talk on the phone. I sat in my driveway for 25 minutes as he listened to what I had to say. He agreed with it all. He sounded almost sympathetic. That should have been the second clue.
Very few people in the upper echelons of government have ever shown much interest in talking to me. Why would they? I don’t belong to any political party. I don’t have any important friends (sorry guys, it’s the truth) I vote for the candidate in my riding who appears to be the most intelligent and who has the best policies. My contact with politicians has been sparse. I once said hello to Joe Clark in the UNB Student Union Building. Gerry Merrithew insulted me on the phone when I was working for CBC in the 80’s. A retired deputy minister bellowed self-righteously at me one summer day on the golf course. I have been in a couple of scrums with Premier Hatfield outside his old office in the Glass Palace. And I’m pretty sure Rene Levesque tried to run me over one night when I fell down in the street on my way home from a pub in Quebec City. That pretty much sums up my contact with the movers and shakers on the Canadian political dance floor.
In his fascinating, entertaining, and thought provoking book “Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives” neuroscientist-turned-author David Eagleman posits that we die not once but three times. “The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”
I would submit that their is a fourth death, which occurs before the other three. That occurs when you realize that nobody really gives a shit what you have to say.
So now that I am finished, what will I do? Look after my 3000+ patients first of all. Maybe start playing hockey again, or read a few books. Who knows? I’m just glad to have a bit more time for worthwhile projects.
I will continue to use my Telus EMR. I still love it.
The provincial EMR program will most likely crumble and decay.
The world will continue to spin and the sun will come up in the east each day.
At the end of my career I hope to find a young doctor to take over my practice so I don’t have to spend my final years in the basement with a bunch of moldy files and a photocopier, intermittently wheezing and hacking as I dole out patient charts each time one of my former patients finds a new physician.
“But Dr. Varty, you said you would never give up.”
Well sometimes giving up is the right thing to do. If you are Valeri Kharlamov, and you are on the ice being pummeled by Moose Dupont’s foil-wrapped knuckles, struggling will probably only make it worse. Dupont is going to win anyway, and if you keep fighting, you are just going to make some dental surgeon rich.
We have all seen the typical National Geographic footage of a cheetah taking down a gazelle. Once they are down, it is like they just give up and accept the inevitable. Why would they give up? Isn’t it better to keep fighting? This morning the explanation came to me. It’s because of evolution. Think about it. If you are a gazelle attacked by a large, ferocious cat and you struggle, the attack will intensify and your will end up torn to shreds in short order. If, on the other hand, you go limp the instant you are bitten, the predator may actually release you from its grasp. That’s your chance to jump up and run away. Giving up actually has survival benefits.
It’s not noble, but it works.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
All the best for the future, whatever it may bring.
And… stay with the herd. Those damn cheetah’s are everywhere…