How to maximize pharmacare cost savings

Whatever pharmacare plan Ottawa and the premiers eventually agree on, the debate over a national drug program will again thrust the ongoing feud between generic and brand-name companies back onto the public agenda, reported CanWest News Service in the Ottawa Citizen Sept. 6. The greatest possibility for cost savings would be a broader national drug program that includes not just the provincial programs but also privately run drug-insurance plans, which cover more than 60 per cent of Canadians, says Dr. Joel Lexchin, a Toronto physician and professor of health care policy at York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. “The administrative costs in public systems are lower than on private plans because there’s no profit built in, and no advertising,” he said. Costs run between 2-3 per cent in the public system compared to 8-9 per cent in the private, he said. “And up until a few years ago, private plans weren’t encouraging generic use as much as public plans.”

Military can’t cut corners forever, says analyst

For the past three years, Canada’s military hasn’t received the training it wants to defend against air attacks, reported The Daily News in Halifax Sept. 6. In 2000, Canada started selling off a fleet of Challenger and Silver Star jets once used to pose as attackers. Now the military is cobbling together training exercises that rely on the goodwill of our American neighbours. The military should have kept its aerial sparring partners in-house, said Martin Shadwick, a defence analyst with the York Centre for International & Security Studies. “What they’ve been in, if you’ll excuse the pun, is sort of a holding pattern,” Shadwick said. “They’re getting probably enough to keep the system ticking over.” But the military can’t “cut corners” forever, he said. “It makes it tougher to hone and retain the skill-sets that the operators really need, whether they’re land, sea or air.” The military cooked up “a recipe for some difficulty” when it ditched its airborne training services program before lining up a civilian replacement. “We got anything but seamless out of this,” Shadwick said. “We went from military to a sort of ad-hoc arrangements with the Americans.”

In defence of ‘cool’ learning

“Some of us continue to stand centurion at the ivory tower. Why?” Showey Yazdanian, who graduated with a B.Sc. in chemistry from York University in 2001 and is doing her PhD at Cornell, answered her own question in a special back-to-school column in the Toronto Star Sept. 7. “The rebuttal to the pragmatists is twofold. First, if universities abdicate their roles as custodians of our collective intellectual and cultural heritage, who or what will stay the breach? Second, there are whispers that the functional, technology-based academic programs born of the Nasdaq ’90s have not fully delivered on their promise of skill-ready, plug-and-play graduates.

“In principle, a university provides one of the few professional forums on Earth where one may do something simply because it is fascinating. Fascinating just doesn’t cut it in this extremely profit-mad McWorld – but it is those things that are interesting, rather than overtly lucrative, which tend to be the most dearly beloved possessions of the human race.

“Lasers – invented in the 1950s – weren’t calculated to make money. It took many years before anyone realized how useful – and how profitable – lasers are. I am reminded of my own experience as an undergraduate working for chemistry Professor Bill Pietro at York University. I once asked him why we were pursuing an uncertain path, questioning the practical value of one of our experiments. His answer? ‘Because it’s cool, that’s why.’ He was right. It was cool, and that was good enough for me. To my mind, the idea that there exists a place where we may do interesting things – even if they are not instantaneously saleable – is reason enough to cease fire on the ivory tower.”

Woman joins men’s baseball team

Samantha Magalas, 22, of Burlington has been selected to play for the York University Lions men’s baseball team, reported CanWest News Service in a sports digest printed Sept. 8 in the Edmonton Journal. This summer, the psychology student played first-base with the Canadian women’s team at the inaugural World Cup of Women’s Baseball held in Edmonton. York University plays in the 22-team Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association and begins its season on Sept. 11 when it hosts George Brown College.

Poll’s findings may be flawed: expert

Albertans are three times as likely to want government to increase spending on services as they are to want tax cuts, a poll for a public-service lobby suggests, reported the Edmonton Journal Sept. 8. The result is at odds with earlier government surveys that indicated more enthusiasm for tax cuts than for program spending. But a polling expert says the latest survey’s question on tax cuts is unusual because it combines two issues in one – an approach pollsters try to avoid. It asks what priority respondents put on the government providing “tax cuts and additional financial support to corporations.” Polling expert David Northrup said that Public Interest Alberta’s survey relied on what the industry calls a double-barrelled question. “It could have been a mistake or it could have been something else,” said Northrup, associate director of York University’s Institute for Social Research. “Experienced people make mistakes all the time.” The trouble with the tax question is that tax cuts and corporate aid are separate concerns, he said. People may feel differently about tax cuts than they do about giving companies handouts.

Peace activist closes research institute after 40 years

Hanna Newcombe has every reason to be puffed up with pride for her work in the cause of world peace, reported the Hamilton Spectator Sept. 7 in an article marking the closing of the Peace Research Institute in Dundas, Ont., after 40 years. Financial problems mean the 82-year-old grandmother will close the institute for good on Nov. 30. She has been involved with the non-profit institute since it was founded in Oakville in 1961. She has been operating from her brick bungalow since it transferred into Dundas in 1976. Apart from editing academic journals for the institute, she taught a peace course at York University for 11 years (1985-1996) and helped run a peace research summer school on Grindstone Island in Rideau Lake near Ottawa. In 1987, the United Nations proclaimed Newcombe a “peace messenger … in recognition of a significant contribution to the programs and objectives of the International Year of Peace.” In 1988, she and her late husband, Allan Newcombe, shared a World Citizenship Award from the Hamilton Mundialization Committee. In 1997, she was awarded the prestigious Lester Pearson Medal for her work in the peace movement.

Hostage-takers: militants or terrorists?

In a letter to the National Post Sept. 7, John J. Furedy, professor of psychology, University of Toronto, and Christine P. Furedy, professor emerita in social science, York University, wrote: “While the sane media reported on the hostage-taking by ‘terrorists’ in Beslan, the CBC insisted on calling the perpetrators merely ‘militants.’ What does a person have to do to be classed as a terrorist by the CBC? Apparently mass hostage-taking focused on children, terrorizing, cruelty and murder are not enough.”

Joint nursing program offered in Orillia

In a Sept. 8 story about how enrolment has doubled at Georgian College’s Orillia campus, Orillia’s Packet & Times mentioned the nursing degree completion program offered by the college and York University. The two-year program is open to registered nurses who wish to obtain a bachelor of science in nursing degree.