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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Home > McGill News > 2000 > Fall 2000 > Letters

Getting grads together

I always enjoy reading the McGill News. On a trip to Toronto recently, I got in touch with Marilyn Lightstone, BA'61, of the 1955-58 Red and White Revue years whom I hadn't seen for 41 years -- all because of Alumnotes. And this summer, I will be visiting Vancouver and will get in touch with Ann Golden, LMus'58, BMus'68, the original "My Fur Lady," as we celebrate (with our respective spouses) our 30th wedding anniversaries. It's great to keep in touch!

Pierre Perron, BMus'61
Halifax, N.S.

Health systems need treatment


I read the full English translation of Hélèna Katz's article on health care (Spring'00). Like many such articles, it omits more than it says. I believe that both the Canadian and American systems are suboptimal. While Americans pay a higher percentage of the GDP for health care, it is partially because Americans want certain luxuries associated with the delivery of health care.

Americans who have employer-paid health insurance won't tolerate waiting for service, hospitals in need of a paint job, etc. For the most part they want a system which responds positively to a patient request for a CT scan to confirm a finding. Those who pay for a significant portion of their health insurance are often willing to give up "luxuries" for a lower premium as long as they know what they are giving up.

Part of the rising dissatisfaction in the U.S. with health care is the fact that costs have risen faster than the willingness to pay for higher insurance costs. With premium increases being held in check something has to give. The withdrawal of the fringe services results in lower patient satisfaction.

Doctors are also dissatisfied. Insurers (including Medicare) have in many cases refused to pay the "private payer" rate. Since many patients have moved to lower cost plans, the doctors have had to accept reductions in income and lifestyle. How can a hospital bill $11,000 and accept an HMO payment of $3,000 as payment in full?

(I have seen four similar cases so the practice must be fairly prevalent).

How can a physician agree to accept an insurance payment of $97 as settlement in full for a $350 bill for an office procedure? How does a physician have the nerve to attempt to collect $350 for

a procedure for which he is willing to accept $97?

While I have no answers to these questions I don't trust my government to come up with a satisfactory solution.

Avrum Lapin, BEng'60
Upland, Calif.

Canadians should not be envious of the U.S. health care system. In fact, nothing that leaves 40 million or so citizens uncovered should be dignified by that term. The only reason there hasn't been some sort of revolution over it in the U.S. is that most of the people covered remain healthy. Those who are sick or elderly have plenty of complaints. We've turned the "system" over to the insurance companies, and their motivation is to make money. It's like hiring the fox to take care of the chicken coop.

Douglas W. Huestis, MDCM'48
Tucson, Ariz.

Water controversy

Your readers, I included, are used to factual accuracy and fairness in the stories that appear in the McGill News. So it came as a shock to read the false and provocative statement attributed to Professor Tom Naylor -- that "the West Bank is being sucked dry to fill Israeli swimming pools" ("Risky Business" Spring'00).

According to specialists in this field the facts are otherwise. There are two aquifers that are shared by the Israelis and Palestinians, and most of the water stored in these aquifers is stored under the pre-1967 borders of Israel. This underground water flows from the higher elevations in the West Bank down towards the Mediterranean shoreline of Israel at sea level, emerging in Israel at springs near Petah Tikvah, Hadera, Gilboa and Bet Shean.

In the 1950s, well before the Six-Day War that brought Israeli rule in the West Bank, at least 85% of the water in these aquifers was used by Israelis -- both Jewish and Arab. And since 1967 the West Bank Palestinian share of these aquifers has actually increased, in part because Israel pipes to the West Bank more than 40 million cubic meters of water for Palestinian use.

I should add that, under international law, as a downstream riparian Israel has just as much right to maintain its share of this underground water as, say, Egypt does to maintain its share of the Nile's water, even though the Nile's water originates not in Egypt, but in Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi and a host of other African countries. Would Professor Naylor charge that Sudan is being "sucked dry" so that Egypt can grow water intensive crops like cotton in a desert environment?

Naylor and the McGill News owe Israel an apology and a correction.

Leonard H. Wisse, BA'52
Cambridge, Mass.

Professor Naylor replies: I concur with Mr. Wisse. It is important to get one's facts straight, particularly when dealing with issues as important as the search for justice in the Middle East. Among those facts are the following: The West Bank contains not two, but three aquifers. No water is "stored" in these aquifers -- they are all based on renewable flows. The high level of current flowthrough to Israel is not the result of geology or acts of God, but of pumping stations built in the occupied areas and protected by the Israeli military, in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Some water sold to the West Bank municipalities does indeed get piped in from Israel. In effect Israel seizes without compensation water from the West Bank, pumps it into the Israeli system, then sells some of it back to Palestinian urban areas denied direct use of their own water resources.

As to the totals, apparently Mr. Wisse's "specialists" are different from those consulted by the Israeli government (see the Agreement of 28 Sept. 1995, Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs, Article 40) which freely admits that Israel takes 82% of the water from the West Bank aquifers, leaving the Palestinians with 18%. If this is not being "sucked dry," it will do unto the real thing comes along.

Ski champs remembered

Photo Some members of the 1937 McGill Ski Club, Captain Ron Denton (second from right) won the Intercollegiate Ski Jumping title that year at a ten-team meet in the Laurentians. Shown with him are (from left) James Houghton, BEng'38, William Tait, BA'34, MDCM'39, Donald Tirrell, BEng'41, Harold Staniforth and Robert Townsend, BSc'39, MDCM'41.

McGill skiers were saddened to read in your Summer edition of the alumni quarterly of - the passing of three old competitors.

Ron Denton, MDCM'37, was a top jumper for McGill in the years 1935 to 1937 and took part in several of the legendary McGill-Dartmouth confrontations. He was captain of the McGill ski team in 1937. Bruce Ramsey, MDCM'49, and Alan "Buzz" Cockfield, BEng'52, were members of the McGill ski team that won the Canadian intercollegiate championships in 1949, Bruce in Alpine events (downhill and slalom) and Buzz as a cross-country specialist.

After graduation all three became active members of the Red Bird Ski Club, dedicated to supporting and promoting McGill competitive skiing. They will be missed.

Andrew K. Hugessen, BEng'49
Kirkland, Que.

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