Back of the Envelope Considerations about Icy Halifax Streets


The CBC reports that yesterday, Jan. 2, the first “ice day” there were over 250 visits to Emergency rooms in HRM hospitals.  In the ER vernacular, most of the people were “slip and falls.” Instantly, tongue knew he was in real trouble and that all his mom's warning, hither to ignore, were true.

We did not have enough surgeons or operating rooms to service all the people who needed surgery due to serious orthopedic injuries. Many were sent home, and will wait to be called back for surgery.

Every year we have ice, and “ice days” in Halifax and throughout the province. Yet every year we have the young, middle aged and old slipping and falling, breaking wrists, arms, hips and legs.

These are serious injuries.  Probably the person who fell is in a lot a pain; likely the person has to take time off work.  If the person works in retail, in grocery, in food service they are not likely to be unionized, and not likely to get paid sick time.  That means the person suffers twice – once with a serious and painful injury and secondly they are deprived of pay.

Metro councilors play a game.  They warn if we want improved snow and ice clearing we all must pay more taxes. Fair enough.  But out of a different pocket, we are now collectively paying through our taxes for the strains on Emergency rooms and the health care system.  So we all pay one way or another.fall

Let’s say when any one person presents at Emergency, it costs the system at least  $200. Here is how I break it down:

  • the paramedic or nurse takes the person’s blood pressure and temperature;
  • the clerk enters the person’s name and data on the computer and puts a wristband on the person;
  • the person waits perhaps hours in Emergency to be seen.Security personnel are required to ensure the Emergency Dept is kept safe—that no one is attacked or hurt while they wait. 
  • Then a paramedic or nurse interviews the person privately and gets them ready for the examination by an emergency doctor.
  • The emergency doctor examines the person and then might order blood tests, or xrays.
  • A phlebotomist comes by to take the person’s blood.
  • And a technologist takes the x-rays.

If each person seen costs the system $200, on Jan. 2 emergency room visits cost the health care system at least $50,000.  And that doesn’t count injured due to motor vehicle accidents, or transportation by  ambulance or paramedics or other emergencies related to the ice. Let’s push the number to $75,000. 

While every “ice day” will have people who have accidents, we might be looking at spending $50,000 each day for every “ice day” this winter.  Maybe there are 10 “ice days” which cost the system a total of $500,000. 

How much snow and ice clearing and salting can we do for half a million dollars?
Even at $20 an hour that is about 25,000 hours above and  beyond what we already contract to pay for snow removal. 25,000 hours works out to 2500 hours of work on each of the 10 bad ice days. 

If we actually hired people to work the extra 2500 hours we’d have a good shot at ice free sidewalks, bus stops, and curbs.  Injuries and suffering would be cut.  And somehow winter wouldn’t be so scary.heels

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