Monday, August 3, 2020

ABTraceTogether: Mandatory Tracing Prevents the Spread of COVID-19

              In the 1982 film, The Wrath of Khan, a character called Spock enters a highly radioactive chamber to fix the ship's drive. Spock risks his life to save the crew from danger as the ship, the Enterprise, is at risk of exploding. In his last words, he says to another character Kirk, "Don't grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh…" Kirk continues, "The needs of the few." Spock replies, "Or the one." Choosing between the needs of the many versus the needs of the few is the intrinsic ethical tension that Public Health practitioners face daily. However, precautionary and preventative measures need to be implemented to give civilization the best chance to "flatten the curve" of the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic. In Alberta, the Public Health Act has given the Government of Alberta and the Chief Medical Officer of Health far-reaching powers to proactively slow down the spread of the virus. These powers may restrict individual liberties, such as limiting travel and ordering the closure of non-essential businesses. Some groups actively oppose public health guidance and city by-laws in the name of their "individual rights and liberties," despite COVID-19 being the most defining global health crisis of our time. The pandemic has shut down economic activity in Alberta, leading to its most significant financial crisis since the Great Depression. There is a need to reopen the economy; however, this needs to be done safely as the second wave of COVID-19 could lead to many businesses being permanently wiped out. The Alberta economy may never recover back to normal. There is a need to have additional measures to control and further prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, there may need to be trade-offs between public health and privacy.
              The rapid spread of COVID-19 exceeds the capacity of many public health agencies in performing traditional contact tracing, which had limitations in scalability, notification delays, recall errors, and contact identification in public spaces. Rapid contact tracing is the cornerstone of effective public health response, as 50% of COVID-19 transmissions happen early in infection before symptoms start and before test results can be acted upon. Mandating the use of the ABTraceTogether app allows the minimum 80% of smartphone users to have it installed, which enables the epidemic control to be more effective. ABTraceTogether is a mobile app that is available on Apple or Android phones. ABTraceTogether notifies users if they have been exposed to anyone positive for COVID-19, or if the user has exposed others while protecting the user's privacy. The smartphone application uses Bluetooth to accurately and efficiently identify contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case, just like a "digital handshake" that creates an anonymous log. If a user is exposed to COVID-19 or is positive for COVID-19, Alberta Health Services (AHS) will use the information from the app to contact the user. AHS Contact Tracers will provide guidance and care the users need to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
There are reassurances that personal data is only stored on a user's phone for twenty-one days in an encrypted format. However,  there remains opposition to the contact-tracing app citing "an extraordinary invasion of privacy." Jill Clayton, Alberta Privacy Commissioner, has completed an independent review of the privacy impact assessment (PIA) submitted by Alberta Health (AH) on July 9, 2020. In a LawBytes podcast, Commissioner Clayton praises how AH was transparent with the deployment of the app and is cooperative with recommendations. She continues to be concerned about the app in Apple devices needing to run in the foreground and the device requiring to be unlocked, but this is unfortunately out of AH's hands and is working with Apple towards a solution. Clayton has accepted the PIA and recognizes that AH has made reasonable efforts to protect privacy. AH has an existing policy including prohibiting the use of information for secondary purposes (such as quarantine enforcement), and there are plans to decommission the app.
 If countries such as South Korea have controlled their COVID-19 and have successfully reopened their economy using contact-tracing apps, shouldn't this be a simple step that we, Albertans, need to take to successfully revive our economy and have control over the spread of COVID-19?

Armstrong, A. (2019, October 29). Spock's Illogic: "The Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few."
Franklin, M. (2020, July 20). Group that held rally in Calgary says masks are 'harmful.' Calgary CTV News.
Geist, M. (2020, July 20). The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 60: Alberta Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton on the ABTraceTogether Contact Tracing App.
Geppert, C. (2020, April 10). The Return of the Plague: A Primer on Pandemic Ethics. Federal Practitioner.
Government of Alberta. (2020a). ABTraceTogether.
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. COVID-19 Map. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Johnson, L. (2020, July 12). Second wave of COVID-19 could push many off loan deferral cliff: economist. Edmonton Journal.
Kleinman, R. A., & Merkel, C. (2020). Digital contact tracing for COVID-19. CMAJ, 192(24).
Mertz, E. (2020, May 4). Alberta launches ABTraceTogether app to improve contact tracing, fight COVID-19 spread.
Murray, R. (2020, May 12). ABTraceTogether - Addressing benefits and concerns of contact tracing. 106.5 Mountain FM.
Parker, M. J., Fraser, C., Abeler-Dörner, L., & Bonsall, D. (2020). Ethics of instantaneous contact tracing using mobile phone apps in the control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Medical Ethics.
Staples, D. (2020, May 12). How the 'horrible trade-off' to contain COVID-19 blew up Alberta's economy and its finances. Edmonton Journal.
Urbaczewski, A., & Lee, Y. J. (2020). Technology and Surveillance in Times of Crisis, and Beyond: Lessons from Mobile Tracking Technology During the Covid-19 Outbreak. Available at SSRN 3614145.
United Nations Development Programme. (2020, May 14). Coronavirus disease COVID-19 pandemic.
Wells, N. (2020, May 2). 'Invasion of privacy': Watchdogs concerned about apps tracking COVID-19 patients. CTV News.
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta. (2020, July). ABTraceTogether privacy impact assessment review report.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

HSBC Has Failed Me

Disappointment is too light of a word to use of how HSBC has let me down as a client. I was at first mesmerized at how exclusive it is to be an HSBC Premier Client where you have to have at least $100,000 in funds and assets or a minimum of $500,000 mortgage with them. You would expect that with these requirements, that you can expect superb customer service.

My troubles all started when I tried to deposit $1600 in the ATM machine. To my dismay the machine said “Transaction Cancelled” and it literally took my money and reversed the deposit on my personal chequing account. I quickly called customer service who was quick to dismiss my concern and said that “Oh that’s normal, there’s always a hold on the account”. This lady was from a call centre from the Philippines so I have her the benefit of a doubt that it was merely a case of miscommunication. Alas, when I clarified that the ATM took my money and did not have any receipts that the transaction even occurred in the first place. I urged her to check my account so that she can know exactly what happened. To my dismay, she did not even check my account before throwing out a routine, scripted answer to all of the concerns that goes her way. She mentions that my account had a restriction and she can not access it and can no longer help me. She mentions that I need to go to a branch and provide 2 pieces of ID to lift the restriction. A restriction that she cannot talk to me about as she does not know why there is a restriction. I directed her to take my concern seriously and that she should email my Premier Relations Manager and the branch manager of the faulty ATM so that there will be a record of this conversation. I instructed her to CC me in the emails, which of course did not happen.

Fast forward the next morning, I call my Premier Relations Manager who does not see any restrictions but did receive the email. She mentions that it will take 4 business days until the ATM contents are opened and reconciliations take place and the money will be credited to my account. I did mention that I will be on vacation soon so I would like an explanation of why the ATM malfunctioned and why a restriction was placed on my account. She says that she will have her branch manager follow-up as she will be on vacation as well.

Moving forward to the fourth day. I call the service centre who proceeds to tell me that they cannot help me as my account is restricted. My jaw dropped as to how an international bank is able to drop the ball like this. The gentleman who I spoke to was excellent. He listened and actually said sorry for the grave experience that I am enduring. I go to the HSBC branch in a different province as I am on vacation. After checking my IDs, asking several verification questions, and even comparing my signature, she was quick to say that the restriction has been lifted. I ask her to escalate my concerns about my missing money, but she basically told me that it doesn’t matter what we’re discussed in the past but she can help me by letting the branch manager of my home branch know of these concerns.

The branch manager was very good at her follow-ups but I dislike how all HSBC managers tend to assume and provide excuses that does not make sense if they only took the time to take a deeper dive into what happened and what they could do better in the future.

The last straw was when I tried to make a payment from my joint account and of course there is a restriction to it. I call the branch manager who told me that she called the lady who helped me in Mississauga, ON and that I just need to come to the branch again and this magical restriction will be lifted. To my great dismay, I was told that my partner needs to be with me to lift the restriction despite the joint account being a “and/or” account. I proceeded to call my partner who tells me that he has already went to an HSBC branch recently to lift the restriction and he was told that it has been lifted.

So here I am heading to New York, with no access to my funds because HSBC has decided to freeze my account with no explanation as to why. Well my answer is, once I get home I will close my HSBC account as I definitely do not matter to them.

Their Customer Complaint department is a joke as well, I have not received any phone calls from them.

HSBC, the WORST bank ever!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Open Letter to Home Depot Canada

To the Home Depot Customer Care Team:

On September 6, 2017 I ordered a Samsung Refrigerator Water Filter and the Order Number is ***********. For some strange reason, this disposable filter was considered as an appliance and I was charged $49.98 for the delivery of this “appliance”. I shrugged because this must be a mistake and I decided to call your customer support line. I first called 1-800-628-0525 and I was on hold for 10-15 minutes. Someone picked up and asked for my order number yada yada, only to be told that she couldn’t help me because this was an Appliances Department issue and she has no access to their files/records as they are a complete different entity despite me purchasing the water filter and a furnace filter on the same website, After a big sigh, I decided to call 1-800-759-2054 which is the appliances department apparently. Waited another 15 minutes while the automated recording kept providing me false reassurance that my phone call is important (yeah right). I decided to use another phone to dial in and after 10 minutes of waiting on that line I actually got a hold of someone first on that line and decided to hang up on the first phone that I was calling from. This irritates me because I could have been on the other line and would have been waiting while other callers can go through another agent, while I’m still waiting for like an eternity. This unhelpful lady, who sounded like she hates her job said she couldn’t help me and gave me a number (which I now forgot) and asked me to dial the extension 4. So it was the same recordings as the Appliance Department. I pressed 4 and to my disappointment, it was the project support line, basically the appliance delivery team.

This may seem to be an ongoing rant on how horrible my experience was with being bounced off from one customer service representative to another who does not have a clue of how they should do their jobs nor did they take ownership of helping me with my issue. However, my experience turned around for the better when I was connected with Patrick. Patrick was very calm, polite, and went above and beyond to help me de-escalate and actually solve my problem. I expressed my frustrations with Patrick of the Project Supports Team, Appliance Delivery division (I believe that’s what he said). You see, unlike the 2 ladies who bounced me around, Patrick was honest and said that he hasn’t encountered this problem before. This isn’t the right department that I should be talking to as this is the delivery department and not the order processing department. Patrick understood my frustration and empathized that I shouldn’t be bounced to another department that might not know the answer as well. Patrick showed great dedication and offered to make the call for me to the other line so that I don’t have to wait and have to start all over again: what’s my order number, what’s my name and address, what is my problem, etc. Patrick didn’t know the answer but helped me find that answer. Patrick explained why there was a delivery cost of $49 (special courier fee) and offered to work around the delivery fee. Patrick did provide another option, where I can just pick this item up in a local Home Depot store as a special order. I thanked Patrick and asked him to just cancel my order. Patrick apologized because I had to call a different department to cancel my online order. I spend 2 hours on the phone and Patrick understood that no customer should waste their time on the phone to be speaking to random individuals who may or may not be able to help you. Patrick, as super that he is, called the appropriate department on my behalf and cancelled my order and informed me that I will get my refund in X-number of days.

Home Depot, my online shopping experience has been horrendous, but my frustrations were quickly replaced with relief because of employees like Patrick who goes above and beyond their duty to make things right. I wanted to speak to Patrick’s supervisor to commend him for such an excellent job but the supervisor was busy with another escalation. Your employees are what makes or breaks a company, and Patrick is a model employee that all your other employees should follow as a role model. It is quite rare to find someone like Patrick. Please extend my gratitude to him and let this be a shining recommendation for his future performance appraisal.

Samsung Water Filter Guy

UPDATE: Home Depot actually responded and thanked me for the feedback and is making sure that Patrick recieves the praise and recognition that he deserves.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Assuming a New Role: Case Manager

Change is terrifying. I already have a fixed routine and I know what my role as a Registered Nurse is and I know what is expected of me. I know that the warm and cozy space that I currently have will be sought out by others, but I need a change. I like to do more and practice my full scope as a Registered Nurse and I want to be able to make changes in patient care in a wider level.

Hence I applied to be a Case Manager and lucky enough, I got hired! I honestly have no faint clue as to what my day to day schedule and activity is but here is my job description: 
Case Managers coordinate the placement, on-going assessment, care planning and delivery of professional and personal care services to residents. Case Managers are also responsible for resident engagement, monitoring and evaluating care and outcomes, formal reassessment and disengagement. Case Managers facilitate the achievement of resident-based goals and applicable standards, and assists site-based nursing and support services teams through excellent communication, leadership, interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. Case Managers ensure collaboration within the site nursing team, the residents and their families. Case Managers function as leaders, advocates, educators, and stewards of resources and rely extensively on clinical information systems and computer technology to complete assigned tasks.
 I am scared, real scared... but I guess actually taking a small step towards change is one way to show courage. I want to make a difference and I want to have a meaningful career and this is one way that I can do to achieve that.

*** Picture taken from

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Working in the Healthcare Field

We've all heard horror stories from people working in healthcare. However, when you speak to people who have been working in the healthcare field, there's one common thread: They find their jobs rewarding. They know they are making an important difference in the lives of their patients and clients, often when they need it the most. If this is a field you're interested in but you've been hesitating about taking the leap into a new career, here are a few reasons that might help convince you:

You WILL Make A Difference

Healthcare is a field where every worker is important. Whether you want to become a nurse, a personal support worker, or a massage therapist, you will be making a difference in the lives of those you work with. The vital services you offer might provide relief from pain, offer comfort, or preserve the dignity of the patient.

Job Growth and Security

There will always be a need for healthcare workers in various capacities. Hospital patients need tending and many of our elderly need people to care for them. As long as our population continues to grow and age, there will always be jobs for compassionate healthcare professionals. Healthcare professionals also enjoy competitive wages due to high demand.

You Can Work Anywhere

Working in healthcare means being able to find employment opportunities wherever you go. Unlike some industries in which jobs are concentrated in certain areas of the country, you won't have to move to find a job in healthcare. Hospitals, long-term care facilities, and retirement facilities exist across the country. Healthcare is a career that can take you anywhere.

Variety and Lifelong Learning

Throughout your career, you'll see and experience new things. You'll meet new people and might have the chance to get to know interesting patients. New techniques and practices are constantly being perfected and you'll learn new things throughout your career.

Our healthcare system could not operate without the dedication and caring of healthcare workers in dozens of specialized fields. This is a career path that you can truly feel proud of!