Meeting Harford's Health NeedsMike Burns made many...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Meeting Harford's Health Needs

Mike Burns made many thoughtful and accurate observations in his "Comment" piece in The Sun for Harford County on June 11, "Harford Memorial Isn't Going Away." We would like to take this opportunity to . . . shed more light on Upper Chesapeake's future plans.

The Upper Chesapeake Health System, which owns Fallston General, Harford Memorial and the Familycare Centers, has managed a significant turnaround in the last two years. Patient satisfaction, employee morale and linkages with community physicians are all substantially improved. We are very confident that the care provided in our hospitals is as good as or, in many cases, better than that provided in other Baltimore and Mid-Atlantic area hospitals.

The principal remaining problems for this community are the inadequacy of the Fallston General facility, and the lack of obstetric and pediatric services in the southern end of the county.

Mr. Burns is correct in noting that these are tumultuous times for acute care hospitals. Mergers and alliances abound, and small hospitals all over the country are closing. And we admit that some of our perceived changes in direction may have contributed to the confusion he cites. . . . Lower staffing projections at our hospitals relate to the declining use of all acute care hospitals for inpatient services, which is a national trend. These trends more than offset the positive impact of population growth, even in the rapidly expanding Bel Air area. Neither hospitals, patients nor physicians have much control over how insurance companies and managed care companies diminish hospital use.

What remains central to our system is our belief that our community hospitals should be locally owned and managed, and that our services should meet or exceed the expectations of our patients, employees and physicians.

Soon, we will file a Letter of Intent with the Health Resources Planning Commission, indicating some of our plans for the replacement hospital. This action is part of our plan to provide the best services we can to the greatest number of Harford County residents, to make two strong hospitals and to create the healthiest community in Maryland.

Lyle E. Sheldon

Roger E. Schneider

The writers are, respectively, president and chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of the Upper Chesapeake Health System, Inc.

Student-Athletes

No one enjoys seeing his friends made fun of, especially in public. Likewise no one wants to be the bringer of bad news to his acquaintances. I performed both of these roles recently, as the person who showed the president of Harford County's Regional Association of Student Councils (HCRASC) Mike Burns' Grade Requirement is Working Well" commentary published May 20.

. . . The mocking column opened with a bitterly sarcastic lead, and deliberately misinterpreted the quotes of well-meaning students.

My fellow student was quoted as saying, "It's putting priority on sports over education. If you can pass Basketweaving 101, you can play sports. It's not fair to students who work hard." HCRASC presidents are very well-informed students. When referring to "Basketweaving 101," she was speaking figuratively, knowing full well there is not a course known exactly by that title. . . . Harford County's actual required grade point average for athletic participation was noticeably omitted from his commentary. I will state it for Mr. Burns: 0.7 -- 0.7 on a 4.0 scale with a C average equal to a 2.0. He described this standard as "a warning to kids that they must be serious about their grades." How five D's and two F's can be considered as "serious" work habits or "academic progress" is beyond my reasoning, and likely beyond comprehension of most citizens of Harford County.

I wish Mr. Burns could have been present at a recent forum, when Harford County students admitted this statistic to the student government leaders from across the state. Their reaction was nothing short of disbelief. They spoke of GPA requirements as high as 2.0 in their counties and successful programs designed to help athletes struggling academically. Needless to say, we were embarrassed.

As Mr. Burns mentioned, most of Harford County's athletes do excel scholastically. However, our GPA requirement of 0.7 is giving us an ignorant country-bumpkin reputation statewide.

The editorial section is meant as a place for newspapers to express their own positions. This may justify poking fun at members of a political party or criticizing government officials. A commentary devoted to singling out one student for embarrassment, however, is nothing short of irresponsible journalism.

It is my hope, and that of other students in Harford County, that Mr. Burns and The Sun's editors will consider the repercussions of their words, and their responsibilities as journalists, before printing another "belittling" commentary.

Rebecca Ritzel

Forest Hill

Veteran Teachers

As parents, we have been actively involved in our son's education. He just concluded third grade. This is a weepy time of year for me, because each year we have grown very attached to his teachers at Havre de Grace Elementary School.

Tim White, who taught him kindergarten, taught there for 19 years. Kathy Paragallo, his first-grade teacher, is completing 28 years (many parents of her pupils were students of hers years ago). Carolyn Narvell, his second-grade teacher, has taught there for more than 16 years, and was a student there herself along with Mrs. Paragallo. And Jackie Kendall, his third-grade teacher, was awarded a pin this year for celebrating her 20th year.

So in essence, Daniel's had the privilege of being exposed to the outstanding wisdom these teachers have acquired over 83 years of instruction and 1,700 or so pupils. It's no accident that he is on the honor roll, is excited about learning, is proud of his accomplishments and eager to share his knowledge.

These are small-town, community-involved teachers who have provided the town of Havre de Grace with a wealth of good citizens for years. . . . Generations of families have been taught by these veteran, well-respected teachers, whose excellent reputations are known throughout Harford County as well as in our community.

On June 2, I was devastated to find out that these teachers (and others) are to be transferred out of our school. . . . Their shoes will be difficult, if at all possible, to fill. Theirs is not the sort of knowledge you can get out of four years of college. They have a wealth of irreplaceable knowledge, the backbone of our school. I cannot thank them enough for the life-lasting lessons they have taught our son and the thousands of others.

After 45 years, Havre de Grace Elementary School is finally being modernized, physically. However, the transfer of veteran teachers will terribly set us back, and the town will suffer the loss of these familiar faces. We cannot let this happen.

Superintendent Ray Keech, please reconsider. We want our teachers back.

Cindy Brittain

Havre de Grace

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