Medical reforms are hurting nurses and their...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Medical reforms are hurting nurses and their patients

The state's Health Services Care Review Commission (HSCRC), in its infinite wisdom, has decided that Maryland's hospitals must decrease their rates. As a result, hospitals are projecting a dramatic loss of revenues and laying off personnel.

The HSCRC claims that they are the last line of defense against increasing health care costs. What they fail to tell the public is that as they squeeze money from the hospitals, the care that patients receive is threatened.

In the past year, I have had three family members hospitalized at three different hospitals in Baltimore. In every case, I had to hire 24-hour nursing care.

The reason was simple: There weren't enough nurses. There were paramedical personnel recording a lot of data, but very little nursing.

Nurses are expensive, and when the HSCRC cuts reimbursement rates, nurses and medical personnel are the budget line items that get slashed.

Hospitals will say their nurse-to-patient ratios are unchanged. That's probably true, but the patients insurance companies now allow to stay in the hospital for more than one day are very, very sick. They require much care and evaluation.

Someone needs to tell the HSCRC that its actions have become detrimental to quality patient care.

Its formulas and complex explanations translate into fewer nurses at the patient's bedside.

Dr. Stephen H. Pollock, Reisterstown

I found it disheartening that The Sun relegated "Frustrated nurses turning to unions" (Oct. 31) to page 19. The public is focused on the plight of patients under HMOs -- and front-line caregivers, the nurses, are lost in the shuffle.

Nurses are being asked to provide care for sicker patients and handle an unsafe patient load. They're also performing a plethora of non-nursing duties -- emptying trash, serving meals and performing secretarial functions.

Hospitals are also overlooking more experienced nurses to hire cheaper, new graduates -- or they are hiring less well-trained "patient-care technicians" to perform skilled nursing duties.

Nurses are leaving the field in droves, and nursing schools' enrollment is not adequate to meet the shortage.

Why spend four years in college to be treated with such disrespect by doctors and administrators and make less money than General Motors workers?

Shirley Hopkins Thomas, R.N. Owings Mills

Church Home's care will be sorely missed

I've appreciated The Sun's human interest stories about Church Home and Hospital ("Leaving home," Nov. 1). They've described the 142-year history of this venerable institution, its gentle ambience and kind and caring service.

But another story needs telling. The Broadway Wing, located on the third floor of the hospital, was home to 22 very special patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Under the superb supervision of Dee Amrhein and her capable staff, these patients and their families found care and guidance so hard to find for this disease.

This will be hard to replace in today's health care system.

Sandra Murphy Schmidt Middle River

Outreach program confronts breast cancer

The Sun has provided outstanding coverage of breast cancer issues ("The best medicine," Oct. 3). But to further expand awareness, we'd like to note that the Baltimore chapter of Hadassah's "Check It Out" breast cancer early detection program continues to grow.

Over the last five years, it has reached 30,000 eleventh and twelfth graders in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Carroll County public and private schools.

"Check It Out" will reach 8,500 more students this year, through assemblies in which a breast cancer survivor and registered nurse impart life-saving information and answer questions.

The program empowers young women to take responsibility for their bodies and makes self-examination a natural part of their monthly routines.

This award-winning effort, has expanded to educate adults through businesses, religious groups and other organizations.

Sheila K. Derman, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Chapter of Hadassah.

For adoptees, the issue is equal rights

In the article "Law unseals state on adoption," (Oct. 24) Joan Jacobson acknowledged some of the controversy in adoption reform, yet missed the central issue. For adoptees, the issue is not about about search; it's about equal rights.

This means equal access to vital records, due process and other legal protections. The exact rights accorded Maryland's non-adopted citizens -- nothing more, nothing less.

But the issue is often trivialized especially when it gets confused with matters of search and reunion.

And that is what the Maryland legislature recently did when, under the guise of "confidentiality," it included restrictive provisions like contact vetoes, disclosure vetoes and mandatory intermediaries in the state's legislation allowing wider access to adoption records.

Joanne Small, Bethesda

The writer is a director of Adoptees in Search Inc.

Area's high-tech successes should be celebrated

I was very disappointed in The Sun's coverage of last week's public offering for stock in Aether Systems Inc., an Owings Mills wireless technology firm.

The article focused mostly on the company's past losses, which are not uncommon for high technology start-ups ("Aether hits big on first trading day," Oct. 22).

Yet the public offering was quite a sensation on Wall Street, yielding more than three times the initial price in the sale's first hours. Obviously, sophisticated investors have confidence that this is a highly promising company.

Baltimore's future prosperity depends upon ambitious and successful business people like the folks at Aether, who have created a wireless technology product at the forefront of its field.

I'd like to see the area's major newspaper celebrate, not denigrate, a local company that succeeds in the global marketplace.

Janet E. Raffel, Baltimore

Education reform that makes us dumber . . .

Kudos to Phil Greenfield for his hard-hitting commentary, "School reform kills skills" (Oct. 24). Having recently retired after 30 years in a local county school system, I've observed much of what Mr. Greenfield noted.

One case in point: Six years ago an education reformer swept into the system from an ivory tower to re-write the social studies curriculum.

When asked why the re-write was necessary he replied, "Too much content."

Too much content? Please.

David M. Evans Bel Air

. . . and sloppy speech not confined to kids

Katherine Kersten makes a good case for teaching Latin ("Return Caesar's tongue to America's classrooms," Opinion Commentary, Oct. 20), but she is incorrect to single out children for "sloppy speech" and "sparse vocabulary."

The adult world is also marked by verbal laziness. Consider the word "stuff." It's now frequently used in advertising. And a Sun headline writer subjected us on Oct. 28 to "Local man wants to buy Monroe stuff at auction."

Surely, a language as rich as English has other words that can more accurately and precisely convey our meaning.

Jacqueline H. Hedberg, Baltimore

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