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We are wasting invaluable health-care resources

I was humbled by the commentary by nurse Theresa Brown ("Dear Senators: Listen to the Patients," Dec. 6 Forum): I am one of the 2 million nurses. I can easily tell my stories.

I cared for a woman who had cancer. She had metastatic bone involvement from her breast cancer and her pain was excruciating. After a "wallet biopsy," it was decided that she was terminally ill and she had no insurance that would pay for long-term care. She was, literally, in search of a place where she could lie down to die. Under our current system, no hospital would welcome her. As Ms. Brown said, every nurse has stories.

We have diverted the wealth of experience of seasoned professional nurses to spend hours on the phone, urging insurance companies to pay for additional days in the hospital. Why, in a critical nursing shortage, are we wasting these valuable resources?

I live in a community where there are many cases of diabetes and hypertension that go untreated despite the fact that we have a "temple of science" in our midst. Emergency rooms are flooded with uninsured people who are seeking help. This could be resolved with access to care that would cost much less and be far more effective. Our area is rich with a supply of nurse practitioners (CRNPs) who could address many of these needs. Where is the dialogue over community health?

We live in a society that can afford health care. Access should not be sold in the same way that one might buy an automobile. Fundamentally, providing health care to everyone is a moral decision. If we can rally thousands of Christians to save the unborn, shouldn't some group assemble to address this issue?

Nurse Brown stepped up and told her story. Where are the rest of us?

North Side

The writer is a member of the nursing faculty of Community College of Allegheny County, Allegheny Campus.

Change our system?

Regarding Steven Hill's commentary, "A Senate Minority Hijacks Health Care" (Nov. 29 Forum): He complains that the Senate violates the nation's democratic principles because it's not based on one person, one vote. But most people, save Mr. Hill and other "health care at any cost" partisans, recognize that the United States is not a democracy but a democratic republic, instituted to prevent the "tyranny of the majority."

Among other reasons our Founders established the Senate was to assure that tiny states like Rhode Island and Delaware wield the same clout in one congressional body as giants such as California and New York.

Mr. Hill's irritation seemingly arose because some senators might block a 2,000-plus-page behemoth known as health-care legislation, a bill packed with payoffs to unions, trial lawyers and other Democratic-favored constituencies. If advocates of this legislation need more votes, why don't they arrange to bribe a few more senators, as with the bill's $300 million for New Orleans in exchange for Sen. Mary Landrieu's vote?

If the health-care bill addressed effectively our nation's real concern of insuring the uninsured fairly without penalizing the already insured, including seniors by way of heavy Medicare cuts, rounding up the needed Senate votes would be no problem. For your partisan interests, Mr. Hill, you would destroy a legislative system that has served our nation well for 222 years. What colossal nerve.


Don't take the risk

As a recent breast cancer survivor, I read Jennifer Gill Kissel's article "Get a Mammogram. No Excuses" (The Next Page, Dec. 6) with interest. In it she mentions some of the excuses we tell ourselves to avoid making that mammogram appointment. One excuse that isn't much discussed is the assumption that a healthy, active lifestyle makes you immune from cancer.

I'm 51 and have gotten a yearly mammogram since I became 40 -- and good thing, too, since it saved my life. Still, many of my girlfriends who, like me, run marathons, exercise daily, eat organic food and have virtually no risk factors for the disease think they don't have to get a mammogram. I'm here (thank heaven) to tell you that's not true. Some cancers don't care how "healthy" you are.

And, by the way, if you think your life is too busy for a mammogram, try doing all the things you do now plus going for treatment five days a week. Absolutely no excuses.


Patients first

I would like to comment in regard to the letter by Dr. Kenneth Goetz about West Penn Allegheny Health System ("WPAHS Should Re-evaluate How It Is Serving Communities," Nov. 22).

I have been a psychiatric nurse at Allegheny General Hospital since the unit opened in 1985. It disheartens me to see that a unit that has helped so many people would close. Our unit is staffed with competent and caring people and our patients have received excellent care. Our patients are very upset about this decision to close our unit and move us to Forbes Hospital.

I pray daily that when managers in all hospitals make decisions they do not forget that the most important factor should be the patients. After all, if we did not have patients, we would not need hospitals.

One of the most difficult times in a person's life is when he or she is sick or dying. Having special and caring people nurture them speaks volumes. We must remember that it's not just a business; it's a place that provides a lot of TLC.

Crafton Heights

Footprint fools

In reference to the Forum article "Time to Eat the Dog" (Nov. 22) by Judy Gruen: Never has a headline produced such a visceral reaction in me. Admittedly, I am a devoted pet owner (all of which have been rescues). I am also one who respects all forms of life and their God-given right to live and have rescued any form of life that I have come upon that might be in jeopardy.

My first reaction was what idiot would write such a thing and, second, what idiot would publish It? Then I read the article and found that my anger was misdirected. Instead of putting my cross hairs on Ms. Gruen, I realized they should be on Robert and Brenda Vale, authors of a book about which Ms. Gruen was writing.

I envision the Vales as two overeducated fools who live off of grant money and produce useless pap. The so-called carbon footprint produced by dogs or cats cannot compare with the carbon footprint produced by themselves and others like them. The fact that these extremists are even given access to the media makes me think that publishers are so desperate they would publish anything.

Mt. Lebanon

Competition is the main concern of WPAHS officials

David L. McClenahan's opinion piece, "A Defining Moment for UPMC" (Dec. 10 Perspectives), appears to be little more than an extended version of the full-page advertisement that West Penn Allegheny Health System ran on Nov. 12.

The comments by Mr. McClenahan, board chairman of West Penn Allegheny Health System, have little to do with charity for the underserved and much to do with protecting that system's exclusive franchise in Monroeville. Ironically, it was West Penn Allegheny that complained loudly when the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center saved a failing Mercy Hospital serving a similarly vulnerable population, preserved 3,000 jobs and contributed $120 million to the Sisters of Mercy to allow them to continue their charitable work.

West Penn Allegheny's protestations make it obvious that it simply does not want competition in Monroeville or anywhere else. Without competition there is limited choice for area residents and no incentive for existing providers to maintain state-of-the-art facilities employing the newest health-care technologies while reducing costs.

The decision on UPMC Braddock should be viewed on its own merits in the context of the declining population and the associated underutilization of the hospital. UPMC has preserved the jobs and access to health care remains. We have offered to donate the hospital to the community to be used immediately, intact and equipped, by any other hospital or health system that can capably operate it. But, thus far, there have been no takers. The issue is not whether to operate the hospital as a charity but whether it's feasible to operate it as a high-quality and viable health-care institution. UPMC remains committed to actively working with regional governments and community groups.

Vice President, Public Relations


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