Shortage of nurses threatens health care and state's...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 12, 1999

Shortage of nurses threatens health care and state's economy

I applaud The Sun for bringing attention to the state's teacher shortage ("The education gap," editorial, Nov. 8). Maryland is also facing an unprecedented shortage of qualified nurses, because of some circumstances similar to those affecting teachers.

Predictions suggest this nursing shortage, at both the national and state level, will be deeper and more protracted than previous shortages

Economic development in Baltimore and throughout the state depends upon a vibrant health care industry. Nurses are the backbone of that industry.

The precipitous drop in the number of nurses available is a major concern to health care leaders.

The nursing workforce is aging at the same time that enrollment in nursing schools across the nation is declining. The average age of a registered nurse today is 46 years old. At the University of Maryland School of Nursing, the average student is 31.

Today, all health care institutions, including hospitals, nursing homes and home care-givers, are having difficulty filling their nursing positions. Tomorrow, it may take much longer to fill them.

As one of the top nursing schools in the nation, and the institution that graduates more nurses than any other in Maryland (85 percent of whom remain in Maryland), we are seeking creative solutions to attract bright college students to nursing.

However, we need the help of the media to draw attention to the problem. And the public needs to put aside yesterday's image of nursing -- and recognize that nursing today is a career of exciting challenges and abundant rewards.

Barbara R. Heller

Baltimore

The writer is dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing

Big money interests drown out popular voice

I agree with Paul Kirk Jr. that our democracy is in trouble ("Steps needed to save our Democracy," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 8). How can our government be called a democracy when the majority of eligible voters don't vote?

Not voting is not just laziness or apathy, but a silent protest of the fact that the average American's vote rarely counts.

Common people's voices and concerns are drowned out by the interests of big money campaign donors. The average American can't afford to contribute the $1,000 maximum to a federal candidate or to run a costly campaign for office.

Big money controls who can run for office and who can't, who wins and who doesn't and what issues Congress addresses and ignores.

We need much tighter limits on campaign contributions and on how much of their own money candidates can use.in a campaign.

Lucas Seipp-Williams

Baltimore

In rejecting treaty, Senate made mockery of democracy

In failing to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the U.S. Senate has, as many polls suggest, gone against the public will. It did this without formal debate by the Foreign Relations Committee.

This failure to exert international leadership clearly undermines our security. Every country has seen that the U.S. has tested atomic bombs, so why should they not also test?

But what might be more important in the long run is that the Senate's action has demonstrated clearly our lack of democratic process.

What right do senators Jesse Helms and Trent Lott have to defy the will of the American people -- and not even bother holding a hearing?

In a true democracy, senators would be shouting such "leaders" out of office.

Lawrence D. Egbert

Baltimore

The writer is president of Baltimore Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Fathers Count bill leaves out mothers, kids

Kathleen Parker's column distorted the National Organization for Women's (NOW) position on the Fathers Count Act ("NOW has a vested interest in portraying women as victims," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 2). She is wrong that "NOW really doesn't like the bill because it seems helpful to men."

NOW is concerned about the bill because it provides services only for non-custodial fathers -- when Congress has cut funds for similar support to custodial parents, most of whom are women.

NOW President Patricia Ireland has noted that the bill would "hurt poor children and make it even harder for custodial parents to make ends meet."

Instead of cutting funds from support services that help custodial parents living in poverty, Congress should allot additional money for such programs as job training and child care for those parents.

This would help poor children in a more direct way.

Lynn Buck

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Juvenile justice system also fails Maryland's kids

Human Rights Watch's report documented the appalling conditions children face in Maryland's adult justice system ("State jails under fire," Nov. 4). But the state has also failed to serve the children in its juvenile justice system.

More than half these children have a diagnosable mental or emotional disorder. Most of them would not be in the system if they had received necessary mental health services in the first place.

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