Nursing shortage merely symptom of catastrophe I began...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

June 28, 2000

Nursing shortage merely symptom of catastrophe

I began reading the article ("Nurse shortage strains hospital," June 19) with the hope that The Sun was about to take a leadership role in beginning a dialogue and educating the public regarding the impending catastrophe in health care delivery in the state of Maryland.

Unfortunately, the article only defined the current bidding war for the limited number of nursing health care professionals available in Maryland.

The issues are many and the impact on the community's health is great.

1. Nurses are not mercenaries: We, just like everyone else, expect to be compensated for our work, but we also look for job satisfaction and opportunities to improve our practice through experience and education.

2. Exactly what does a nurse do? The majority of health care consumers are unable to define the role of today's nurse. Our duties are many and diverse. To do our job as the patient has every right to expect, we often give up our lunch break.

3. Economic pressures to come: Over the past 15 years, health care delivery in the United States has changed. The advent of the HMO and managed care decreased revenues for hospital systems. This led to increased market competition. Hospitals had to purchase new and expensive equipment to stay competitive. To make these purchases in the face of decreased revenues, hospitals had to cut costs. This was accomplished by replacing nurses with unlicensed personnel. Nursing salaries stagnated and raises were at or below the rate of inflation. No jobs and low wages led to lower enrollment.

But the nursing shortage is just one part of Maryland's health care catastrophe. The state is about to change its health care reimbursement system. Hospitals in Maryland are anticipating a further decrease in revenues.

How long can hospitals survive under these kinds of economic pressures? And when the hospitals start closing, where will the patients go?

Candace E. Blankenship, RN, Baltimore

Public debate unhealthy for Ruppersberger

What a difference a month makes! On May 15, Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger issued a press release saying, "Debating controversial issues is healthy. It's the American way." Thirty days later, The Sun reported that he declined to participate in a debate against Del. Jim Ports.

Mr. Ruppersberger has no hesitation in using the power of the state to force working-class families out of their waterfront homes in Essex and Middle River, but he cannot summon the nerve to engage in a fair and open debate run by a neutral third party. Instead, Mr. Ruppersberger says that he will conduct an "educational campaign" on neighborhood renewal that will include debates, guided by rules established by his administration.

This is the kind of statement one would expect from a foreign regime, uneasy with democratic principles, offering debate only as long as it is under government control.

Mr. Ruppersberger's statements dishonor the citizens of Baltimore County. Someone needs to tell him that this is not the "American Way."

Del. Robert L. Flanagan, Columbia

Death penalty deterrent if it is used more often

As an educated, taxpaying citizen of Baltimore, I'm getting tired of selective journalism highlighting death penalty opponents. Studies today show that close to 80 percent of Americans support the death penalty for murderers.

It costs $20,000 to $30,000 a year to shelter, feed, clothe and guard prison inmates on a full-time basis. Taxpayers, guess who pays for that?

The only reason the death penalty is not a deterrent is that it's not used more frequently.

Local religious officials have told us that any death sentence commuted in the world will be recognized by burning lights for two days at Rome's Coliseum.

Isn't it ironic that a commuted death sentence is celebrated at the site of one of history's most brutal execution venues?

Chris Palmisano, Baltimore

Gettysburg Tower: Monstrosity or marvel?

If, as W. Joel Rosenblatt contends ("Towering loss for engineer," June 20), the National Tower at Gettysburg is "a monument to structural engineering," by all means move it to M.I.T.

But please do not allow this ugly monstrosity to continue to scar the landscape of this hallowed battleground.

G. Elliott Cummings, Baltimore

As a devotee of Gettysburg's history, friendly ambiance and scenic beauty, I mourn the loss of its universally excoriated tower. Whether visiting the town in the role of photographer, student, teacher or tourist, the 320-foot tower, aside from being an engineering marvel, was my most useful tool.

As a photographer, the open-air observation deck provided a stable, unencumbered, panoramic and affordable view, enabling tripod-assisted pictures and the opportunity to linger for the right sunlight -- photographic assets impossible to rival from any other vantage point in Gettysburg, including a helicopter.

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