Grants to hospitals enhance the services our community...


February 25, 2002

Grants to hospitals enhance the services our community needs

Jay Hancock's column "Md.'s hospitals don't need millions in state subsidies" (Feb. 20) slants the facts to support his contention that the state inappropriately gives grants to Maryland's hospitals, and that the hospitals are "wealthy and coddled" because they are tax-exempt.

These "wealthy" hospitals had a combined operating margin last year of just 1.3 percent - far below the profit margins for hospitals elsewhere in this country.

In fact, two of the three hospitals Mr. Hancock criticized for receiving state grants had operating losses over the past two years, and the other barely broke even.

Maryland's nonprofit hospitals are struggling to keep pace with the growing demand for medical care. Indeed, a recent study by the rate-setting commission concluded that hospitals need more than their current profit margins to replace aging facilities and equipment.

Hospital budgets are further strained by higher salaries for nurses and other health care professionals who are in short supply and the need to enhance our emergency preparedness.

The state bond program Mr. Hancock mentioned will pay less than half of the cost for nine urgently needed projects. Hospitals have to come up with the rest of the funding on their own.

Most of this year's projects respond to overcrowded emergency rooms and expand critical programs such as cancer care and psychiatric services.

Like other nonprofit organizations that receive state grants, such as the YMCA and Health Care for the Homeless, hospitals receive state funds to enhance necessary community services.

Is that a good use of "scarce public resources"? You bet. It's a cost-effective, public-private effort that helps to meet community needs.

Calvin M. Pierson


The writer is president of the Maryland Hospital Association.

Punishing Yates does little to prevent future tragedies

Many of those who favor treating Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her children, as a criminal take the attitude that they don't care why she did it, they just know that she is dangerous and should be locked away.

Perhaps she should be confined, or very closely supervised, for the rest of her life. But the problem with criminally punishing her, rather than treating her as mentally ill, is that it would do nothing to deter others suffering the same mental problems from committing terrible acts.

People in the depths of depression or psychosis are not concerned with whether society will treat them as criminals.

Only by recognizing Ms. Yates' mental condition can we be aware of and try to prevent any such tragedies in the future.

It is not bleeding-heart softness that urges us to understand her problem, but real-life practicality.

Carl Aron


Redirect defense budget to feed hungry children

On his trip to Asia, President Bush painted a grim picture of life for North Korean children ("Bush says he's open to N. Korea talks," Feb. 20). But what about children in the United States who lack proper nutrition while the president allocates billions to "feed" our military?

According to the Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy, in 1998, 10 million Americans lived in households that experienced hunger, and more than one-third of them were children. Given our recent economic downturn, that number has surely increased.

Mr. Bush has proposed $369 billion in 2003 for the Defense Department, with an additional $10 billion held in reserve.

Imagine if only a small fraction of the money allocated to our military were redirected to feed our own children.

Clint Cosner


Big campaign donations, not reforms, erode freedom

I keep reading that current legislation to contain large political donations amounts to an abrogation of free speech. When did free speech become a commodity for sale to the highest bidder?

I cannot find any censorship in the campaign finance reform bills under consideration. I do, however, see the opinions, wants and wellbeing of many ordinary citizens crowded out by the enormous influence of big-money donors.

I also see the recently passed bill, if it ever becomes law, as a cure for only one part of the ailment. As long as political campaigns continue to be a big business, candidates will still need (and finagle a way to obtain) big bucks to pay for them.

This disqualifies countless worthy candidates, leaving us to be governed by the unscrupulous.

Thaddeus Paulhamus


Consider the contributions restoration projects produce

As the Assembly considers limiting historic tax credits, I ask them to include in the calculation the increased revenues from payroll, sales and income taxes paid because of these historic projects - during and after their development ("Md. may cap development tax credits," Feb. 20).

While the bigger projects are mostly around Baltimore, this is a program that benefits historic development throughout the whole state.

Tod Myers


Elimination of U.S. aid would put Israel in peril

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