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    Letters to the Editors

    City puts Bayfront patient care at risk

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000

    As chief of staff for Bayfront Medical Center, I represent the hospital's physician leadership and practicing staff members. We have a strong commitment to this community, and we do not want to see a decrease in the health care options available to the people here.

    We are concerned that the St. Petersburg City Council has adopted a solution that will create an even greater problem. The council members' inability to resolve the Bayfront/city/BayCare dispute could have a direct negative impact on the people they were elected to serve. These include women with high-risk pregnancies, patients requiring state-of-the-art management of heart disease, people who require trauma and rehabilitation care because of accidental injuries, residents of no or limited means who have nowhere else to turn for health care and young doctors in training who participate in our medical education programs (many of whom stay in the area to serve our community). These people are the sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends of St. Petersburg.

    Patient care is, and always has been, Bayfront's top priority, and we will continue to provide quality care for your family members when they are sick or injured. But how long can a hospital that gives so much survive without community support? Who will pay for the care of the uninsured? Where will money be found to support the emergency trauma services we provide?

    Participation in the BayCare Health System may have allowed Bayfront to survive at a time of growing financial crisis. Who will save us next time?

    We do not understand why two hospitals with the same mission cannot operate together as necessary to provide for care of the community. City leaders must now find solutions. While they are looking for the funds to support us, we will continue to treat the sick, train new doctors, care for high-risk moms and save the critically injured. We will hold out as long as we can.
    -- David Parrish, M.D., chief of staff, Bayfront Medical Center, St. Petersburg

    Taxpayer support needed

    Re: Bayfront fiasco will be on our minds during March city elections, by Philip Gailey, Oct. 29.

    I couldn't agree more that we need taxpayer support for Bayfront Medical Center. It's appalling how cheap we can be as a people, taxed less than anyone else in the industrial world and still unwilling to pay for necessary services (unless perhaps by taxing excessively the least affluent among us).

    I disagree strongly, however, with Gailey's characterization of the basis of disagreement as a "handful of elective abortions." Every community deserves a good hospital completely free of any religious directives. Religious principles should be decided upon by the patient (who should then be able to choose his/her physician accordingly), not imposed from above.

    If it were Gailey's daughter wondering whether the old coat-hanger thing really works, I suspect he'd have a different position. Also, once religious directives are permitted in the door, there's no guarantee they'll stop at a "handful of elective abortions." He may find his end-of-life decisions being determined from afar without any consideration for his beliefs and needs.

    We need to tax ourselves whatever it takes to keep Bayfront Medical Center operating at peak effectiveness, without yielding to pressures irrelevant to basic good health care.
    -- Eileen O'Sullivan, St. Petersburg

    Dismaying trade-offs

    Re: Care in jeopardy, editorial, Oct. 26, and Bayfront fiasco will be on our minds during March city elections, Oct. 29.

    Three years ago Bayfront Medical Center (also Morton Plant, Mease and others) formed BayCare Health System and traded away patients' and doctors' freedom to make medical decisions about reproduction and end-of-life care. When the public discovered the loss of rights, the CEOs and boards of our secular hospitals justified the agreement to follow religious directives as a necessary trade-off for economic survival. No one bothered to ask the public if it wanted such a trade-off. Now the Times ridicules St. Petersburg's mayor and City Council members as incompetent and reckless while minimizing the situation, saying there is "some religious entanglement" and that the directives "affect a few abortions." Where was the Times three years ago when this agreement was made? Why did this become known only when patients complained? How many others have been denied care? Why has the Times done no stories about the 28 organizations and church groups that have formed the Coalition for Religious Freedom in Our Secular Hospitals?

    I am dismayed at the lack of respect for patients' and providers' rights as our health care and other essential services are privatized despite a great deal of public money going into these institutions by direct grants, Medicaid, Medicare, CHAMPUS, etc. The CEOs are highly paid (three to five times the salary of a Florida Cabinet member or Supreme Court justice). Yet the boards want the public to believe that the hospitals cannot survive without trading off patient rights. There must be a better way, and the Times could be a force in finding that way.
    -- Marilyn E. Hafling, Largo

    Don't excuse ignorance

    Re: Having knowledge gaps does not mean we're stupid, Oct. 29.

    I agree with the author that Americans tend to be self-accusatory. Having said that, I would object when he excuses seniors at Harvard, Princeton, Brown and other leading universities for failing a high school-level history examination on the grounds that no one can know everything and that foreigners in his ken (not necessarily college students) are equally ignorant.

    These American seniors didn't know when the Civil War was or who Joseph Stalin was. My goodness, it would seem there is a core of knowledge that an educated person should have -- not minutia and ephemera -- but a knowledge of the most important events in the history of their own country and be able to recognize recent important world leaders such as Stalin, who had 30-million of his countrymen killed and who presided over the defeat of the German army on the eastern front in World War II.

    I'm glad someone called attention to the American habit of being overly self-critical, but let us not bend over backward and say that because an educated person can't know everything, then whatever he does know is sufficient.
    -- Francis J. Sullivan, St. Petersburg

    The Bush way

    Re: Influence and bailouts a business tradition in the Bush family, by Robert Trigaux, Oct. 29.

    Thank you, Mr. Trigaux, for your revealing article in the Money & Business section. Thank you for the time and effort to do exactly what George W. Bush has asked us all to do -- look at his record. As you have stated, the record shows that George W. Bush made his money the hard way: by using the influence of his father both as a public official and as a sitting U.S. president and by using gifts and insider information furnished by his father's major campaign contributors. And this is the candidate who asks that we trust him?

    Also, thanks for informing us that George W. Bush's federal income tax return showed an income of $18.4-million. No wonder he favors a 10 percent tax cut for the rich.
    -- Paul E. Hannon, Clearwater

    A frightening dynasty

    After reading the excellent article by Robert Trigaux in the Oct. 29 Times (Influence and bailouts a business tradition in Bush family), I could not understand how anyone -- Democrat or Republican -- could vote for George W. Bush!

    This well-written article spells out in detail all the "behind-the-scenes" strings that were pulled by the entire Bush family to promote their "dynasty" in politics. Frankly, it scares me to death. Why isn't this information known by more people?
    -- Dawn Ellison, Sun City Center

    Where's the other side?

    I am no longer buying your newspaper. A newspaper should tell both sides of the story and let the people decide -- not tell the people who they should vote for.

    You ran the story about the Bush family in the Oct. 29 paper. You did not write about the Gore family, with Al Gore's father's involvement with Armand Hammer and the payoffs with foreigners and the mining activities in Tennessee. Gore's handling of Russia's being able to sell war equipment to Iran is being investigated; Gore is trustee of his mother's trust fund, etc. I did not see that in your paper.
    -- Sylvia Klassen, St. Petersburg

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