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Letters to the editor

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Profit before patients

"Area hospitals battle infections" (Aug. 15) said that 10 hospitals in the St. Louis area have higher infection rates than the national average. This is no surprise to this nurse.

There is no doubt that "bad bugs" are getting stronger. Hospitals' reckless attempt to boost profits since the early 1990s probably has contributed to the spread of these deadly bacteria.

Hospital restructuring to increase profits included downsizing (fewer nurses with more responsibilities), just-in-time inventory (a limited amount of supplies), speed-ups (doing more with less) and staff cross-training.

Assembly line medicine became the priority. Fancy lobbies, landscaping, coffee carts and restaurants are sure to make a hospital No. 1 in the community. Simple things such as hand washing, proper cleaning techniques and nurse-to-patient ratios no longer are important. Hospital cleaning staffs get inadequate training and are overextended.

The Harvard School of Public Health found a direct link between hospital-acquired infections and nurse staffing levels. Studies have shown that tired health care workers are less likely to follow proper hand care procedures. I could continue, but the picture is clear: Profit before patients.

Health care workers and the community should demand that hospitals report infection data on the entire hospital and that it be easy to read and easy and free to access.

Sharon Penrod • De Soto

Self-satisfaction

In his commentary "The Anti-folk hero" (Aug. 18), Jamie Allman does what many pundits seem to feel qualified to do: He decides who is and who is not "a normal American." He uses the word "normal" four times to describe decent, regular folks like himself in contrast to Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who bailed out in a fit of pique and those who admire or are amused by Mr. Slater's behavior. Mr. Slater and his admirers are, presumably, abnormal.

Mr. Allman may be right in concluding that Mr. Slater is a 'self-centered jerk." That is fair commentary and not an unreasonable conclusion. But to use this incident as a platform on which to divide Americans into normal and abnormal smacks of immense self-satisfaction.

Richard A. Brantley • Brentwood

Court indictment

The commentary "'Jane Turner' verdict is a lot like Brown" (Aug. 18) was a glaring indication of what is amiss with our citadels of higher learning. As I remember Brown v. Board of Education, the courts were faced with governmental policies that segregated black children and white children. The courts really cared about the children. At long last, the antiquated Jim Crow laws were history.

The current case does not involve governmental policies that fail to educate children equally. The case ignores bloated staffs of administrators, tenured teaching staffs that don't care about teaching and a declining tax base because of a non-accredited school system and politicians with their heads in the sand. The courts decided the best remedy was to punish school districts in surrounding communities. Heaven forbid someone mess with the lofty ivory tower academia in the failed schools districts.

The courts cared only about the administrators and teaching staff. It seems that the author agrees with this assessment and clearly wants to take care of his own.

Tony Grillo • Fenton

Better tools

"Drug failure casts doubt on Alzheimer's cause" (Aug. 19) reported that "[t]he failure of a promising Alzheimer's drug in clinical trials highlights the gap between diagnosis — where real progress has recently been made — and treatment of the disease." Indeed. Recent significant steps forward in early diagnosis of Alzheimer's are important. They're also frustrating, because there is still little that can be done when this devastating condition is identified either late in the game or in its nascent stages.

To say that the science is "hard" is not helpful. The twin issues of drug development and regulatory science need to be addressed.

Investment in basic research is not enough. We need better tools to improve the predictability of drug development and to lower the cost of research by helping industry identify product failures earlier in the clinical trials process. Too many programs (almost half) are failing late in Phase III or are mired in regulatory treacle. The economics are unsustainable from a corporate research adn development standpoint, and the impact of Alzheimer's disease on patients, their families and health care economics is devastating.

Peter Pitts • New York President, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest

Refuse to be provoked

Regarding "About that 'mosque'" (Aug. 19): However you look at it, building a large Muslim center anywhere near Ground Zero will seem provocative or incredibly insensitive. It appears too much like triumphing over the mass assassination that was Sept. 11, 2001. Insistence on that proximity hardly will win friends for the Muslim community in this country. But if Muslims really want to build their center there, of all places, it is their right to do so.

We should have learned by now that the best and wisest way to respond to a provocation is to refuse to be provoked. How different our history would have been if, after 9/11, we had reacted with more wisdom and restraint.

Allan R. Shickman • University City

Facilitate understanding

I was stunned by R.J. Matson's editorial cartoon "Ground Zero" (Aug. 19). Again, Mr. Matson takes a knee-jerk, ill-informed path in his portrayal of those who disagree with him. To imply that those who oppose the building of the mosque near Ground Zero must be ignorant, bigoted or demagogic is an insult. What has happened to discourse in this country when we no longer can disagree in a respectable manner?

Perhaps those who favor the mosque could exhibit the same grace and wisdom that Pope John Paul II showed in asking nuns to move from their convent near Auschwitz in order to facilitate better understanding with those who took offense at their presence. I doubt the pope felt that the Jews were being "ignorant" or "bigoted" — he probably thought that the feelings and sensitivities of the Jews were more important than the nun's address of residence.

David J. Van de Riet • St. Louis County

Red herring

During the cold war, the term "red herring" was used to describe a topic that was designed to produce an emotional but generally brainless response. The location of the would-be mosque in New York is a great example of a red herring.

President Barack Obama has been sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and he does. Now the Palins, Gingriches, etc., of the world deny the Constitution. They claim the mosque would be too close to Ground Zero. Too close? Would three blocks be OK and still be in line with our Constitution?

Let the New Yorkers and American Civil Liberties Union deal with this red herring.

Len Banaszak • St. Louis

Intolerance

Regarding the editorial "About that mosque" (Aug. 19) in support of the Ground Zero mosque, we should recall the words of Bishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979): "America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance. It is not. It is suffering from tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so much overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded...."

In the face of broadmindedness, what America needs is intolerance.

Craig Niehaus • Glendale

Extrapolating

If all Muslims are terrorists, then are all Catholic priest child molesters? Of course not.

Larry Butterfield • Ladue

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