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John Overmyer • NewsArt,

Readers Write (June 29): The cost of war, personal care attendants, chocolate milk, MnSCU pay

  • June 28, 2014 - 6:00 PM

The questions posed by Iraq veterans in the article “Vets recall costs, errors as chaos consumes Iraq” (June 22) could be direct quotes from Vietnam veterans 40 years ago. “Well, what was the point of all that?”

In both cases we got deeply involved in military operations with only the shallowest understanding of the political situation. By ignoring the national aspirations of Vietnam, we missed our opportunity to shape them. And by ignoring the colonial history of the cobbled-together country of Iraq, we failed to ensure that the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds would all share control of their new government.

War is only the temporary fix that allows diplomacy to craft a more lasting solution. Is it too much to hope that we could learn this simple lesson? How many lives are we ready to sacrifice on the altar of our willful blindness?

W. Perry Benson, Minneapolis

PERSONAL CARE

A crackdown would hurt families like ours

The rapid growth of services for people with disabilities who live in the community (“Weak home care rules victimize the frail, sick,” June 22) happened not just because of federal court cases and state government efforts to be more cost-effective in providing services. Parents like my husband and me and people with disabilities like my daughter have been calling for such services in rapidly increasing numbers.

We fear that readers and policymakers will draw the wrong conclusions from the article, and a system that has worked well for families like ours will be undermined. We have benefited greatly from the evolution to a system where recipients have more say in their services and they can live more independently in the community. The personal care staff who provide round-the-clock support for our adult daughter help her with many physical and self-care tasks. They provide respite for my husband and me, who are finding it more difficult to care for her many needs as we get older. They also make it possible for our daughter to live in a place she can call her own and decide who she wants to live with, like other adults.

The problems cited in the article are real and serious; we want anyone receiving support in their communities to have quality staff and continuity of care. What we don’t want are cuts in the services that have been so effective. This has been the response in the past when flaws have been revealed. Families like ours then suffer from fewer staff hours and supports, resulting in inadequate care.

Cindy Johnson, Woodbury

• • •

I am a former Crystal Care employee working as a personal care attendant and a home health aide. There are many PCAs, HHAs and nurses who did not leave their clients. We continued to care for our clients even knowing it may be a volunteer position. The workers who continued to work drove up credit-card bills just to exist that will take years to recover from. We did this because we truly care about our clients. Other workers needed to leave because they did not have any other options to pay their own bills.

The focus should truly be on Crystal Care, not on the workers.

Polly Stanczak, Burnsville

• • •

As owners of a Class A home care agency, we would like to emphasize to Star Tribune readers that not all home care is as described. The issues identified in the article are indeed serious and they highlight some of the ethical and financial challenges we face as our population ages. The type of care cited in the article is specific to certain programs, designed to be ultra-low-cost and easy to implement. The regulations were made to match these goals.

However, please avoid the temptation to characterize all home care as described. The state has license requirements for multiple types of home care agencies, all of which are much stricter than the requirements identified in the article. Quality agencies adhere to specific caregiver training, RN supervision and RN-delegated task requirements. Specific plans of care are developed by RNs in conjunction with the client and carried out by the appropriate level care provider. Home care is not and need not be equivalent to poor care, as there are many home care agencies who abide by regulations, providing quality care to the clients they serve.

Bruce and Karen Lawrence, Edina

CHOCOLATE MILK

Go ahead and feast on fat — at your peril

Both “Big Fat Surprise” and Paul John Scott (“Chocolate milk in the schools and other products of expert opinion,” June 22) cite the Inuit and Maasai warriors as evidence that fat does not cause the health problems the medical community has claimed. I would submit that the reason these groups do not suffer from high cholesterol is because they are seminomadic and have historically lived physically demanding subsistence lifestyles, which requires the large number of calories provided by fat. Americans, who generally spend their days sitting in a classroom or office and their evenings sitting on the couch, do not require as many calories.

Foods with fat such as steaks can indeed be part of a healthy diet, if you are willing to put in the time and effort to burn off the extra calories. Those who read the article and decide its OK to eat more fatty foods without increasing their amount of exercise will find themselves with bigger waistlines, along with the health issues that come with it.

Benjamin Stansbury- O-Donnell, St. Paul

MNSCU

Review whole system pay, not just top guy’s

According to a Star Tribune editorial (“MnSCU fails test on basic oversight,” June 22) and previous reporting, the Legislature forbade the MnSCU Board of Trustees giving Chancellor Steven Rosenstone a performance bonus, so they laundered the bonus by increasing travel, housing and other expense accounts. This is at best marginally honest and dubiously legal. Small wonder legislators like Gene Pelowski and Terri Bonoff promise to investigate.

They might want to back up and look at administrative costs in the whole system. They could begin with an article by Jon Marcus of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting about the ballooning number of administrators in higher education. He points out that between 1987 and 2011-12, “universities and colleges collectively added 517,636 administrative and professional employees”; at the same time, classroom duties were shifted to adjuncts and teaching assistants.

When James McCormick was named MnSCU chancellor in 2000, he remarked that he had basically the same job in Pennsylvania, but that he had done it with a smaller staff. He added that he would “have to look into that.” Apparently, when he did, he found out it was easy to hire bureaucrats in Minnesota, because that’s what happened. Maybe Pelowski and Bonoff should see whether the trend has continued under Rosenstone.

John Sherman, Moorhead, Minn.

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