HEALTH CARE ACCESS
The VA scandal, and the ones beyond
True, the VA has waiting lists, real and fake. We spend fortunes to send youngsters to war, yet underfund their care when they come home. They suffer for no good reason.
That is unacceptable.
Here's what else is unacceptable. Even with the Affordable Care Act, 30 million U.S. people will remain uninsured. No one keeps their waiting lists, but each year tens of thousands will die because they lack adequate access to medical care. Nearly half of the states refuse to expand Medicaid, effectively condemning more than 7,000 uninsured each year to preventable deaths. Medical bills remain the leading cause of bankruptcy. We don't have enough primary care physicians, both inside and outside the VA.
Even the best programs could be better, and doctoring waiting lists must stop, but patient surveys still make the VA the highest-rated health care program in the country. Let's face it. The VA is a public, single-payer health care program. The day the United States and Minnesota choose an adequately funded, public single-payer system, everyone will have access to timely care, and everyone will be protected from financial disaster in time of illness.
Now that is acceptable.
Dr. Inge De Becker, St. Paul
As news events show, it isn't wise to resist
It strikes me as ironic that the same medical technology that produces immunizations is being used to save 43 Amish lives in a modern hospital because they elected not to be immunized and then developed measles on a trip to the Philippines ("Accelerating U.S. measles outbreak is worst in decades," May 30). They are also at risk of exposing others around them to the disease, especially infants, since the shot is usually not given until 15 months of age.
One hundred years ago, the average life expectancy was 45. Now it is passing 80, in part due to technologies, including immunizations. It is now common for people I see in clinic to be celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, because they are living longer. It is also a thankful rarity to hear about a child dying of a vaccination-preventable disease.
The news report stated that more than 500 people had died every year in the United States from the measles prior to the immunization being available. Most of those were children. Children also died of diphtheria, mumps, rubella, polio, tetanus and meningitis, all significantly prevented if not nearly eliminated with today's immunizations. I recall in residency some 25 years ago young children being brought into the ER actively seizing from hemophilus meningitis. Since the HIB shot, we do not see that anymore. And the new HPV shot has been shown to potentially dramatically reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
So, good people, remember to get yourself and your kids immunized.
Dr. Kirk Dornfeld, Owatonna, Minn.
Blame consultants more than cardinals
The May 28 letters with preformed opinions about Katherine Kersten's excellent summary of the cases of sexual abuse by priests ("Clergy sex abuse is serious, but the church is also a target," May 27) missed the three main points: (1) The percentage of abusers among Catholic priests is the same percentage as in society as a whole. Back when the first disclosures were made in Boston, a non-Catholic psychiatrist friend told me the percentage was the same among Protestant ministers. (2) The article reminded us that the priests were transferred "after treatment," usually at St. Luke Institute. In those days, the consultants assured the church that the priests were reliable. (3) The lawyers are following the "deep pocket" approach of "going where the money is." The proper action should have been against the professionals who pronounced them healed of the tendency. Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston should have fought the action instead of settling with each complainant. Since then, scores of people have come out of the woodwork with complaints — legal, fraudulent or imaginary.
Robert J. Small, Eden Prairie
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He killed some classmates, but they shouldn't have bullied him. He beat his son, but he was beaten as a child, so what could you expect? She was raped, but did you see the way she was dressed? There seems to be a common effort by some in this society to blame the victim and defend the perpetrator, and now Kersten has the gall to use the abuse scandal as a lead-in to try to paint the Catholic Church as a victim.
James Bettendorf, Brooklyn Park
Recycling by businesses is key to reaching goals
I am writing in response to the May 28 article "New state law means recycling bins head to work." Hennepin County residents and businesses generate more than a million tons of waste per year, and more than half comes from businesses. Increasing recycling by businesses is critical to meeting the county's recycling goals. We have resources available now to help businesses start or improve their recycling programs. We offer grants of up to $50,000 to help with the purchase of containers, equipment and hauling services. We also have staff available to help businesses assess what will work best.
I commend business leaders, like the 30 businesses that were first to receive our grants, for recognizing that having a strong recycling program makes good business sense and demonstrates commitment to the community. The new law also requires sports facilities to recycle. The Minnesota Twins should be recognized for partnering with the county to offer recycling for fans and for composting food waste behind the scenes.
To move toward zero waste, we all need to do our part. Make sure you recycle everything you can at work and at the businesses you patronize. If recycling is unavailable, ask for it and let them know there are resources available to get it started.
MIKE OPAT, Minneapolis
The writer is chairman of the Hennepin County Board.