Letters to the Editor

HEALTHY SKEPTICISM To the Editor:
The more I read of "Internal Bleeding" (RFT, April 28), the angrier I became. I personally was allowed to watch this transformation to "patient-focused care."

Unfortunately, St. John's isn't the only St. Louis hospital forced to bow down to the health-care moguls. Barnes-Jewish, as well as most of the others, has followed suit in replacing educated, experienced RNs with "patient-care assistants" (a.k.a. housekeepers and dietary aides) while the RNs (those lucky enough to retain their jobs) perform menial duties.

I was a patient at Barnes in December 1995. I had suffered a grand mal seizure and lost all of my abilities. I couldn't walk, talk, eat ... nothing. I was coherent, just couldn't communicate anything to anyone vocally. I was assigned to an RN. How often did I see her? Once every few hours, if I was lucky. Instead, the PCAs popped in and out of my room, checking my glucose level, drawing blood and bringing me medicine.

Once I was brought the wrong medicine. I could speak a little by that time, and I told the girl, "This is not right." She said, "Oh, it's just the difference between generic and brand-name." I told her I wasn't taking it, to go get the right med. She came back an hour later and said, "You're right. I checked in one of the nurses' drug books, and it says so." Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but are PCAs even legally allowed to administer meds?

My point is, just because you're in the hospital doesn't mean you give up your rights. You do not have to deal with PCAs. Although I've recovered beautifully, I still deal with the medical industry quite often. If I'm in the hospital when a PCA comes into my room, depending on what he/she is there to do, I request an RN. No undereducated person is sticking me or doing anything that requires the skill of an RN.

Even in the emergency room. A PCA came in toting her blood-draw tray, and I refused her -- not only because of what she was but because no M.D. had explained to me why blood was being drawn. I refused her a second time, and they put in my chart that I refused to have my blood drawn. No, I didn't ... I just refused to let a PCA do it. Obviously the doctor didn't want blood that bad, because nobody else ever came to take my blood.

And as for unionizing, that's a tough one for me, because I've always been anti-union. But if a nurses' union is what it takes for me and everybody else to get the kind of care we not only need but deserve, so be it. More power to you St. John's RNs. I just hope that the other hospitals in St. Louis follow suit again. All the RNs should gang up and unionize! The hospitals would shit their pants.

By the way -- anybody notice Unity's elaborate landscaping around their new building off I-270? And they can't even pay an RN what she/he deserves.

Heidi Beddingfield

HOME STAND

To the Editor:
Not sure exactly what you're trying to say by comparing Bath, Mich., to Littleton, Colo. ("Commentary," "Revelations on Tragedy and the Young," RFT, April 28), except perhaps, "See, people have always killed each other -- what's the big deal?" You are actually fairly accurate in your early assessment of the killings last week: No matter what we try to do to prevent this from happening again, if someone wants to kill badly enough, they will find a way. And for all your attempts to pooh-pooh the psychobabble receiving all the airplay, you close your editorial with more of the same -- "We need to listen to our kids." Please. Our kids need to listen to us for a change. I see too many parents who let their kids do all the talking. Despite the "culture of death" mentality that pervades their thinking, most of these kids have it pretty damn good -- maybe too good. I realize that we are talking about a small minority of today's teenagers. Believe it or not, the vast majority of young people today still think about a future rather than contemplating suicide because they've been grounded for a weekend.

I really believe that these tragedies, which seemingly play themselves out every few months in our culture, are the result of -- indeed, the price we must pay for -- a free society. In a free society, not all minds develop equally. We can't expect everyone who is free to make a choice to always make that choice based upon what is best for all of us. When we are totally free to decide what to do with our lives, we don't always pick something that mainstream society is going to like. Freedom breeds an amazing capacity for creativity. But we don't all have the capacity to be William Faulkner or Jonas Salk or Eleanor Roosevelt, so our society must also produce Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson and Richard Speck.

The difference has been, and will continue to be, parental intervention, love, discipline, attention to cries for help, nurturing, hugs and guidance. You said it yourself in your editorial: Broken homes breed problem children. And a broken home doesn't necessarily mean a single-parent home. I know a lot of broken homes that appear perfectly normal from the outside. Children just need to know that along with freedom come responsibility and rules and that we, as parents, will support their positive endeavors with positive reinforcement.

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