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Letters to the Editor

Who's Responsible?
our feature on the state of Charity Hospital ("Who's Caring?" Oct. 7) and the people who depend upon it was right on target. The fact is that our state's 10 public hospitals serve a constituency that private, non-profit hospitals have little interest in serving: the poor who do not have health insurance and do not qualify for full state government subsidy of their medical expenses.

Katy Reckdahl deserves credit for getting Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary David Hood to admit to what he should have long ago: much of the blame for the condition of Louisiana's underfunded public hospitals belongs to a Legislature that has cut spending with impunity and redirected available funds away from their intended recipients.

What Hood fails to acknowledge, however, is that he, too, shoulders much of the responsibility for the excessive long lines and waits in emergency rooms and walk-in clinics. The increased volume of needy people previously served by public hospitals who can't spend nine hours waiting to be seen by a doctor are now crowding for-profit facilities and community hospitals around the state.

It was Hood and his fellow policy makers who urged the Legislature and governor to move $326 million in federal funds away from public hospitals, diverting the funds into the hands of for-profit hospitals, clinics and physicians. This has resulted in rundown public health facilities with outdated equipment, low employee morale, long lines of unhappy and notably very sick people and massive media coverage of our ongoing health care crisis.

--Evangeline M. Vavrick, J.D.
Secretary/Treasurer, The MCL Foundation


Clarification on Charity
Your excellent coverage of public health care in Louisiana and Charity Hospital ("Who's Caring?" Oct. 7) needs only a bit of clarification. At least one of the "experts" interviewed for the article seemed confused by the value of LSU Health Sciences Center's graduate medical education programs and equally confused by why these programs could now be in jeopardy. As an educator, I feel compelled to set certain matters in a different light.

The reality is that the medical education programs at LSUHSC's public hospitals are an indispensable asset to the state of Louisiana. Not only for patients in need today, but also for the future of health care, for all of our citizens, tomorrow. About 70 percent of the health care professionals practicing in Louisiana today are graduates of LSU Health Sciences Center. Medical school graduates who are good enough to be accepted anywhere choose to complete their preparations as residents in our teaching public hospitals, particularly Charity Hospital. Not only are they delivering care as residents, they are becoming Louisiana's future health care work force. Studies show that the vast majority of residents remain to practice in the areas where they have completed their residency programs.

It is only too sad that the value of this system seems to be lost on public policy makers whose decisions shape the entire health care delivery system in Louisiana.

There is, in fact, no mystery in why the state's graduate medical education program could be jeopardized. The answer is rooted in choices like the decision to move millions of federal dollars into private institutions instead of rebuilding a state system that serves the working poor and truly needy. It's all about priorities -- in this case, misplaced priorities that have forced massive budget cuts, resulting in the closing of nine operating rooms at the Medical Center of Louisiana alone. This has threatened the status of our most treasured residency programs by depriving young medical professionals of the patient caseloads they need to gain the necessary level of experience. It has also deprived those patients of the care they so desperately need.

The reality is that at least a decade of underfunding and poor choices by the so-called health care "experts" have driven the Charity system to a point of desperation. We are being forced to deliver health care in a facility that is comprised, and this, in turn, will compromise the training of medical professionals into the future.

--J. Patrick O'Leary, M.D.
Interim Dean,
LSUHSC School of Medicine in New Orleans


Slots a Bad Idea
Congratulations. You endorsed one of the all-time stinker deals I've ever seen ("Making Our Move," Sept. 30). The stated purpose of the "need" for slots at our beloved and historical Fair Grounds was to increase race purses to compete with other tracks in the state. That should have been accomplished with the addition of video poker 10 years ago.

The proposal (and that's all it is, it has to get through the Planning Commission and the City Council so email, call and write) provides 15 percent of the slots proceeds to race purses! Fifteen percent -- that's all! That is the stated reason for the addition of slots! Oh, another 3 percent goes to the horse owners. An anemic 4 percent goes to the city, almost assuredly not enough to even cover extra police presence in the area. A whopping 18 percent goes to the state for "granting" us the right to have gambling, er, I mean gaming. Where do the rest of the proceeds go?

Come on, Gambit; it's too late to undo what has been done, but maybe you can reconsider your misstep and help stop this travesty before it goes any further.

I do not live near the Fair Grounds. I do go to the race track for more than Jazz Fest, and I do not want our institution to go away.

--Geoff Worden


Riefenstahl Not Evil
would like to respond to an article written by Andrei Codrescu ("Brief Obituaries for the 20th Century," Sept. 23). He eulogized Leni Riefenstahl as an "evil genius." Genius, yes, evil, no. Leni cared more about making a good movie than a propaganda film, and Hitler knew it.

Leni was not at all evil, especially compared to Magda Goebbel, who prided herself on her books bound with human skin from the death camp corpses and her tea tables made from skeletal remains. Magda was closer to the Nazi power; she not only knew what they were doing, but was a driving force.

Triumph of Will would have been a great film if it had been made by another director. If you have 100,000 uniformed Nazis all marching in formation and waving flags, you are going to get some very good pictures.

--Jeff Hockenheimer

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