Letters for the Week of January 29 

Readers sound off on cuts at Kaiser, smart growth, and homicides in Oakland.

No Reason to Cut Costs

As a Kaiser member I see no reason that Kaiser needs to take these cost-cutting measures that threaten patient care. I do not want my care compromised by the employer trying to tighten up staffing. Nurses need to be able to work safely and carefully, get their breaks, and provide quality care. I want to ask Kaiser: Why is this necessary? I trust the nurses and if they say things are unsafe I want them changed. Thank you, nurses, for fighting for the patients!

Wendy Bloom, Berkeley

Patients at Risk

I've worked for Kaiser for almost 25 years and the last couple have been progressively harder to manage because of chronic understaffing. I am on the professional performance committee and on my floor alone I processed over two hundred Assignment Despite Objection reports in 2013. Nurses are fighting to take care of patients and protect their own licenses. The decrease in patients that Claude Watts is claiming is a direct result of not admitting people and discharging others early. They have told us that they are trying to move care into the home and nurses need to adjust to this change in practice. This change puts the burden on families to care for their sick family members at home with minimal nursing supervision. Bottom line: Kaiser is putting our patients at risk and ignoring nurses who are trying to advocate for those patients and their families.

Juliana Rather, San Pablo

Doing More with Less

Thank you for publishing this article on the conditions at Oakland Medical Center. As a Kaiser Oakland registered nurse, I can attest that what was described is true. As nurses, we are unable to give the quality of care that we once could. We are constantly being asked to do more with fewer resources, while Kaiser continues to make record-breaking profits. Thank you to the nurses who were interviewed for having the courage to tell the truth.

Kathy Donohue, Oakland

Cuts Come at Patients' Expense

I have witnessed this situation at Kaiser San Francisco, where I worked, at UCSF, where my husband had surgery, and at Marin General Hospital where a friend, a new nurse, was working in a medical-surgical ward with very little training or support. It is pervasive. Hospitals are engaged in a race to cut nursing hours in order to save money, at our patients' expense. If you are a patient, or visit a loved one who is a patient at any hospital, you will see evidence of this unscrupulous practice. Need pain medication? So do other patients; you have to wait your turn. Need help to get out of bed to the bathroom? You may or may not get help. Taking a turn for the worse? Let's hope there are enough nurses so you get what you need. Nurses simply cannot give adequate care when there aren't enough to do the job.

Managers are the bad guys, carrying out orders to cut back, and purposely not hearing staff nurses who beg for help when staffing is dangerously low. What happens to the managers who listen to the cries of nurses and try to staff according to patient acuity? Those managers lose their jobs.

What's the answer? Talk about the situation, spread the word, and complain to your elected officials. All of us will experience this dire situation firsthand as patients, or as loving family and friends. I want to change it before more harm is done.

Jan McDermott, San Francisco

Courage to Speak Up

I am a registered nurse in San Rafael and I have to express that the nurses in this article exemplify the integrity, bravery, and strength that we are all ethically, morally, and professionally bound to adhere to. I hope that more nurses speak up about the current hospital crisis of understaffing and lack of response to our formal complaints regarding insufficient direct care staff to provide care to patients. In the article they cited medications and technologies that are decreasing length of stay in the hospital, but I have not seen anything change in one year's time that would account for a huge drop in hospitalized patients other than a push from Kaiser to send people home earlier.

The lack of response to 1,400 formal complaints regarding assignments is a reflection of the current system nurses and healthcare providers are working in. Assignment Despite Objection forms are filled out by nurses to document staffing that is insufficient to meet the needs or requirements of the patient, and the intent is for management to improve the staffing or adjust assignments to optimize safety. I hope more nurses have the courage to speak up about the practice of discharging patients early, placing people at lower levels of care than needed, and holding patients in the emergency room instead of being admitted.

Kimber Wooten, San Rafael


"Cities Produce Far Fewer Greenhouse Gases," Eco Watch, 1/15

Two-Pronged Smart Growth

This is a study of existing cities. It simply shows that cities that have had the most rapid population growth have both the densest cores and the most sprawl, which is very obvious.

We would get very different results if we studied metropolitan areas that had zoning that both 1) stopped sprawl development, and 2) encouraged smart growth. This is the sort of planning that we are supposed to be doing in California under SB 375, and this study is not relevant to it.  

I mention this point because some people are claiming that this study shows that smart growth does not reduce sprawl. In fact, the study says nothing about a two-pronged smart growth strategy that uses zoning to ban sprawl and to encourage dense growth, which very obviously would reduce sprawl.

Charles Siegel, Berkeley


"The Real Martin Luther King Jr.," Raising the Bar, 1/15

Human Beings, Not Superheroes

What a great piece to reflect on for MLK Jr. Day! Thank you for reminding us that Martin Luther King Jr. and Mandela were human beings, not superheroes. That makes what they did even more impressive, and gives some hope to the rest of us.

Lisa Lindsley, Gardiner, New York


"When Corporations Want Profits, They Don't Ask for Permission," Feature, 01/08

Ripped Off

I've been getting ripped off since 2009, and I have never been able to get compensation, or even takedowns from Etsy, Google, etc., let alone credit when someone uses my puppet for publicity.

Dorrie Lane, Richmond

What About Musicians?

It's a crime to steal visual artists work, but no one seems to care that musicians are ripped off every day. Such is the age of all things digital. My suggestion: Work in life-size bronze. It will be a while until 3D printers catch up to that!

Bruce Kaplan, Richmond

Demand Change

It's up to the masses to demand change and stand up for independent artists. No longer should we stand for cheap, imported knockoffs.

Linda Geiser, El Cerrito


"Quan Should Stick with Chief Whent," Seven Days, 01/08

Shedding Murderous Character

I'm a fan of the Ceasefire violence-prevention model and an Oaklander hoping for real change. Making interim OPD Chief Sean Whent permanent might be a good idea. But it is premature to celebrate or make conclusions over the city's homicide number for 2013, which is that rarity since the early 1970s, fewer than 100. Maybe this is the beginning of a change that will be permanent. No question, it will have been a far better year for the city, if not for the families of the killed, than 2012.

But no one has ever told me how or when we will know that we genuinely have shed our murderous character as a city. It's important to remember that the homicide numbers have fallen below 100 before, and that politicians have touted those numbers as progress every time, and that eventually, usually quite quickly, the numbers have surmounted 100 again, sometimes by a lot. As recently as 2010, there were 95 homicides. Then in 2011, there were 110. In 2012, 131.

And anyway, the human urge to squeeze the trigger never checks the calendar. Perhaps grasping for hope when they're down, or out of morbid shock when they're up, we tend to pay too much attention to the daily and weekly violent crime numbers in Oakland. We assign them too much meaning. Certainly politicians and the newspapers do. During the last mayoral campaign, then-candidate Jean Quan reacted defensively when I suggested to her that violence should be a priority of the next mayor. "We've brought the murder rate down," she said.

That was in June of 2010. There had been 37 homicides in the city, 6 fewer than by June of 2009, and a more seemingly significant 24 fewer than June of 2008. Indeed, the calendar year 2010 ended with fewer homicides than the year before. But what does it indicate, for example, that in the twelve-month period following Quan's objection to my suggestion — mid-June 2010 to mid-June 2011 — there were more than 100 homicides, at least six more than between mid-June 2009 and mid-June 2010? What does it mean?

Nevertheless, in daily news reports of homicides, habitually reporters insert the current year's number of killings-so-far alongside the total from "this time last year." These specific numbers shouldn't bring readers too much hope, as in 2013, or, in the case of 2012, when we had already suffered over 130 homicides, deeper despair.

I hope the forty fewer homicides from 2012 to 2013 really is the result of police re-organization, or Ceasefire, or whatever else the politicians will tell us has turned the tide. But it will take time, it will take years, possibly even generations, to know if we have gained some peace.

Jim O'Brien, Oakland

Can't Get Anyone Better

Unless Chief Whent is failing to at least stabilize the plummeting morale of good Oakland Police Department cops, (and [compliance director Thomas Frazier puts a very high value on that based on his veto of civilianizing police complaint handling), I agree we should retain Whent.   

Realistically, we couldn't pay enough to get anyone better considering the last decade's history of acrimonious departures among OPD police chiefs. On the other hand, if [Mayor Quan's chief of staff Anne] Campbell-Washington happened to cross paths with Richmond's Police Chief Chris Magnus ...

Len Raphael, Oakland

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