Health put at risk | Sept. 29, letter
Asthma needs doctor's oversight
This letter regarding the coming end of over-the-counter sales of Primatene Mist signals both a broader problem of insufficient access to the health care system as well as continued under-management of a serious disease.
At least 4,000 deaths a year are due to asthma, and over 5,000 emergency department visits per day are related to exacerbations of underlying reactive airway disease. Aside from the adverse side effects of the medication itself, reliance on over-the-counter medications, such as Primatene Mist, may lead individuals to believe that their asthma is properly controlled when lung function is actually poor.
The low cost of prescription rescue inhalers ($4 at many retail outlets), as well as oral anti-inflammatory steroids (also $4) should lead to greater adoption of medical management.
Chronic conditions necessitate regular visits to a primary care physician to achieve adequate control and good health outcomes. Through the use of reduced-fee clinics, or programs such as the Hillsborough County Health Care Plan, medication and a doctor's visit cost about the same as a canister of potentially deadly Primatene Mist.
Jason W. Wilson, M.D., Tampa
DCF chief wants more money directed into child protection | Sept. 20
Steps in the right direction
Following the death of Nubia Barahona, the 10-year-old girl who prosecutors say was murdered in February by her adoptive parents, details emerged about how agency oversight of her case suffered serious lapses.
Last month, Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins told a pair of legislative committees that DCF had taken significant steps to ensure errors and lapses don't lead to failures, injuries or death again. DCF has hired 100 new child investigators and has trained much of its staff on improved interviewing techniques.
DCF also is investing in recruitment, hiring and training of child protection investigators. It is spending millions to revamp its antiquated abuse hotline system; create a centralized database that would reveal the family history, previous complaints, outcomes, medical issues and the like; and outfit workers with mobile devices so they can access critical information from the road. Wilkins is also asking for increased funding from the state.
It would seem the changes already have delivered results. Since the hirings, child investigator caseloads have dropped by 30 percent. Wilkins said his office hopes to double the results.
It's certainly too late for Nubia, and Victor, her twin brother who suffered severe personal injury. But it's a start.
Now, those of us who have been calling for improved spending and renewed oversight of DCF and the agencies it works with must remain diligent in ensuring horrific acts like these don't occur again — and that the promises to Floridians and our most vulnerable citizens don't become hollow, meaningless words. Maybe Wilkins' announcement is a sign that we're getting the changes the system needs.
Gloria W. Fletcher, Gainesville
Perry folks a bit queasy | Sept. 24
Entitled to resident tuition
I am not a particular fan of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but I am appalled at the rush by his Republican brethren to condemn the practice of offering resident tuition for children of immigrants to the University of Texas and other state universities. Unfortunately, Perry's only defense of this practice was that to reject students whose presence in his state came through no action of their own would be reflective of "having no heart."
While I agree with Perry's characterization, I think even he has missed his own point. First, the offering of reduced tuition levels to residents of a state is reflective of the fact that residents pay taxes to the state, and as such, have already borne the financial burden of their so-called discount.
Second, many if not most of the children of undocumented immigrants who are seeking an education at Texas universities were born on U.S. soil. In other words, they are full U.S. citizens who should not be penalized for the immigration status of their parents.
That the Republicans are making the stand that resident tuition should be denied to any taxpaying residents of a state on the basis of the standing of their parents under federal law shows that they not only are lacking a heart, they are lacking any standard of decency or fairness.
William Janssen, Lutz
Time for shorter work week
It's good to see the current myth in politics that governments create jobs now busted. Obviously corporations do.
The second myth yet to be busted along this line is that companies would hire more people if the regulatory climate was easier or constant. The truth is that jobs are only created by product demand. The law of supply and demand is as fundamental in economics as the law of gravity is in physics.
There is less demand nowadays because for decades homeowners have reaped equity from there ever-increasing home values to fund a lifestyle beyond their ordinary means. With the recent crash of real estate values this engine has been turned off — and will remain off for some time to come.
So the problem with unemployment is really the other side of the fundamental equation — supply. We are simply too efficient at our work to be working as many hours per week as we do. With the advent of computers and other ingenious tools, this should be evident.
In order to balance the supply-demand of jobs, we need to each work less. This was last recognized in 1935 when the standard work week was reduced from 48 hours to 40 hours. It's simply time for another reduction.
Jim Mastro, Brooksville
A forgotten running car becomes a lethal error | Sept. 22
Shutoff device needed
Like many others, I was saddened by the tragic death of Rebecca Hawk. It could have been prevented by a simple software change. As an electrical engineer who has worked on space shuttles, I can state this is not rocket science.
To install carbon monoxide detectors on all buildings with inside parking, while admirable, may not be practical. What should be considered is federal law to mandate private vehicles that have been idling while parked for 15 minutes to shut down. They can always be restarted if air-conditioning or heating is necessary.
Leonard Di Nardo, Seminole