Assisted living facilities
Cases of abuse are isolated
Recently, Floridians read tragic stories of how vulnerable seniors and adults with mental illnesses in a few of Florida's assisted living residences were neglected or abused. The Miami Herald also reported that some residences went unpunished and some were allowed to remain open. What the Herald neglected to report was that, of the 22 residences named, some have closed, changed ownership or are in compliance with regulations.
Fortunately, Florida has a strong regulatory framework — indeed a model for other states. It was created explicitly for the purpose of protecting seniors and others from neglect and abuse and to offer a better quality of life than institutions for adults diagnosed with mental illnesses.
Unfortunately, the resources necessary to enforce these strong regulations have eroded as the state, with its considerable financial challenges, has redirected resources from the agencies responsible for enforcement. Florida has a resource problem, not a regulation problem.
At any one time, close to 83,000 seniors and adults diagnosed with mental illnesses reside in almost 3,000 licensed assisted living residences. Residents live with optimal independence, are treated with dignity and respect, and receive quality and loving care from hard-working and dedicated caregivers.
When we look over the 10-year span of the incidents reported on by the Miami Herald, it should be noted that close to 1 million Floridians were cared for in assisted living residences during that time. Though we consider even one episode to be one too many, residents, their families and the public should recognize that these are isolated incidents and do not represent the loving and high-quality care that is provided every day to more than 83,000 residents in assisted living communities statewide.
Krone Weidler, president, Florida Assisted Living Association, Tallahassee
Florida black bear may lose endangered status | May 18
Bear decision is based on science
Recent newspaper articles and editorials feature statements suggesting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is trying to reduce the number of bears in Florida by removing them from the threatened species list. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Florida's threatened species list is an inventory of species at high risk of extinction as determined by a scientific method tested worldwide on tens of thousands of species. The recommendation to move the Florida black bear and 15 other species off the threatened species list is based in science, not intuition or emotion.
The draft bear status report was reviewed by an external group of nationally recognized bear conservation experts. Applying the globally accepted scientific method of determining threatened status, it was determined the bear no longer was at high risk of extinction in Florida because the species is widely distributed throughout the state, with population numbers sustainable for an animal with a large territory. In addition, the bear population has been increasing over the past 24 years, and this trend is projected to continue.
However, before the bear or any species can be removed from Florida's threatened species list, a management plan to conserve the species — created with public and stakeholder input — must be approved by the commission.
In the case of the bear, the draft management plan undergoing revision is not scheduled to go before the commission until 2012. The plan will include protections and conservation actions necessary to ensure the species never has to be listed again. Neither removing bear from the threatened list nor moving forward with the management plan indicates the resumption of hunting.
Elsa Haubold, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee
It's now tougher to vote | May 20
Phantom of fraud
While Republicans claim that their assault on voting is to combat fraud, the fact is that no widespread voting fraud exists. But the most susceptible to possible voter fraud is absentee voting. So why did the Republicans not address this?
According to the Florida Senate Interim Report 2011-118, "The trend noted … in 2006 continued in the 2008 general election — overall more Democrats took advantage of early voting, while more Republicans took advantage of absentee voting." Obviously, fraud was the least of their concerns.
I urge everyone to make this voter suppression assault backfire. Sign up to vote by absentee ballot now. Absentee voting does not mean you have to be away from home — it is simply voting by mail, saving time and gas.
Dan Favero, St. Petersburg
Greyhound racing not dead
The Times recently published a letter advocating the end of greyhound racing in Florida. Groups promoting that goal speak of the decline of racing, but the facts tell a different story. Recently the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach hosted a Saturday afternoon racing crowd of over 6,000. Counting bets from off-track locations and a growing online community of greyhound enthusiasts, more than $700,000 was wagered on a single card of racing — the highest total of the current season and approaching the record handles dating back to the mid 1980s. Does that sound like greyhound racing is dead? I think not.
Racing has indeed retreated from its height of popularity in the 1980s. During the last several years many tracks have suffered from a serious decline in business, much like bowling alleys and other once-popular establishments, and as a result a large number of those facilities have closed their doors. These failed tracks and many of those still operating at less than full capacity have been guilty of a failure to adapt to a changing demographic.
Lisa Wheeler, Tierra Verde
Sports belong outdoors
On May 11, I had the wonderful experience of watching the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The evening was so nice as to be almost magical — beautiful weather, fresh air, actual green grass and a real dirt infield. Add a great view of the skyline, and this was baseball as it was meant to be played.
Contrast that with going to a Rays home game. It takes me until at least the fourth inning to realize that I am not looking at a video game. The infield, outfield and perimeter colors are ugly. All around you are metal ribs, catwalks that change the field rules and a big tent cover.
There is nothing wrong with the location of the Trop — it is the Trop itself. Yes, I know the weather is hot and humid in Florida in the summer. But I lived in Ohio for the first half of my life, and I know it is hot and humid in the summer there, too. And most of the games are played at night.
Baseball, like football, should be played outdoors.
Nicolle Picking, Clearwater
I deal with red-light cameras every day going to and from work in Tampa. These intersections have created eccentric driving behavior. When I approach these intersections, I'm now forced to either gun my engine to ensure I make it through (which I wouldn't normally do), or slam on my brakes on a yellow light to avoid an accidental ticket. All this in an attempt to keep my driving record clean, as it has been for 12 years.
I'm not the only person forced to do this. I hope every city that tries using these systems to collect revenue breaks even or loses money in this shortsighted attempt.
Scott Gregory, Palm Harbor
Bulb warnings are light on facts May 30, PolitiFact
The first claim covered — that "compact fluorescent light bulbs are toxic and not environmentally friendly" — is rated half true. This is justified by saying that the risk is small "as long as they are disposed of properly and cleaned up properly if one shatters." But the article doesn't tell us what steps need to be taken to dispose of these light bulbs or clean up "properly" after they break.
The second statement concerns the claim that the new bulbs are six times as costly as current ones. PolitiFact, rating this "barely true," states that when you factor in the cost of electricity needed to power the light bulb, it will end up costing less. But how long does it take to realize the savings?
I read where buying a Prius over a Corolla to save money takes nine years to begin to see the savings because of the cost difference of the two cars. Is the savings from buying these new bulbs realized in the first electric bill? Maybe after six electric bills? How long?
Ronald Melone, Clearwater
Lamp life is the key
This PolitiFact piece was a good start at explaining the benefits of the new types of light bulbs, but the real issue here is lamp life.
Let's use my dining room light for an example. This light is on about three hours a day. At that length of burn time, the incandescent light bulb would last about a year because it has an average life of around 1,000 hours. If I install a halogen bulb I would get about 2.8 years of use; a CFL bulb would last around nine years. If I install LED bulbs, I probably would never have to get the ladder out to change these bulbs again because I am in my 60s and the LED bulb has a 45,000-hour life.
In short, I would have to change the bulbs in this fixture over a 45-year span 45 times if they were incandescent but only once if they were LED and four times if they were CFL. Think of this cost saving along with the cost of operation.
Michael Soluri, Tampa
A degree's worth isn't just measured in dollars | May 31, commentary
Follow your dream
Kudos to young Nathaniel French for his inspiring column on pursuing his dreams and encouraging those wishing for a career in the arts.
At 12, I too had such a dream. I wanted to be an architect. I too was told of the difficulties: 10 years of education and internship, examinations, and then being thrown into the world with no job offers, no high salary, no security. My parents were for it, but that was all. With four behind me to educate also, I was on my own. I was scared — but motivated.
I have been in private practice now for over half a century, and in two years will join the society of octogenarians. I have had a lifelong love for my dream and do not wish to retire. I am glad I made the decision as a youth. As French said, "Nothing could be more valuable than that."
Ronn Ginn, St. Petersburg
Specialist's call questioned | May 30
I would like to clarify my quotes in this article. When asked about my experience with the hospitalist program at Northside Hospital, I am quoted as saying that I had "not had problems with hospitalist programs at Northside or other local hospitals." While this is true, I had intended to draw a distinction between Northside's program and those at other local hospitals. These other programs have been around much longer, and may not be comparable to the one at Northside, since the non-HCA hospitals, in general, employ hospitalists as independent contractors.
I am furthermore quoted as saying, "There may be a little lack of objectivity regarding how to treat the patient." I recall also saying that if a hospital corporation employs its own hospitalists, this would present a serious potential conflict of interest. Physicians have been traditionally bound, first and foremost, as an advocate for the patient. Patient and hospital interests are not always aligned, and therefore employment by a hospital corporation may stress this fragile but important doctor-patient relationship.
Northside's response to the investigation is misleading and disingenuous. It can't truthfully say that "hospitalists are an asset in the delivery of high-quality care to our patients" since the program only just began.
I am also suspicious that the bonuses to the hospitalists at Northside "are not tied to length of stay or the use of any hospital resources," as stated by the Northside Hospital spokeswoman. Common sense would dictate that any hospitalist who does not improve hospital length of stay and use of resources, compared to private practicing physicians wouldn't be employed very long.
David Mokotoff, St. Petersburg
Governor signs law requiring drug test to receive state aid | June 1
Others should line up too
So Gov. Rick Scott has signed the bill requiring welfare recipients to get drug tested before they can receive benefits. In the spirit of true equality, shouldn't the drug testing be extended to the CEOs of banks, car companies, Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae and all the bailout recipients? Didn't they also receive government benefits?
Peter McDonald, Palm Harbor