Nursing home bill targets 1 law firm | March 19
Nursing home residents at risk
As the son of a nursing home resident and as a longtime advocate for nursing home residents' rights, I'm surprised and disappointed by Florida Senate Bill 670/House Bill 569. This bill effectively shields investors in nursing homes from civil lawsuits on behalf of injured or dead nursing home residents. As your article indicates, this bill appears specially designed to punish one law firm that has successfully tracked down and extracted legitimate damages from the real and often hidden owners of neglectful nursing homes.
The bill says that if you or a loved one is injured or dies due to nursing home negligence, you can sue everyone from the nursing home license holder — which can be a shell company with no assets — down to the overworked and low-paid nursing assistant actually providing care. Just don't think about suing the parent company, because "passive investors" are exempted from all lawsuits.
A passive investor is defined as "an individual or entity that does not participate in the decisionmaking or operations of a facility." This definition would encompass both the corporate owners of large nursing home chains and the private-equity companies that are increasingly seeing nursing homes as easy targets for acquisition, looting and disposal. It's like exempting an airline from lawsuits after a plane crash because the corporate leaders weren't flying the plane.
I also can't understand how the many good nursing homes that belong to the Florida Health Care Association — the primary mover behind this bill — can back a bill that will benefit only their most venal and neglectful competitors, companies that put profits ahead of care and want to get off cheaply when they injure or kill their residents.
For the sake of all our vulnerable nursing home residents, I urge anyone who has a loved one in a nursing home or who may someday end up in a nursing home to contact his or her state legislator and urge them to kill this terrible bill. It does nothing but help bad nursing home operators avoid the legal consequences of injuring or killing their residents.
Tom Schroeppel, Tampa
Church seeking input of flock | March 21
Ask about priests, marriage
The Catholic survey asks the wrong questions. How about a survey asking Catholics, "Do you think priests should be allowed to be married?" I bet a lot of problems in the church would be solved if this could happen.
Frank Calafiura, Port Richey
Long waits in Canada | March 21, letter
Recently one of the large Toronto newspapers ran a poll that asked: "Would you rather have the Canadian health care system or the U.S. system?" The result: 98.6 percent voted in favour of the Canadian system.
Your letter writer addressed the case of the young woman who traveled to the United States for treatment as the wait time in Canada was too long. Longer wait times in Canada are usually for elective surgeries like hip or knee replacements.
Is the Canadian system perfect? No. However it does compare favorably with the 10 percent of U.S. citizens who have no heath care.
My wife and I are snowbirds, and this is our 13th winter in Florida. We have had the misfortune of having to use your excellent hospital facilities. Fortunately, we always carry additional health insurance for these emergencies.
Allan Murray, Southampton, Ontario
Pinellas central in ballot battles | March 23
Excellent elections official
During her tenure as Pinellas County supervisor of elections, Deborah Clark has proved to be a good steward of the taxpayers' money, instituted a well-run early-voting program, put in place certified optical scanner voting machines, and created a state-of-the-art vote-by-mail (absentee ballot) system.
All of these have increased voter turnout and made voting more convenient. In addition, Clark has defied the sometimes foolish and senseless edicts emanating from Tallahassee.
Now we have a concerted, focused effort by Sen. Jack Latvala to suppress voter turnout. There's no uglier phrase save voter intimidation to describe Latvala's Senate Bill 1660. This bill is structured to close, eliminate, restructure and ultimately place absentee ballot dropoff sites under Tallahassee control. Under the false premise that dropoff sites are more susceptible to fraud — a charge never made or proven — this bill is being pushed as an excuse to exert control over Pinellas County's voting methods.
Clark has sworn her allegiance to the voters of our county by conducting honest, fair, unbiased elections for voters of all parties. What she has never done is kowtow to the petulant tantrums of Tallahassee politicians.
Gary West, St. Petersburg
City Hall still no help on EMS March 22, editorial
I applaud your editorial because its message extends to many other duplicated and expensive services in Pinellas County.
I'm a native Floridian and have lived in Duval, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties. I moved to Pinellas in 2006 and immediately became aware of its parochial organization. How is it possible for a county of such a small area to have so many governmental jurisdictions? This contradicts the rhetoric of fiscal conservatism.
Countywide services — like fire, police, library, potable and reclaimed water — would be superior and less expensive. But then small-time politicians would have no fiefdoms.
Many expensive problems exist in Pinellas, especially roads, which in my view can be traced to the preferred isolation of small enclaves. It's time for Pinellas citizens to think more broad-mindedly.
Byron Kolitz, Clearwater
Pet projects fill budgets | March 22
Neglecting the basics
You have to wonder how responsive our state senators and representatives are to the real needs of the people in their communities when they appropriate state funds to nonprofits that are already soliciting us for donations.
This goes on while too many of the mentally ill go without adequate care, foster children age out of the system at 18 with only a $250 check to Walmart to start their lives, public school classrooms lack necessary technology, public buildings still are not energy-efficient, and so on. Shame on them.
Larry Silver, Oldsmar