Letters to the editor, The Courier-Gazette

May 29, 2014

Boomtown

The proposed Lyman “boutique” hotel has received a lot of attention in Rockland. Resident taxpayers, like myself, are worried about it. And rightly so. This building points to the way Rockland development is likely to go, what kind of city is ahead. We can sort of see the future and it is not for most of us.

Hot on the heels of the Lyman hotel proposal, waiting to solicit the Rockland City Planning Board (should the Lymans win approval) are Stuart and Marianne Smith, the heavyweight developers from Camden. Their holdings (too extensive to list here) include the former MBNA property on Rockland’s Harbor. It’s here they want to build a 65-unit hotel. And it’s hard to imagine the board not approving the Smiths if they approve the Lymans.

Do we want to Camdenize/Bar Harborize Rockland? Do we want a noisier, more traffic-jammed, more commercialized, lower quality of life, with more taxes to accommodate the overloading of city services such as our recently refurbished but barely coping, in-town sewage treatment plant.

Didn’t the city (us) just spend $13 million on a sewer upgrade in 2005, 2006? The answer: Yes.

Boomtown?

No, thanks.

Eric Armer

Rockland

Issues not personal attacks

In the May 22 Courier-Gazette Ms. Posson writes to respond to an article written by Ken Frederic, “Do We Really Want Clean Elections." Mr. Frederic’s article confronts an issue, the personal attack by a Maine political organization (heartless and spineless) on various state legislators. One of those legislators is confined to a wheelchair (spineless?). The point of Mr. Frederic’s article was that voters should be focusing on issues and their relevance to the well being of our state.

How does Ms. Posson respond to this article? She responds with a personal attack on Mr. Frederic. He has attended Tea Party meetings (limited government, more jobs, lower taxes, and personal freedom are obviously bad things). He has testified on controversial issues before the Legislature, such as the latest gun control measure, which the majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted against. Included in the attack is an effort to cast suspicion on the entire group that writes the articles under the byline of “Another View."

Late last year a group of concerned citizens, whose occupations included sales, banking, health care, government worker, and business owners, gathered together and decided to meet weekly and discuss relevant state and local issues. This group decided to write articles and submit them to local media for publication. The very byline, “Another View” expresses that they are opinion pieces and are placed on the opinion page of the media. The goal was to express positive thoughts on issues that matter; some of the topics to consider were more jobs, better education, welfare reform (the publisher of the media outlets wrote an article supporting some of these reforms), and unemployment. Mr. Frederic attempted to take a negative personal attack by a political organization and encourage a positive focus on issues.

If Ms. Posson wants to submit her opinions on issues that are different from Mr. Frederic’s article, then that is her right and, in fact, is what Mr. Frederic suggests. However, let us focus on the merits of issues, not personal attack and innuendo.

Dale Landrith Sr.

Camden

What is happening to Pen Bay?

As young physicians we moved here in 1978 from excellent hospitals in the Chicago area. We were impressed by the high quality of Pen Bay's physicians who would be our colleagues. Between us we have proudly practiced a total of 51 years here.

In 2011, when we as incorporators fatefully voted to join Maine Health, we hoped the combined purchasing power of multiple hospitals would produce substantial savings to help Pen Bay's deficit, some of which was due to non-payment of debts by the state. We were assured that our board could be reasonably independent though Maine Health would generally approve decisions they made. Three years later, Pen Bay has increased financial troubles, presumably not helped by levies from the mother ship, Maine Health.

When CEO Wade Johnson left, apparently encouraged to do so sooner rather than later, Mark Biscone, CEO of Waldo County General Hospital, was named interim CEO (suggested by Maine Health?). His appointment shows tremendous insensitivity to our history and community. He covers both hospitals at present. Though Mr. Johnson left in March, the Pen Bay Board has not formed a search committee for a full-time CEO.

Under Mr. Biscone, a truly excellent radiology department and beloved oncologist have not had their contracts renewed. Mr. Biscone says he will replace our full-time cancer specialist, Dr. Ramdin, with a part-time oncologists from Waldo County General Hospital who would work part-time here, robbing us of the full-time presence of our oncologist to care for our cancer patients. He has plans to build a cancer care center in Lincolnville. We have an exceptional cancer center already and truly wonder why we are being forced to downgrade; we also wonder where the money will come from to build a multi-million dollar facility in Lincolnville. The beauty of having a local center is that very weak and ill patients undergoing chemotherapy need not travel long distances by car; it is quite a trip from Friendship or Waldoboro to Lincolnville.

Pen Bay's X-Ray Department is recognized as outstanding by fellow radiologists in the state and beyond. As physicians and now as patients, we have respected their expertise. The physicians are not a financial burden as they are not paid by the hospital. They were informed that their department would have to tender a bid in order to have renewal of their contract and that the other group was Spectrum, a large multi specialty group. We understand that Spectrum frequently fires existing physicians in departments they have taken over, replacing them with their own and supervising remotely from the head office in Portland. Pen Bay X-ray Associates submitted an excellent proposal and summary of their work. This included Dr. Crans' peer selection as top-rated radiologist in the state for Down East Magazine, 36 peer reviewed journal articles by the staff, many derived from research at Pen Bay, numerous, glowing letters from the community, the president of the Radiology Alliance of Maine and doctors who have worked closely with them. A vote taken by the hospital's physician Executive Committee, was 9 to 3 in favor of retaining Pen Bay X-Ray Associates. Yet the Proposal Committee and Mr. Biscone chose Spectrum, a group with no roots in the community. How sad and unfair.

The change to the Epic computer system under Maine Health has not only taken a great financial toll on the hospital, but caused immense frustration for its users. The fees paid to Maine Health far exceed what we were led to believe at Incorporator/Community advisor meetings.

Employed physicians, nurses, technicians and other staff are afraid to speak out. Some of their daily activities are closely monitored by non-physicians from administration in real time — 15 minutes for most primary care evaluations and no more! Physicians have been called during office visits if they exceeded the limit. Imagine a suicidal patient who appears for a 15-minute visit; only the hardened could limit that interchange. Dealing with a heart attack in the office does not take 15, or even 30 minutes. This is an impossible office model with decisions made by non-medical people on a computer. Pen Bay employees are frustrated and stressed by seemingly never ending upheavals; we have not talked to one happy employee. We feel someone must speak up.

If these trends continue, Pen Bay will become a triage station and even fewer from the community will use it.

We are dismayed that joining Maine Health has had such a negative effect on the practice of health care in this community. pen Bay was created to care for the vulnerable and sick of this community; it is not a factory and should not be treated as such. The community deserves transparency, understanding and sensitivity from our board, Mr. Biscone and Mar. Caron, CEO of Maine Health. A hatchet approach to saving money and reducing debt cannot and should not be tolerated. This may be in sync with national trends; that does not make it right. There must be a more civilized, imaginative and creative approach. Is Pen Bay's association with Maine Health really as irreversible as some would have us believe?

Drs. Olaf and Judith Andersen

Owls Head

Caring is core

Our healthcare community today is experiencing a time of great change and opportunity. Across our industry, organizations are exploring ways to gain efficiencies while ensuring they continue to provide high quality services to the people they serve. That is no different at Pen Bay Healthcare.

Pen Bay is committed to our patients and their families. Caring for our community is at the core of all that we do and the decisions we make. While that will not change, we are making changes in how we conduct our business. Not all of these changes will be easy, but they are necessary.

As a member of the MaineHealth system, Pen Bay is continually seeking ways to strengthen our relationships with our member hospitals; Waldo County General Hospital and Lincoln County Healthcare. In the coming weeks and months, we will review all areas of service for opportunities to share resources with the goal of sustaining a healthier community. Our explorations will include new ways to collaborate, forge alliances and unite and advance services such as home health, oncology and behavioral health.

Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital will continue to serve their respective communities. Our aim is to retain clinical services and jobs here in the Midcoast, while at the same time, keep pace with the changing healthcare industry

We welcome your feedback and questions about the work we are doing. Please share any concerns or comments you have with us by calling Administration at 596-8205 or sending a message from our website at www.penbayhealthcare.org/contact.

We thank our employees for their tireless dedication to their work and we thank our community for their continued support. Together we will take Pen Bay Healthcare well into the future that sustains a healthier community at the lowest cost possible. We are Better Together.

Mark Biscone, chief executive officer

Pen Bay Healthcare

Rockport

First rate care

With the media and some in Congress absolutely trashing the VA medical system I feel I must say something. If I lived in Arizona I might not be writing this letter, but I live in Maine and have been getting my health care at Togus for the past 12 years. It is a completely different story here. The care is first rate and the administration is the best I have ever encountered. Doctors and nurses always seem to have time to be thorough and caring, yet somehow stay on schedule. I never have waited to see a doctor or nurse more than 10 minutes. The guys I chat with at Togus always seem to be satisfied with the care they receive.

I can say the same for the VA Hospital in West Roxbury, Mass. where I recently had a procedure done. Ditto for The VA Pacemaker Center in Washington, D.C. Until recently I received calls from Shonda there on a pre-arranged schedule to monitor my pacemaker over the phone using a special transmitter supplied by the VA. Shonda always calls me “Hon” and she sends me birthday cards. Just this week I received a new, higher tech transmitter that will monitor my pacemaker while I am sleeping. I don’t need to do anything. Does that sound like an inferior health care system?

I order my prescriptions on an automated system over the phone. When I call to order a refill the computer voice almost invariably says, “That prescription is due to be refilled on such and such a date”, anticipating the fact that I am about to run out. A 30-day supply of any medication costs a standard $9, never any more or less. The prescriptions come to me by mail.

The VA operates the nation's largest integrated health care system, with more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics, community living centers, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers, and other facilities. If I remember right Togus serves 20,000 veterans.

I don’t mean to minimize the problems that have been reported recently and I realize I am talking about routine care, while those who have been neglected need acute care. Corrective action needs to be taken immediately and maybe some people should go. But let’s not tar the whole system with the same brush.

Dave Jackson

Rockport

Personal fireworks use

Sixty-five years ago because of safety and liability, Maine banned personal fireworks use. This made personal fireworks use a criminal act statewide and protected local Maine governments from personal injury civil litigation that could result from fireworks accidents.

In 2011, Maine enacted LD83 which repealed the ban on personal fireworks use, making it no longer a criminal act, leaving Maine communities once again, open to possibly being responsible for fireworks injuries. However, a provision in LD83 allowing local governments to enact their individual bans on personal fireworks use restores the criminal aspect of the law necessary for local government liability protection. Protection would only be for those towns or cities that declare a complete ban on personal fireworks use and it is incumbent on the elected board of selectmen or City Council to make that declaration. Under no circumstances should public elections be held to determine a ban on fireworks because it is unconstitutional to vote away the people’s individual rights and in this case it’s the people’s individual rights to safety and piece of mind. However, some public elections have already been held and others about to commence and for the time being anyway that’s OK.

Some local governments may feel that they are already protected by what is known as government “immunity” to liability and lawsuits, but in modern times this has little legal relevance. Simply put, “immunity from tort” will not support local governments that purposely overlook or ignore safety matters capable of causing bodily injury to anyone.

It is important for people to understand that a person injured by fireworks being used by others in a community that allows, what is now called “consumer fireworks” and gives early notification of the incident to the town involved, could present a strong tort liability case. Negligence could be proven from the obvious fact that the community chose not to ban “consumer fireworks” in the first place.

Raymond Ludwig

Thomaston

Waldoboro window boxes

What a lovely sight I witnessed last Wednesday afternoon in downtown Waldoboro! There were eight to 10 volunteers attaching handmade window boxes to the village storefronts. For sure there had been more in the planning, designing, and building of these boxes. In short order they were filled to brimming with colorful plants. I looked at the group and saw that it was a diverse mixture of folks who all cared enough about Waldoboro to take action. It doesn't take a lot of money to make change; it takes people who care. Kudos to volunteers, to community, to diversity, to Waldoboro. Thank-you!

Jann Minzy

Waldoboro

Clean hummingbird feeders

The arrival of spring brings with it the many birds we see throughout the summer returning from their winter habitats. Among them are the beautiful Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. The antics of these little guys as they vie for reign over the hummingbird feeders or attention of the little females provides untold hours of enjoyment. To supplement their food sources and attract them to our yards, we often hang feeders containing artificial homemade nectar. While the artificial nectar can be beneficial to them as a food source in early spring before the flowers are blooming, conversely it can be very harmful if not maintained properly. Sometimes leading to the death of the bird.

Artificial nectar ferments very quickly, sometimes in less than two days. Cloudiness is an indication of fermentation. Ingesting fermented nectar enlarges their liver. Mold and bacteria also grows very quickly and can harm the birds by causing their tongues to swell, compromising their ability to feed. If the condition is severe enough they literally starve to death. Tainted nectar can be transported to the nest by the parent causing harm to the baby birds as well.

Keeping your feeders clean and filled with fresh nectar is paramount to the health of these little birds.

In cool, cloudy weather I change the liquid in the feeders every three days and clean the feeders thoroughly each time I refill them. So as not to be wasteful by dumping a lot of old nectar from the feeders down the drain, I only put one cup of it in each. During hot, sunny weather the artificial nectar ferments even quicker, especially if the feeder is hanging in the sun, necessitating changing the nectar more often. A shaded area is recommended to hang the feeder.

To make the homemade nectar mix 1/4 cup of granulated sugar with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil stirring constantly, and boil for two minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely before filling the feeder. Excess nectar can be kept in the refrigerator for four or five days. Never use red food coloring to color the nectar as it can be harmful. Instead, provide feeders with red feeding bases.

If you want to feed these little birds, and continue to enjoy their antics, please do so responsibly so we can keep them happy and healthy.

Mary Burton

Cushing

Grateful

On behalf of the entire Gibbs Library Board we recognize the hard work of volunteers and the generosity of our customer's made the Gibbs Library's Annual Giant Garage, Plant and Books Sales. As a result of all the hard work, we raised a significant portion of our annual budget despite the last Saturday's inclement weather.

We are grateful for and to, the numerous volunteers who collected, priced, trucked and items for sale. Again we thank the and set-up and clean-up crews and sales people, and Dig Team and Book Sales folks, without you there would be no Garage sale. Thank you to our community for all their support. We hope to do it again next year in the sunshine.

Bo Marks, president

Washington Library Association

Gibbs Library

Washington

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