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To Live and Die

September 30, 1990

We, the nursing care specialists of 5P21 at County-USC, read "To Live and Die in L.A." (by David Ferrell, Aug. 12) with mixed emotions. The caseload for each RN is as high as 200 patients. We do not have one full-time MD. Instead, we must work with a dozen or more part-time medical doctors and three full-time physician assistants. We have quickly outgrown the space provided for us and now find ourselves in competition with other clinics for space. Critically ill patients are frequently found on stretchers in the hallways.

The waiting time for appointments and prescriptions is long. There is no parking available for the outpatient clients. They must walk up a very steep hill for as much as half a mile before they get to the outpatient building. Many of the patients must take lengthy bus rides. These are just the logistic problems.

The physical, emotional, social and psychological impacts of the virus are tragic. Families are torn apart. Parents, wives, husbands and children see their significant others waste away and die. The patients lose their dignity and freedom. Their life expectancy decreases, and they are forced to confront a lonely, terrible death. Every patient we work with must be told, "How soon we can't say, but you will die because of this infection."

We have all chosen to work here. We share the frustration reflected in the article. We also have the serene knowledge that the patients of 5P21 have received the best possible care we can give.

Kimon Beazlie, one of the patients profiled, died Sunday, Aug. 12, the same day the article was published. Kimon, like the other patients of ours who have died, died too young.

NURSING CARE SPECIALISTS, 5P21 OUTPATIENT DEPARTMENT L.A. COUNTY-USC MEDICAL CENTER

Los Angeles

Editor's Note: Another patient, Tim Walsh, died a few days after publication.

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