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ER tragedy reflects poor leadership

June 18, 2007

Re "How a hospital death became a cause celebre," June 15

This horrific story not only illustrates what happens in a country that lacks a healthcare system but, in my opinion, is a reflection of people who are paid to work, are not competent and take no responsibility. I believe that this mentality, which is now rampant in the United States, reflects a country without competent leadership.

ROXANE WINKLER

Sherman Oaks

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The death of Edith Isabel Rodriguez at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, a county-run facility, is tragic. Two things struck me, both under the category of what I like to call the arrogance of government. How many flippant 911 calls that end in tragedy will we have to hear before hiring and training practices are revamped and dispatchers such as those heard on the recent tapes are ferreted out? The second point is for those who believe that a national single-payer system is the answer to our current healthcare crisis. Medical issues and decisions are complex and require a unique blend of science, art and compassion. What we saw on the video at King-Harbor is healthcare delivered DMV-style. Is that really what we want? I think we are heading there.

GORDON TAGGE MD

Chelan, Wash.

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Re "Don't close King-Harbor," Opinion, June 15

Thomas Scully is right to emphasize the importance of improving care in the Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital ER. But he is wrong that there are no big-city public hospital models that work particularly well. Scully ignored such successes when he was in a position to help Los Angeles. His current prescription is the same that his staff managed when he had his chance, and it did not work.

Real reform requires separation of the governance and management of the hospital from what Scully describes as "the incredibly complex mess that is the L.A. County public health system." Operated as a public authority committed to high-quality care to everyone, not just those the other hospitals don't welcome, this approach almost always works. The experience in other cities demonstrates that after some hesitation, the general public will take advantage of the hospital's services enthusiastically. As a result, the financial pressures are reduced even as the quality of care is improved.

There are many examples of public hospitals that have carried out this type of reform successfully. The first step is to create a public authority to run the hospital, independent of the government bureaucracy.

ROBERT SIGMOND

Philadelphia

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