October 2006

You know I wouldn’t have missed seeing the First Lady for the world!!! Despite my constant disappointment with Pres. Bush, I must say that Laura (to borrow from “Dazed and Confused”) is a “hip, hip lady.”

The strange thing is that, much to my surprise, people will knock down a pregnant woman for a chance to shake hands with someone famous. Who knew that all those people who hold doors for me and offer me their seats would turn into vicious coyotes at the sight of Laura Bush? Rather than risk my poor as-yet-unborn son getting jabbed in the head by a rabid old woman, I held back and missed my chance to actually shake hands with the First Lady, but I figure that was merely one of the first of many sacrifices I’ll make for the little guy.

As for the rally, I would say that it was a success. Everyone was excited, there were some very clever jabs at “Little Harold,” and I think most people left feeling like Bob Corker is a really swell guy. It was difficult to applaud the statements about Iraq, but I came out of my chair when Laura referred to Bob as a guy that will keep our taxes low…who doesn’t love a good tax-hater??

Bob poked fun at himself and the RNC by opening his speech with “Seen any good campaign ads lately?” Yes, and my favorite one was taken off the air! Bygones, I suppose.

As I said, all in all, the rally was great fun – despite the meanies who would have trampled small children to get close to Laura Bush. I’ll be posting pictures soon…


When my mother (who has Parkinson’s Disease) called me last night to tell me about Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Michael J. Fox’s campaign ads, I opted not to rush to judgment. Rush Limbaugh has said some ridiculous things in his day, but I thought it best to get the facts before flying off the handle. So, after reading numerous news stories this morning, here’s my take:

In case you haven’t heard about the ads, Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, has done several TV commercials and made appearances for Democratic candidates who support embryonic stem cell research. In the ads, his symptoms are obvious and difficult to watch. He shakes, rocks, and, like any Parkinson’s sufferer, has a hard time controlling his movements. In his spot for Missouri Senate candidate, Claire McCaskill, he then says, “What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans. Americans like me.” Fox has done similar ads for Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is running for the Senate in Maryland, and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.

On the one hand, Michael J. Fox is using his celebrity to draw attention to a horrible, debilitating disease, and I admire him for that. Instead of hiding away, embarrassed by his awkward movements, he is placing himself in the spotlight to try and help millions of people who don’t have the luxury of money and fame.

However, as Limbaugh said yesterday, to give Parkinson’s sufferers the idea that if you vote for a particular candidate you will be cured is disgusting. My mom said last night that those with Parkinson’s will grasp on to any straw of hope that there might – just maybe – be some sort of cure out there. Fox, through these ads, is giving Parkinson’s sufferers a straw of hope that there may be a cure…if only they vote for McCaskill/Doyle/Cardin. That makes me very uncomfortable.

Now, for Limbaugh’s comments. He did say, “I don’t care what anybody says; it is unseemly, it is exploitative, and it is downright mean to mislead people who suffer from horrible diseases that there is a cure around the corner — if only Republicans could be defeated.” There, I agree.

Limbaugh also said, “He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He’s moving all around and shaking and it’s purely an act. . . . This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting.” Now, there I take issue. To accuse someone of faking a disease is serious business, and it’s an accusation that no one should ever, ever make without significant evidence. Fox’s appearances on “Boston Legal” in recent months are an indication that there are times that he can medicate and control his movements to an extent, but, as someone who has close, personal contact with a Parkinson’s sufferer on a very regular basis, I can attest to the fact that there are good days and bad days; days when the medication helps and days when it doesn’t. It is nearly impossible to control the movements association with Parkinson’s, for, the more one tries to control them, the worse the movements become.

Fox has reportedly admitted to using his symptoms to make a point, either by limiting his medication or by not making any effort to suppress his movements (however futile those efforts may be); however, I don’t have a problem with this. He shows the disease for what it is – what it would be without medication – and what it is for millions of patients who don’t get the help from the medication that he does. Whether or not he actually exaggerates his movements, only Fox knows, and it is certainly not anyone’s place to accuse him of doing so – no matter how angry you might be about his politicizing his illness.

The point of the story was to discuss how tacky the ad was (read it here). Gosh, maybe I’m just a tacky person, but I thought the ad was hysterical! It’s the best one out thus far! I actually ran through the house to tell the hubby about it…my favorite part was the hunter who says, “Harold Ford Jr. is right – I do own too many guns.” Although the older gentleman who says, “Harold Ford Jr. will make sure that I get to pay taxes again when I’m dead!” was quite amusing as well. I adore the humor of the ad, although I will admit to having a very sarcastic sense of humor.

I think the ad is a breath of fresh, comedic air in a campaign that has been wrought with lies, mud-slinging, and commercials that make me want to destroy my own television. The ad is creative and downright funny, and I sincerely hope that I get to see it again and again between now and November 7.

This ad, supposedly, is what prompted Ford Jr. to ambush Corker during a press conference, showing that maybe his political upbringing didn’t give him the think skin one needs to survive in the political arena. Take a joke, Ford…and stop playing the race card. We’re all getting really tired of the “dark, shadowy figure” reference.

As we wait for word on the “replacement” hospital, it is business as usual at the Medical Center.

Already this year – and we’re not even into flu season yet – there are reports of not enough beds for those who need them. Some patients are being told to go home and come back later, while others are left in hallways. This is nothing new, as a friend of mine was scheduled for an induction in November of 2003 and received a phone call the day of letting her know they would have to reschedule…there just wasn’t enough room for her. In February of 2005, my mother was in the emergency room for more than 13 hours waiting for a room to open up. We received a room the moment we threatened to transfer her to another hospital.

I thank God every morning I have the good sense to avoid the Medical Center when it comes to my up-and-coming delivery. “Sorry son, you’re just going to have to stay in there for a while longer…there’s not room for us at the Med Center!”

Additionally, environmental (custodial) positions are now being outsourced to another company. Those who have worked for JCMC and MSHA for a long period of time are getting the “short end of the stick.” It looks like Vonderfecht’s “loyal employees” may be getting slightly disgruntled.

The “replacement” hospital is not going to solve the problems we are facing with the Medical Center, or any of the other MSHA hospitals. We need ADDITIONAL services, not replacement services, if we are going to avoid the utter lack of care offered at the Med Center. Unless you’re comfortable lying in the hallway of the hospital, waiting for someone to either die or be discharged so you can get a room…

The Washington County Commission will be discussing a wheel tax this evening…in addition to the property tax increase they passed last month. The reason for these additional gougings, er, taxes, is to build new schools and to renovate existing ones. My question is, when these new schools are built, and current schools are renovated, are these taxes going to be repealed? Call me crazy, but I seriously doubt it.

This is exactly what Greene County did some years back. They passed a wheel tax to “build needed schools,” but, once those schools were built, the wheel tax did not go away. What is the Greene County wheel tax money being used for now? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to school-building and renovation.

A better solution was offered by the Unicoi County Commission, and will be presented in a bill to the General Assembly during the next legislative session by Rep. David Hawk of Greene County. This bill would allow more lottery money to be spent on facilities for kindergarten through 12th grade education. Brilliant! Use the “tax on people who are bad at math” to educate Tennessee’s little ones! I love it! (Not to mention the fact that, because I don’t play the lottery, I won’t have to be paying extra for all those facilities that I and my children will never be using). Hawk’s plan would “not add state funds to the pot but would ensure that some of it can be spent on construction of new buildings and expansion of existing facilities” (JC Press). Hawk said: “I think that this is the best alternative to look into. I feel more comfortable looking into this plan than finding additional dollars somewhere else within the budget. Since the lottery education fund is already set up to be used for capital outlay projects, I think that we try this first.” I find this to be a much better solution than taxing Washington Countians out of their very pants.

However, because the Washington County Commission was too busy trying to get re-elected to worry about little things like money needed to improve school buildings, the School Board is pushing to get the funds NOW, leaving little other option than screwing us out of more of our money. I knew there was a reason I didn’t vote to re-elect a single Washington County Commissioner. You guys should have written me in…

Nevertheless, if the school board can cool their jets for a bit, and the commission can stop being so money-hungry for just a moment, there may be a solution in the form of Hawk’s lottery bill. Otherwise you can bet that my husband and I will be moving to a county with a lower tax burden and more intelligent leadership the first chance we get.

This recently came to me in an email…looks like Voderfecht is trying to drum up support among his employees for this “necessary” hospital.

Via Dennis Vonderfecht

Several MSHA Team Members have wanted to help MSHA in our efforts to acquire the Certificate of Need for the new replacement facility for NorthSide and Specialty hospitals. If you would like to assist with this effort, please direct your letters of support to the address indicated on the attachment. The attachment also has several suggested points that you may want to use in your letters. You may either send your letters directly to the address indicated on the attachment, or you can direct them to Tony Benton, Asst. VP for Strategic Planning, and he will get them to the State. Thanks for your support of this much-needed project for our community.

And the letter:

North Side/Specialty Replacement Hospital
Mountain States Health Alliance
Letters of Support Request

Please address Letters of Support to:
Ms. Melanie Hill
Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency
500 Deaderick Street, Suite 850
Nashville, TN 37243

Letters may be directed to Tony Benton, MSHA Strategic Planning Office

This project is the result of careful planning by MSHA to allocate its resources to meet the existing and future needs of the community, and includes the following steps:

(1) Relocation of the 13 Franklin Transitional Care Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) beds from Johnson City Medical Center (JCMC) to Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital (QRH). MSHA will de-license 13 rehab beds for a final bed complement at QRH of 47 rehab beds and 13 SNF beds.
(2) Construction of a new hospital with 80 licensed acute care beds, an emergency department, surgical care and miscellaneous support services as a replacement facility for NSH and JCSH.
(3) Transfer of remaining 64 acute care beds from NSH/JCSH to JCMC.

Reasons supporting the need for this project include the following:

• More than 30 years old, NSH was built in modular fashion with several areas of NSH that do not have sprinkler systems. The dollars needed to develop NSH into a hospital of the future is simply too cost prohibitive.
• Both NSH and JCSH have mostly semi-private rooms which are not conducive to patient privacy, HIPPA regulations, and infection control. Private rooms achieve higher patient satisfaction and facilitate family involvement in care of the patient.
• With the new facility located in Med Tech Park, it is convenient to the medical community, where multiple physician practices are relocating.
• Reallocation of beds in Washington County will relieve the congestion at the crowded JCMC campus while reducing the need for additional construction at JCMC.
• By consolidating the 2 facilities it will enable the complementary services at the sites to more efficiently operate. The ER at NSH and the operating rooms from JCSH will be combined to develop a hospital capable of providing a full array of services while reducing the need for duplication of such services as two labs, pharmacies, dietary departments as well as other support services.
• A new facility will complement JCMC in providing adequate facilities to deliver healthcare services to meet the needs of the community over the next couple of decades.

So, what do you think of all this? Do we really need another MSHA hospital, or just another hospital in general? And which do you think is more likely to be approved?