Saturday, June 12, 2021

Letters to the editor June 7

| June 7, 2021 12:00 AM

Nurses deserve competitive pay

Hundreds of Logan Health nurses just concluded a three-day unfair labor practices strike. It was inspiring to see both the commitment of the nurses who are working toward competitive wages, improved transparency, and more secure staffing. Like so many things in our valley, the nursing strike at Logan has garnered strong opinions and some vitriol. As a critical care RN at Logan, I wanted share a few things:

Logan Health nurses are thoughtful and hard-working individuals who care deeply for patients and the community at large.

Throughout the pandemic, nurses worked selflessly to care for patients under uncertain and sometimes under-resourced circumstances.

Given persistent staffing shortages, nurses in certain units are asked regularly to work additional shifts or take on additional patients, resulting in fatigue and burnout.

The union proposal for an experience-based, step wage scale would bring nursing salaries in line with the regional hospitals like St. Patricks, Bozeman Health and Billings Clinic.

The current salary proposal put forth by Logan improves on the current situation but falls well below comparable hospitals.

Anaconda has the highest nursing salaries in the state. If a small, critical access hospital can prioritize and elevate nursing salaries, surely one of the largest medical centers can as well.

Logan Health spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to train nurses, however pay disparity means that many nurses often seek out opportunities with better salary and benefits.

While I recognize and respect the differences in our community and the reluctance to support union organizations, I have come to believe this is the only way we will have a sustainable, experienced, and satisfied nursing workforce in our valley. Please consider supporting the nurses of Logan Health by urging the board and administrators to bargain in good faith for regionally competitive, transparent, and sustainable compensation.

—Erica Lengacher, Whitefish

Make the responsible choice

The latest figures on COVID infections show a steep drop nationwide, but not here in the Valley. Our rates of infection, positive tests, and hospitalizations are on a slight increase. The reason is our low rate of vaccination. When people refuse to get the vaccine, they help fuel a continuation of the disease.

I understand and support the desire people have for freedom of choice. But with freedom of choice comes responsibility for the consequences of our choices. Sadly, the consequences of not getting vaccinated are felt not only by those who refuse the medicine, but also in our health care system and among those who work in it. Vaccine refusal can also have tragic consequences for those who cannot get vaccinated and therefore remain vulnerable to this deadly disease.

In places where people are getting vaccinated, COVID is ebbing away. Here, where too many of our neighbors disregard the impact of their decisions on their community, it is not. Refusing the vaccine is a free choice. But that does not mean it is a wise or responsible choice.

—Todd Clear, Whitefish

The Emperor’s Clothes

Do you remember reading “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in grade school? It was about a vain emperor who gets exposed to his subjects.

The same thing is happening in Montana right now with our Supreme Court. The vain justices are trying to make us all believe that they are nonpartisan. It was exposed by the Republican Legislature when asking for e-mails regarding legislation during the last session.

When their administrator admitted she deleted emails of intense legislative, legal, and public interest what did the newspaper editorial boards, journalism professors, attorneys and right-to-know interest groups do? They all pretended the emperors had new clothes and never questioned a thing. Not one of them suggested otherwise, unlike the young boy in the book.

The very groups of journalists who routinely have FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests of legislators have remained mum on the misconduct by the judicial branch. Only the editorial board in Butte has said anything about the “clothes.” They went in the total opposite direction, however, and told the Legislature to knock it off. (You subjects hush your mouth!) i.e. There’s nothing to see here!

Hans Christian Andersen wrote the tale over a hundred years ago though it still applies to Montana today. We need someone in the newspaper industry to be that little boy who will speak up and recognize the importance of the documents sent to the judicial branch of government and our right to know.

Perhaps in knowing and seeing the facts, the taxpayers will then make their own determination: Are the emperors as naked as jaybirds trying to defend a nonpartisan position that doesn’t exist?

—Dee Brown, Hungry Horse

Community support

As many Kalispell nurses strike for fair wages and safe working conditions, our community has an opportunity to create better dialogue and build trust around the shared story of health care.

We need a hospital CEO who understands and respects the needs of the workers and is willing to discuss and be honest with the public about the discussion process. When everyone has a seat at the table, genuine progress can be accomplished.

It’s time for a new approach to health care issues, where everyone’s voice is represented and the really tough issues are addressed. We must continue important discussions about the huge presence of our hospital in our community, and what that means for us, as patients, hospital employees, health care workers, and neighbors and friends of those involved with the hospital.

We value our nurses and all our health care staff in the Flathead Valley. Let’s ensure the hospital CEO Craig Lambrecht does too, and has a chance to demonstrate how dynamic his leadership can be working with a union. A call for select bargaining sessions between the hospital and union nurses that are open to community observation would be an excellent place to start!

—Emily Crawford, Kalispell