Letters to the Editor

Week of Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Parallel Snarking

Shopping is our religion, too:Regarding Common-Fucking-Sense Rule No. 6 ["Don't Park There," by Dan Siegler and Rachel Quinn, July 7], I wished the writers had asked DPT why it disobeys the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment admonition to "make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Why does DPT think it's permissible to break the law by parking in the middle of Valencia, Guerrero, Dolores (and double parking on many other streets throughout San Francisco) if attending church, but not if shopping, dining, or visiting friends?

Daniel Saks
Dolores Heights

Labor Intensive

Rosselli's response:Matt Smith's SF Weeklycolumn ["Partners in Slime," June 30] concerning SEIU's position on nursing home liability has raised a number of questions and concerns. I want to assure friends and advocates in the community that, as we move forward with nursing home reform, we are committed to work with all interested parties in an open and transparent way on all issues. You also have my commitment that our first concern has been and will continue to be the well-being of nursing home residents. To clear up any misunderstanding, here is our position.

SEIU members -- both on our own and as members of the California United for Nursing Home Care, a coalition of residents, family members, advocates, and some of the state's largest providers -- have made significant strides toward protecting and improving the quality of life for nursing home residents and others in need of long-term care, including:

• Leading a statewide effort to pass AB 1075 to improve nursing home staffing and advance Medi-Cal rate reform in 2001.

• Successfully fighting off drastic cuts to nursing home funding that would have closed homes and undermined care in 2003.

• Waging a massive campaign that included lobbying, mobilizations, paid TV advertising, and media outreach to stop devastating cuts to California's IHSS (home care) program in 2004.

• Continuing efforts to end the severe underfunding of California's nursing homes, which too often leaves them understaffed and unable to offer the pay and benefits necessary to recruit and retain caregivers, and unable to upgrade facilities to meet the needs of today's residents. In 2004, we're campaigning for a new Medi-Cal reimbursement system that holds nursing homes accountable for quality care and a quality assurance fee that will tap millions of federal matching funds to fund this system.

Our approach on the liability issue is based on the same premise: how to best ensure the highest-quality services for nursing home residents. To that end we are trying to find a solution that maintains safeguards for nursing home residents to have access to the courts to ensure safe, quality services. At the same time, we need an approach that ensures nursing homes have the resources and stability to provide the best possible care and to prevent harm to residents from arising in the first place.

Unfortunately, we jumped forward with a liability reform plan without sufficient discussions among all parties with an interest in quality long-term care. That was a mistake for which we are sorry.

We have now recommitted ourselves to consulting with interested parties to craft an approach that protects the rights of nursing home residents while helping nursing homes ensure that they have the resources to provide the quality staff and safe facilities nursing home residents deserve.

No legislative action on tort reform or strengthened enforcement is anticipated this year, which gives us the breathing space to have that dialogue and work toward a solution.

We hope to continue to work together in coalition with advocates for quality care throughout California to win improvements for nursing home residents.

Sal Rosselli, President
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 250
Oakland

Whose rights are they?:Open Letter to Sal Rosselli, President, SEIU Local 250:

Dear President Rosselli,

I have worked hard with SEIU Local 616, the County of Alameda, and the Public Authority for IHSS as a trainer and a home-care worker/consumer advocate. We have all learned to work together to successfully fight for worker AND consumer rights. Now SEIU is selling the disability and senior advocacy communities down the river.

California United for Nursing Home Care puts forth palatable goals which soothe the political agendas of many stakeholders, but it doesn't reveal what it's willing to compromise in order to negotiate with the nursing home industry. How dare the union campaign to limit my right as a former and potential nursing home resident to sue a nursing home if I am neglected, injured, sexually abused, or killed in a nursing home in California? This is not your bargaining chip with which to negotiate. How can you even ponder that it's worth it to give up my and others' right to defend and protect ourselves from very real and prevalent physical harm in order to gain access to more potential union members?!

Disability and senior advocates have never dreamed of negotiating away your members' collective bargaining rights. Your compromise of our rights is a bridge-burning betrayal.

In Matt Smith's article on the issue, you excused away the union's actions, claiming that the money that the most abusive nursing homes would save on lawsuits would go to patients and union members. But I noticed no discussion of using this "saved money" to improve and enforce nursing home regulations that would actually stop or prevent the abuse. The union is in bed with an industry that, for pure monetary gain, has hurt workers and consumers alike by union-busting, regulation-dodging, and lobbying against consumer and worker rights legislation. Now they throw a bone to you, and you toss them my rights.

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