Letters to the editor

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Valencia County can’t afford a new hospital
Editor:   
Over the last few years, we have been following the Valencia County hospital saga. And now here we are in 2011.
Currently, our fiscal climate requires that we cut costs and spending while providing state-of-the-art, safe and affordable comprehensive health care. We will need an extraordinary amount of good luck with that. 
None of these concerns seems to be on the minds of the Valencia County hospital advocates. Their only concern seems to be “we voted on it, we don’t care how it’s implemented or what it costs.”
The hospital advocates argue that Valencia County needs a hospital. Their mantra? “Save a Life–Build It Now.” The most effective way to “save a life” has been and will be — for the foreseeable future — prompt transport to Albuquerque. Bringing a critically ill patient to a small community hospital in a poorly accessible area of Valencia County will lead only to a delay and denial of definitive care to that patient.
At present, Valencia County struggles to provide the most basic governmental services. Many of our residents lack decent housing, sewage, water, roads, garbage collection and police protection. Nevertheless, the hospital advocates think a full-service hospital is just what this county needs. I ask all of the advocates: What services do you think your hospital will provide? 
It is unlikely that any hospital in a remote area of the county will be able to provide the complex care that now makes up most inpatient hospital stays. And funding this hospital not only will prove to be a fiscal nightmare, but will also rob Valencia County residents of other much-needed services.
It has taken years for Rio Rancho to get its first hospital despite the fact that it is New Mexico’s third most populous city. 
Valencia County had a hospital. It was Presbyterian in Belen. That hospital was not sustainable, and many people chose to go to Albuquerque for their health care instead. Why? In Albuquerque, there are specialists, special care units, MRI and CT scans on site, and other services that are needed for diagnosis and treatment of hospitalized patients. Now, almost 20 years later, that is still the case.
We have lived in Valencia County since 1984. Property taxes and gross receipts taxes increase regularly and the county has a difficult time making ends meet. We are not opposed to paying taxes that pay for needed services. If this hospital is built, what will be the county’s financial obligations? 
Government subsidies to the health care industry — Medicare, Medicaid, and state indigent funds — cannot be seen as the sole answer to questions about hospital funding. Just as we as individuals “tighten our belts,” we are seeing the same from Medicare, Medicaid, private health insurers and state indigent funds.  
Building a new and unnecessary hospital with the expectation that government entities will pick up the tab, is not only fiscally irresponsible, but also unrealistic in the current economy. 
The “full-service hospital” envisioned by the hospital advocates will bear little resemblance to their vision. In Albuquerque, as well as in the rest of the United States, hospitals are adopting policies that promote outpatient care and provide for more efficient inpatient care: lean care/fast track emergency visits, which reduce emergency wait times for non-critical patients, better coordinated emergency transportation, in-home hospital care, the closing of smaller inpatient units, the closing of inpatient hospitals, the consolidation of staffing and the use of hospitalists. Those and other changes are necessary if hospitals are to operate efficiently and safely while meeting budget targets.
The most recent development in the Valencia County hospital saga is particularly unnerving: the proliferation of offers of land to be sold to the county as a building site for the hospital. The proposals differed on the details of whether the land would  be donated, sold or a combination of a donation and a sale. What was common to each proposal involving a sale of land was the potential to drain the already depleted county coffers for the benefit of a few. 
Valencia County might be able to pay for a hospital building, but neither the county nor its taxpayers are in a position to pay for the efficient and safe operation of this hospital. Maybe someday, when Valencia County actually has more population, decent roads, well paying jobs, safe housing and a rational tax structure, we will be able to afford a sustainable hospital.
Until that time, an accessible, 24-hour urgent care facility will go a long way toward meeting the needs of the many, as opposed to building an unnecessary hospital that will benefit the few.

Elisabeth Dicharry, RN
Guy Dicharry, Attorney, RN
Los Lunas

Spanish version was appropriate
Editor:
I just read the comments from Delberta Nemitz castigating Gov. Martinez for allowing the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance to be read in Spanish.
I also read others opinions in opposition prior to the inauguration. At first, I was somewhat in agreement with their opposition.
However, my wife and I were fortunate enough to attend the ceremony on the Santa Fe Plaza, and I believe it was quite acceptable. Here’s why. First, you must understand the diverse culture of this state.
The plaza itself mirrors all the wealth of culture we experience here, it exudes it with the architecture, jewelry sales in the portio and the surrounding art that we are so known for.
That is, in part, why we all love our state and it’s surroundings. I thought the ceremony captured just that.
There was a military fly over, the American and state flags flew proudly at front stage, a prayer was said by the clergy, the Santa Clara Indian tribe did a beautiful prayer dance singing in their native language for several minutes, the pledge was given in English as we all stood in single digit frigid air with a bright blue sky.
Then a little girl with our governor’s same name stood behind the podium in a pink winter coat (we could hardly see her; she was so small) and said the pledge in Spanish. Incidentally, a young man signed, without gloves, the entire ceremony for those who are hearing impaired.
There were no foreign flags flying, no protests of any consequence, no “ignoring the official language” of our wonderful country, just a little girl honoring our country in Spanish, displaying the diverse heritage of our state and in some ways of our wonderful new governor. I am a proud conservative and I believe this was entirely appropriate.

David Hamann
Los Lunas

Renewable energy has been tried
Editor:
According to KOAT-TV and the Albuquerque Journal on Jan. 14, our electricity rates are going higher.
Yes they are, and that’s because of New Mexico’s state- mandated law, Senate Bill 418, passed in March 2007. SB 418 is a “Renewable Portfolio Standards” law that requires PNM to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewables (wind, solar and biogas) by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020. It now stands at 6 percent. 
Rural electric co-ops must have 5 percent by 2015, and 10 percent by 2020. Energy from coal and nuclear is not allowed in SB 418, even though coal is the most affordable and nuclear is the cleanest in terms of greenhouse gases.
As of April 2009, there were 28 states with renewable portfolio standards, which means that not all states have adopted this policy. Five of these states only have RPS goals, but their legislature has not mandated RPS. 
The only reason New Mexico has a renewable portfolio standard is because former Gov. Richardson wanted it for his “green energy legacy” and our Legislature went along with it. Never mind that this policy means higher electricity rates passed on to utilities’ customers. 
Even though some customers do get a “break” on their rates through different programs offered by PNM, any break on rates is subsidized by all the other rate-payers. Generally, states with renewable portfolio standards have higher energy rates than the states that don’t. With New Mexico being a poor state in the first place, coupled with the bad economy, the last thing we should be doing is penalizing businesses and citizens with higher utility rates.
Several states (i.e. Connecticut and California) are curbing their enthusiasm for renewable energy standards addressing high utility rates during an economic downturn.
Eventually, renewables will have their time and place, but as yet they are the most expensive form of energy and not at all reliable. Quoting Mr. Fine from Schott North America, “first thing industry has to do is start dealing with the reality that solar costs are too much” (Albuquerque Journal; Jan. 13). 
If electricity created by renewables were cost competitive, consumers would use more of it without a law to force consumption. In the absence of definitive science, the green energy push is a travesty on our New Mexico citizens and all Americans.  Forcing Renewable Portfolio Standards on New Mexico is in the same category as the new rules and regulations of New Mexico cap and trade imposed on us by the Richardson administration Environmental Improvement Board and the New Mexico Environment Department. 
It can also be categorized in the same slot as the federal government forcing us to buy CFL light bulbs and health insurance. It smacks of being unconstitutional.
New Mexico has an abundance of solar and wind power potential, but its share of the market should not be dictated by government and should be developed in the free-market. The people who want government mandates are the same people who do not believe in free-market and capitalism.
Renewable energy has been tried and failed in Europe and California and has been instrumental in their economic woes. New Mexico should not go down this same path.

Donna Crawford
Los Lunas

Senator needs to be responsible
Editor:
The headline says, “Sanchez has plan to help the budget.”
Well, isn’t that just great. Before 2002, we had eight years of no tax increases and a very healthy state budget under former Gov. Gary Johnson.
Where has the senator been with his plans over the past eight years while our finances were tanking?
Now, suddenly the great senator is going to save us. And his solution? To raid the permanent funds, and close what he calls tax loopholes.
How about a little fiscal responsibility senator? Like spending cuts, not in essential services, but in bloated bureaucracies, fraud and wasteful spending policies.
It is our money and we are sick of entrusting it to irresponsible, untrustworthy people.

David Vickers
Chairman
Republican Party of Valencia County