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 OPINION PAGE - AUGUST 4, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Editorials
The Commerce News
August 4, 1999

Positive Response Crucial For BJC Medical Center
BJC Medical Center has its work cut out for it in the wake of the stinging rebuke of BJC Nursing Home from the Office of Regulatory Services. The hospital and nursing home have long struggled to gain credibility for quality health care.
It is unfortunate that the medical center cannot respond directly and publicly to serious allegations made by the state agency. Officials say patient confidentiality prevents such a response, and they say citizens should wait until their side of the story is known before rendering any judgment.
But the medical officials must also realize that it takes only allegations of misconduct to destroy credibility. It does not require proof. People who need medical treatment are not apt to go to a facility where official allegations have been made when their health or the health of a loved one is on line. Sadly, even when serious allegations are successfully rebutted, the damage has already been done.
Officials at the hospital and nursing home must be commended for their immediate response to the charges. Though they disagree with the charges, officials have moved to correct deficiencies found in the report. They acknowledge that the facility does have problems, but their emphasis appears to be on correcting the problems before engaging in debate about the seriousness of the allegations. Let's hope they are very serious.
Still, much more will be required. Like most rural hospitals, BJC Medical Center struggles yearly to keep its doors open. Truthfully, BJC is in better financial condition than many rural hospitals and has more state-of-the-art technology than most people realize. Nonetheless, most area residents seek medical treatment elsewhere when they need the services of a hospital. It is rare when the average daily census at the hospital tops 16 patients for a month. Too much of the hospital's case load comes from people who have no insurance and no money.
So it is all the more important that BJC gain and hold the confidence of its community. The medical center faces two challenges. First, it must continually provide the quality care people seek. Secondly, it must then convince the public that it provides that care. Step one is much easier than step two, but without step one, step two is impossible.
Part of this process will require the nursing home to be more aggressive about hiring and retaining certified nurses assistants (CNAs). This has been an ongoing problem. CNAs do much of the dirty work in the nursing home and receive meager pay. In a time of full employment, it is impossible to find, certify and retain CNAs when the starting wage is equal or less to what a person could earn at the outlet stores. This problem is hardly unique to BJC Medical Center. It is duplicated at virtually every hospital, nursing home or assisted living center, where staff turnover is constant. It is a fact that BJC Medical Center offers good benefits, but for many of its workers the pay is too low for the employees to afford to participate.
A nursing home is the home of last resort. Those who live there are living out their final days. All of the residents have severe health problems, and the stress of dealing with the elderly and infirm is manifested every single day. People reading the report issued by the state would be dead wrong if they assumed that BJC Nursing Home lacks a caring and dedicated staff, but the very nature of the business taxes every single employee. Perhaps no other job contains the frustrations and sadness that come with working in a nursing home.
That said, the residents of BJC Nursing Home deserve to be treated with professionalism, kindness and as much dignity as possible. Residents of the Banks-Jackson area expect a clean, safe and professional environment in the entire medical center. The state report has damaged the credibility of the entire medical center, fairly or not, and the community must see an aggressive response and a commitment to higher standards.



Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 4, 1999

Prayers To Be Deployed On Schools' Behalf
In spite of the criticism from a minority group leveled against the Commerce School System in the past two or three weeks, it remains clear that the Commerce schools are attracting the support of many, many area residents.
The schools will be the subject of a prayer rally at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15, sponsored by Jackson County Community Outreach and the churches of Commerce. They will be the subject of "prayer walking" Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 7:00 a.m., sponsored by Baptist groups. And they are the subject (along with other area schools) of a petition promising support, organized by the Rev. Warren Huddleston, pastor of the First United Methodist Church, but supported by other local churches.
This is an extraordinary showing of commitment, coming at a time when three or four people under the auspices of a group "united for education" are strongly critical of the school system.
But the supportive events are not an endorsement of school board policies or decisions or even funding. They are not endorsements of curriculum, of staffing or of anything specific. Instead, they are commitments to back the school system and the board of education in their basic role, which is to provide a safe place where children have a good learning environment.
The shootings in Littleton, CO, and Atlanta late last school year awakened citizens to the massive problems schools can confront. They have led Christians among the citizenry to appeal to a source far more powerful than law enforcement or the board of education.
Essentially, the message is, "We're behind you; we will help you; and we will pray for you."
That does not mean Christian residents of Commerce will endorse any and all actions taken or proposed by the Commerce Board of Education. It means Christian residents support the effort in educating young people, that they stand ready to help if called upon and, most important, they will appeal to God on behalf of the school system.
When the doors open in schools across America later this month, there will be trepidation about what the upcoming weeks will bring. Every student and every parent is more attuned to the possibility of violence. Although most are not fearful, everybody recognizes that the possibility of shooting or bombing, however remote, exists. Last year ended with massive disruptions through bomb scares and other threats of local school systems in the wake of the shootings.
The result is that all school personnel will be attentive to things that could lead to violence. The loners, the taunting, the picking-on and the harassment that come in every school will be watched more closely, and hopefully there will be caring intervention.
The schools always say their doors are open to the public for comment. This year, Commerce area residents are telling the schools that their arms and hearts are open in support of the schools and that their prayers are being lofted on their behalf.
The most powerful tool a Christian has is prayer. This year, it is being deployed on behalf of the city schools. It's something the community, state and nation should have started long ago.



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