To the editors:
Thank you for your recent piece on nursing at Cook County Hospital, Neighborhood News, October 26th. It points to a crucial and often overlooked issue that is fundamental to health care restructuring, that is the recognition and empowerment of health care providers who are the backbone of our health care system. Nurses don't typically make the headlines, but they are indeed providing services that are most often associated with achieving and recovering good health. Despite our society's persistent infatuation with a high tech curing approach, most of our health problems demand knowledgeable and skillful caring (prenatal education and counseling, health maintenance for children, long term care for the chronically ill and elderly) that are part of the art and science of nursing.
Hospitals have recently been forced to reckon with nurses' demands that their worth be compensated fairly. One can choose to attribute increased salaries for nurses to hospitals' "hard-sell campaigns to hire nurses." But one cannot ignore the role of organized nurses, primarily through collective bargaining, in demanding that their services be recognized as the life of the hospital. People are admitted to hospitals, after all, because they need nursing care! There are many reasons why hospitals are having a hard time meeting costs, including misplaced management priorities. The fact that a just wage for nurses has finally entered into the cost of "doing business" for hospitals is not one of them.
Ms. Todd-Moore aptly states, it's not just about money. Clearly, nurses don't go into health care for the money. However, if our society is going to turn around its current disastrous course in health policy and practice, it needs to honestly recognize the contribution of all health care providers. That recognition must come in decision-making power as well as in dollars.
District 21 INA
West Side Medical Center