Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and the Yakima Herald-Republic. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
The state Legislature is pondering creating a dedicated fund to supplement higher education. That’s something that is needed, and has been for a long time.
But because the proposed legislation calls for increasing taxes — a surcharge on the business and occupation tax — to fund it, the proposal has received a chilly reception. That could end thoughtful debate immediately.
“The taxes kill it for me,” said Rep. Ed. Orcutt, the ranking Republican member of the House Finance Committee.
Before new taxes are considered, lawmakers should look to the current tax revenue (projected to be a record amount, more than $50.6 billion, over the next two years). The tax-first approach is counter productive.
The need to put more money into higher education, particularly community colleges, is glaring. As the state has put billions and billions into K-12 education in response to the Supreme Court mandate to fully fund basic education in the McCleary ruling, funding for community colleges has gotten short shrift.
Walla Walla Community College and the state’s other two-year schools are a vital part of our economy. They provide training for those seeking careers in high demand fields. They also provide a more affordable place for those seeking to start work on a four-year degree.
This proposal, Workforce Education Investment Act, would provide a big boost in college financial aid, salary raises for community college faculty who teach high-demand classes, a state-sponsored student loan program for middle-class students and a program aimed at helping community and technical college students finish a degree without wasting time on courses that aren’t relevant.
The Seattle Times reported that small business leaders and independent physician clinics lined up to testify against he proposed B&O surcharge, contending the tax would hurt their bottom line and make it difficult for rural doctors running small clinics to stay in business.
But, according to The Times, state Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, said the proposal is designed to ask the employers who benefit the most from higher education to contribute to its cost.
“...(I)t seems totally reasonable to ask the businesses that depend on higher education to help families reach that goal,” he said.
It certainly does. But those businesses are already paying taxes to support higher education.
The Legislature would serve the public better by gaining consensus on what needs to be done to supplement higher education (including community colleges). Then lawmakers, and the taxpayers, can see exactly what this will cost — and a way to pay for it can be explored and weighed against the other needs of the state.
Money for community colleges seems to have dissipated substantially in recent years.
This proposal should be a high enough priority that the millions of dollars needed can be allocated within the current revenue.
Nurses deserve breaks, for everyone’s sake
So you’re going under the knife early in the morning — the optimal time, since you read that Duke University study showing that surgeons are “fresher” then and outcomes are better — but as you lie on the slab ready to go under, you notice the OR nurse’s eyes are drooping and the surgical technologist is stifling a yawn underneath her mask.
What gives? You, of course, want the entire surgical team on top of its game, rested and ready to do the job, right?
You may not know that the nurses attending to you in the operating room — or handling your care and administering your meds elsewhere in the hospital — may be nearing the end of a 12-hour shift, one in which they may not have been given adequate time for breaks to eat, rest or even go to the bathroom.
They may well end up performing admirably when it comes to your care — or their fatigue might contribute to the 250,000 patient deaths in the U.S. each year attributed to medical errors, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. (The Journal of Patient Safety has the count at 400,000 each year.) And multiple studies have shown that regular breaks for nurses reduce the risks of errors great or small — ominously called “decision regret” — yet many nurses and technologists in hospitals throughout Washington state are performing their jobs, up to 12 hours at a stretch, without adequate time to rest and recharge.
A common-sense state bill requiring nurses to take regular rest breaks and prohibiting mandatory overtime or “on-call” status has passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote and is awaiting state Senate action in the coming weeks.
For the sake of patient safety, and for the health and well-being of the medical workers themselves, we urge the Senate to follow suit and pass a substitute HB 1155 to ensure that nurses are treated with the same respect and care they give to patients under their charge.
At first blush, this legislation seems like an easy call. After all, federal regulatory safeguards are in place to limit the number of hours airline pilots can fly or truck drivers can stay behind the wheel. Those rules are for everyone’s protection, not just the worker. Nurses, then, should benefit from the same type of protections.
But we acknowledge that affording nurses this right will put a strain on hospitals in both big cities and rural locales. We acknowledge the concerns from representatives of the Washington Hospital Association, who warn that such a law could delay some hospital procedures and would cause price increases due to having to hire more nurses in a field already at a deficit. And we acknowledge that there are some instances — traumatic emergencies, for instance — in which breaks are not feasible. (That’s one reason why the bill recently was amended to exempt those assisting on organ transplants or with sexual-assault victims from breaks.)
We acknowledge all that, but affording nurses (and licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants and hospital technicians) with uninterrupted rest breaks throughout a shift remains the right and safe thing to do.
Seventeen states, including Oregon and California, have laws that prevent hospitals from using a loophole to institute mandatory overtime and skirt scheduled breaks for nurses. There is no documentation showing a causal relationship between breaks for nurses and higher patient costs — though recruiting enough nurses remains a widespread national problem.