November 21, 2013

Letters to the editor: Bayside project bad for Portland

Your article about the Portland Planning Board’s Nov. 12 session to consider the proposed midtown project raises several disturbing issues (“$38 million Bayside project nears final vote in Portland,” Nov. 13).

A reader argues that the proposed midtown project in Bayside has too many downsides to be a benefit for the city.

Artist’s rendering

First, board member Jack Soley is quoted once and paraphrased once as saying “we” (presumably the citizens of Portland) will simply have to “get over” several elements of the project: that the Bayside Trail may be in shadow for most of the day and subject to flooding, and that the project will lack a “neighborhood feel.”

What an astonishingly cavalier attitude on the part of a public official! If the trail is in shadow, it will be ice-covered and dangerous for months in the winter; flooding will make it unusable at other times.

And isn’t Portland’s reputation as a livable city built on having a neighborhood feel? Why would we encourage a project that diminishes that?

Second, the project’s developer has indicated that the corridors between some of the taller buildings might act as wind tunnels, with winds strong enough to cause damage or injury.

Why would the Planning Board condone this? I hope the developer, having made this admission, is sufficiently insured to cover future lawsuits.

Third, board member Stuart O’Brien stated that asking the developer to carry out a building shadow and wind study would be “unreasonable,” because there would not be enough time before the company breaks ground.

Doesn’t this suggest that the board considers this project a “done deal” and is simply going through the motions of the hearing process?

Unfortunately, we cannot vote board members out of office when, as here, they make no effort to hide their allegiance to a project that will blight our city.

Ellen D. Murphy

Portland

Limiting rehab services bad way to trim Medicare

Now that the government shutdown and debt ceiling matters have been temporarily resolved, Congress will be required to address several important issues over the next several months, one of which is ensuring that Medicare’s payments to physicians are not cut by nearly 25 percent.

Congress has repeatedly acted to override these cuts – usually by cutting other health care providers.

Under the guise of “reform,” some policymakers in Washington want to make it more difficult for qualified Medicare beneficiaries to access intensive medical rehabilitation and nursing care that can only be provided in rehabilitation hospitals. They would do it by revising a technical policy called the “60 Percent Rule.”

This policy requires hospitals like New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland to ensure that at least 60 percent of all patients have medical diagnoses in one of 13 medical categories, such as strokes, neurological impairments, hip fractures and trauma cases. It is antiquated, quota-based and can have a rationing effect.

The proposed change will increase the percentage from 60 percent to 75 percent, an increase that would make the rationing effects worse. Shifting seniors away from rehabilitation hospitals simply because their diagnoses are not included on an outdated list of medical conditions is not “reform.”

Thankfully, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree recognizes this and recently signed a letter to Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing her concerns.

There are multiple alternatives available to achieve reform in our healthcare system, including within the rehabilitation hospital community, but reducing patients’ access to our services simply because of their diagnoses is not one of them.

(Continued on page 2)

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