- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Jan. 6

The StarNews of Wilmington on the state’s $2 billion bond proposal:

It’s instructive to note that when Gov. Pat McCrory kicked off the official campaign Tuesday endorsing the state’s $2 billion bond proposal he was not only joined by the top House Republican but the leading Senate Democrat as well.

Indeed, the bipartisan initiative that would mean millions for community colleges, the UNC System and many more infrastructure and building needs is seen by political leaders in Raleigh as a must-win for the state.

We agree.

The issue goes before voters on March 15 during the primary election, which will also include state and local races as well as a presidential primary. State financial analysts say the money can be borrowed at very good rates and that the debt can be serviced with no tax increase.

Locally, the biggest project is the $66 million Allied Health and Human Services/Nursing Building at UNCW followed by nearly $6 million for building projects at Cape Fear Community College, including needed repairs and renovations. Brunswick Community College would get $2.8 million for similar projects.

The proposal earmarks $1.1 million for the Fort Fisher State Recreation area and $885,000 for the Carolina Beach State Park.

With our aging population, UNCW is wise to invest in its nursing and human services areas. The new building would serve the area well for years and years to come.

Our community colleges have become gems for the area and voters here have been willing to help with local bond referendums to support them. There’s been talk lately that “college is not for everyone,” which is true. But it would be a tougher sale to convince us that at least a community college education is not for everyone.

Meanwhile, the two popular tourist destinations mentioned are part of our fine state parks system. They both are on the water — one on the ocean and one on the river. The Fort Fisher State Recreation area — not to be confused with the Fort Fisher State Historic site and museum — and the Carolina Beach State Park both provide easy access to the ocean and river, and for that reason they are heavily used. The state park provides a rarity — simple camping in a maritime forest-like environment. The $2 million would provide much-needed maintenance and upgrades.

The biggest disappointment in the bond proposal is what’s not there - funding for a new visitors center at the Battleship North Carolina. Battleship attendance has been booming in recent years and the 30-year-old wooden facility no longer meets the ship’s needs. State officials have at least officially recognized that it is beyond economical repair. Funding will have to be found somewhere else.

Meanwhile, let’s hope the importance of this investment in our state does not get lost amid the political fireworks of the primary season.

Even if you are not going to vote in the primary, go on March 15 and vote for this important measure, which has rare bipartisan support. We are not united that often. Let’s do some good while we can.




Jan. 5

The Asheville Citizen-Times on nurse shortages:

The nation’s nursing shortage is bad and is going to get worse. It is good to know that Western North Carolina’s largest hospital is moving aggressively to address the problem and that a Henderson County hospital has in fact been able to maintain a full staff.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1.05 million openings for registered nurses through 2022. As many as 300,000 won’t be filled with current graduation trends, according to a 2012 study by the American Journal of Medical Quality.

As of a year ago, North Carolina was short about 12,900 nurses, and North Carolina in fact is in the middle of the states nationally, according to a survey by Rasmussen College. As the state’s population grows and ages, the shortage probably will increase. Among the many baby boomers retiring and needing more medical care will be many nurses.

Additionally, some specialties, such as operating room and emergency department nursing, are unpopular. A new generation of nurses is less willing to work traditional 12-hour shifts. And there is too little clinical-training capacity, despite a steady flow of new nursing graduates.

Mission Health employed 3,272 nurses as of Sept. 30, an increase of 162 from the previous year, but has 276 vacancies.

“We were tapped out for nurses in the local area,” said Andy Steele, who left the Atlanta area to join the intensive care unit at Mission Hospital. “The challenge was how to recruit nurses from outside the state and the region, and get them to move their family to a new area.”

Lori Halula, director of talent acquisition at Mission Health, called the shortage “close to critical.” Mission is offering eligible nurses signing bonuses of $5,000 to $10,000 and bonuses worth $4,000 to employees who refer nurses who get hired, she said.

To retain the nurses with the know-how, Mission has created committees to allow employees to be involved, Halula said.

One advantage WNC has is that it is an attractive place to live. That is one reason - though not the only one - that Hendersonville-based Park Ridge Health is one of the few hospitals around with no nursing shortage.

About 300 nurses work at Park Ridge Health, said Craig Lindsey, the company’s chief nursing officer. “Today we have 14 nursing openings we are in the process of filling,” Lindsey said. “This places us close to a 5 percent vacancy rate in nursing.”

Park Ridge’s top staff take the time to get to know the nurses, Lindsey said. “We are available and willing to hear their point of view,” he said.

“Becker’s Health Care Review lists Park Ridge Health as one of the top 150 places to work in health care in the nation, and we are the only provider in WNC to make that exclusive national list, which includes Mayo Clinic, Stanford, Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins,” said hospital spokesman Jason Wells.

Park Ridge’s success illustrates the point made by Tina Gordon, CEO of the Raleigh-based North Carolina Nurses Association, that shortages may vary due to company policies. Additionally, “It depends on who you talk to, what part of the state you’re talking about, as well as the specialty,” she said.

Park Ridge’s success is especially impressive in that it is not located in a major urban area. Gordon said rural areas everywhere generally experience more labor needs than metro areas.

In a way, Mission’s also is a success story given its size and complexity, with specialized jobs that may be hard to fill. But it will have to redouble efforts to remain adequately staffed to meet tomorrow’s challenges.




Jan. 5

The News & Observer of Raleigh on President Obama’s move on gun violence:

If it was not an eloquent president’s finest hour, it was close, this Tuesday in the East Room of the White House.

The president, surrounded by those who have been victims of gun violence - including former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and relatives of those killed in shootings in a Charleston, S.C., church, on the campus of Virginia Tech and in Newtown, Conn. - was passionate and emotional, unafraid to shed tears over deaths that might have been prevented with stronger gun laws on the books. Cynics and critics, of course, have long said some of the control measures the president has supported wouldn’t have stopped the killings in some of the places around the country that have seen bloodshed.

But the president said preventing even one death would make protective laws worthwhile.

“The United States of America,” he said, “is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.”

As to the gun lobby’s cries about “rights,” Obama said other rights count: “Because our right to worship freely and safely - that right was denied to Christians in Charleston. And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek. They had rights, too.”

When the killings of 26 people, including 20 children, happened in Newtown, Conn., just over three years ago, it appeared America might at last be ready for meaningful action on tougher gun control laws.

America was. President Obama was. Some members of Congress were. But the National Rifle Association wasn’t, and that was that. The gun lobby exerts a tyrannical threat over members of state legislatures and Congress that goes something like this: Support gun control, even mild control, and we will pour money into your next election, and you’ll be gone.

Now, after October’s mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Ore., and then the San Bernardino shootings at a social services center, the president is moving to executive action to strengthen gun laws. Those sellers at gun shows, for example, who have skirted background check requirements because they’re not classified as federally licensed dealers will find themselves under more scrutiny and perhaps a different classification. Other steps may be coming.

The president is well aware that true change, that meaningful action to stem gun violence, will have to come from Congress, where the NRA’s death grip (sadly, a literal as well as figurative term) will stop anything substantive. If the deaths of 20 children and the subsequent episodes of violence, after all, aren’t enough to spur action, what is?

The president should move ahead. He has been in his last election, and he is very near the final year of his presidency. The gun lobby will fight him, but it holds no political sway over him anymore. And House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected Obama out of hand, indicating he might trust another president to address loopholes in gun laws, but not this one. Executive orders, even if they’re challenged in the courts, may be the only way to strengthen even slightly gun laws.

And then there’s public sentiment. The president said Americans can use their individual power to get Congress to do the right thing: “But if we love our kids and care about their prospects, and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote. We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do.”

Gun control is not, contrary to what opponents say, about destroying the 2nd Amendment or taking guns away from law-abiding citizens, and it never has been. It’s about reason. It’s about safety. It’s about trying to stop, even once, people like the mentally impaired young man in Newtown from taking innocent lives.



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