Opinion, Analysis, Discussion

Letter: Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center needs full Emergency Room staffing

July 22, 2014 — 

Veteran talks of ER experiences

I’m a veteran who uses the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center for my medical problems. I’ve had to use the emergency room five times and each time I was there a minimum of five hours.

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Editorial: It’s time to put a Northeast Stephens Street crosswalk on sure footing

July 22, 2014 — 

The city of Roseburg got closer this month to punching the button on action that would bring a pedestrian crosswalk to Northeast Stephens Street. Now it’s up to the City Council to decide whether this project has legs.

A city advisory committee decided unanimously on July 10 to recommend the council plan for the project in the fiscal year that starts in July 2015. This was a good step. It addresses safety concerns raised by Roseburg residents about the mile-long stretch that lacks a place for people to legally cross the five-lane street.

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Guest column: Employee survey shows low ratings for Roseburg VA

July 22, 2014 — 

In January of this year several Roseburg Veterans Affairs employees asked if I could get a copy of the 2013 VA employee satisfaction survey. After attempting to get this in formation from the Roseburg and Veterans Integrated Service Network Freedom of Information Act offices with no success, I requested the survey from Washington FOIA on Feb. 27. I finally received the report on July 3.

The 2013 employee satisfaction report shows that, like the veterans, the employees rate the Roseburg facility very low compared to other VA facilities. The veterans report rated Roseburg in the bottom 4 percent of all VA facilities. Unfortunately, unlike the veterans report that compared all VA facilities, the employee report only compared VISN 20 results for comparison. VISN 20 is the regional office that oversees Washington, Oregon, Alaska and parts of Idaho Montana and California. The report does show an average for all VA facilities and Roseburg was consistently below this average.

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Letter: U.S. citizens deserve better treatment from their own government

July 21, 2014 — 

Tell your reps. to enforce laws

I’m tired of being treated as a third-class citizen by the government.

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Letter: Education is important, so step up and rebuild Yoncalla High School

July 21, 2014 — 

Build school for the kids

In response to the editorial on Yoncalla High School, I say rebuild it. I live in Rice Valley, in the Yoncalla tax base. Even if it raised the property tax double to $1,000 over 20 years, that’s only $4.17 a month; big deal.

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Letter: Roseburg assisted living resident admires kindness and patience of caregivers

July 21, 2014 — 

Caregivers are appreciated

Recently, there was a letter in the Public Forum about how wonderful caregivers are. I just had to write to say how much I agree.

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Letter: Should we offset global warming by using nuclear energy?

July 21, 2014 — 

An alternative to fossil fuels

If global warming is the existential danger to civilization claimed by so many, I’d like to offer some thoughts for consideration.

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Editorial: Feds effectively limit Oregon’s timber industry

July 20, 2014 — 

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s annual report on timber production shows the need to increase logging on federal lands.

The report contains good news and restates a troubling trend. On the plus side, timber harvests in 2013 topped 4 billion board feet for the first time since 2006. Oregon produced enough timber to build 419,920 houses.

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Publisher’s Notebook: Does short-term commission appointment need so many steps?

July 20, 2014 — 

I’m not a fan of government committees.

They typically muddy things and are often used as scapegoats for leaders who can’t or won’t make decisions on their own.

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Letter: We should help fund health occupations building at Umpqua Community College

July 18, 2014 — 

We need to support UCC

It was a beautiful sunny summer Sunday morning out on the back deck eating a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, and reading The News-Review. It hardly gets better than that. In the personals was the best of the day. A man, 5’9”, in his “early 80s,” was looking for a healthy non-smoking, non-drinking woman over 65 for a “long-term relationship.”

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Guest column: Local groups are working to address doctor shortage

July 18, 2014 — 

A recent letter to the editor noted just how hard it is to find a doctor, both locally and at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The problem of a medical workforce is a problem many years in the making and is just now getting the attention it deserves.

Locally, we have recognized the workforce problem for many years and have taken a coordinated approach to addressing our workforce issues. Mercy, Architrave and DCIPA have a coordinated recruiting approach and have been tremendously successful, so that we have recruited 10 new primary care doctors and five new specialists to Douglas County. We have recruited many new physician assistants and nurse practitioners to increase access. In addition, Mercy, Architrave and DCIPA are actively pursuing the possibility of a family practice training program here in Roseburg.

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Roses & Thorns

July 18, 2014 — 

ROSE

Sober salute

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Letter: Politicians should secure our borders, not supply our contraceptives

July 17, 2014 — 

Hobby Lobby’s position is fair

It appears that Harry Reid and the Democrat senators are more worried about your sex life than they are about our national security.

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Guest column: How can we address the needs of the homeless in our midst?

July 17, 2014 — 

There’s no place like home. In the early 1980s, my family was driving home from the Portland airport after our ninth trip in three years to Guatemalan refugee camps in Southern Mexico. At some point as we were driving back to Roseburg, I was struck by the thought, “This freeway is mine!” In other words, I had come home to a place that belonged to me — Interstate 5 and the familiar landscapes and towns along the way were all where I lived and could call “home.”

At the time I was thinking of the Guatemalan refugees who had been uprooted from their villages as they fled the genocide going on in their country. The ones we met had been hosted by kind people in southern Mexico, but regardless of how they’d been welcomed by strangers, they still deeply missed their homeland.

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Letter: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife should get deer out of campgrounds and back into the woods

July 16, 2014 — 

Ways to fix ODFW budget

I recently read that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is $32 million short in its budget; not enough hunters are buying tags. In the same paper, I read that campers are being harassed in campgrounds by hungry deer. Putting these together, I realized I haven’t seen a single deer out in the woods where I live this year. They have all been in somebody’s yard or a campground.

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Guest column: Douglas County students can be the lifeblood of our future health care system

July 16, 2014 — 

Oregon is facing a major health care workforce shortage. According to the Oregon Employment Department, the growth and aging of our population contribute to this crisis, creating the need for an estimated 76,000 additional health care workers by 2020.

In a report from 2011, the Oregon Healthcare Workforce Institute stated that Oregon’s health care industry contributed a total of 325,528 jobs or 14 percent of the state’s job market and in Douglas County, a strong health care workforce will dramatically increase rural health status and improve our community’s economic vitality by adding jobs.

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Letter: Should the city of Roseburg restrict lawn watering?

July 15, 2014 — 

Conserve water during dry spell

I understand Roseburg only has one third of the water it usually has.

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Letter: Re-establish Intensive Care Unit in Roseburg VA Medical Center

July 15, 2014 — 

ICU needed in Roseburg VA

All I can say about the June 25 opinion letter titled “Will VA close inpatient care?” is that the writer nailed it with two words: ”systematically destroyed.”

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Police Log: Dogs maul chickens

July 15, 2014 — 

These logs are the highlights of initial emergency calls and reports to the Douglas County Dispatch Center. They do not represent all the incidents or their final outcomes.

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Editorial: Police videos lose value if viewers are sparse

July 15, 2014 — 

“Smile,” began the old catchphrase connected to one of television’s first reality shows. “You’re on ‘Candid Camera.’”

There may not be much smiling in the videos recorded by Roseburg police officers. Will they be candid? That’s yet to be seen.

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Letter: Contraceptive coverage by insurance plans recognized as a religious choice, as well as a health choice

July 14, 2014 — 

Outcry seems unfounded

From the cries of anguish published in various articles and opinions in this paper, one would think the recent Supreme Court decision denies female Hobby Lobby employees access to artificial methods of birth control. This concern appears unfounded.

The owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family, have no objection to the use of 16 of the 20 preventive contraceptives approved by the FDA. Hobby Lobby will continue its practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees.

However, they will not pay for four that are designed to prevent the fertilized egg from developing. They have a moral objection. They believe that life begins at conception. Paying for birth control of this type, considered to be abortifacients, violates their freedom of religion. As a reminder, the constitution protects “the free exercise of religion.” This not only guarantees freedom to worship as one pleases, but also protects the right to live one’s life by a set of religious principles both privately and publicly.

Even if a closely held corporation objects to all forms of artificial birth control on religious grounds, this does not deny women access to birth control. Most methods are available and very affordable.

Sanford Hillman

Oakland

Letter: Contraception issue draws further interest

July 14, 2014 — 

SCOTUS points to ponder

I want to commend the excellent July 6 letter to the editor. The writer really nailed the problems with the Supreme Court of the United States; there are too many Catholics on the court. Those of us who know Catholics, know that Catholic men take their orders from Rome. Oh, and we should be careful not to have any Baptist men, like the owner of Hobby Lobby on the court, either.

The only good Christians on the court are the females, as they know that employers should stay out of the bedrooms of their employees. Employers have no business stopping women from using birth control, just because they believe that abortifacients are the same as killing an innocent child. They should pay for all birth control no matter what, no exceptions.

Of course, the Obama administration was wrong when it made contraception mandate “accommodations” for non-profits. There is no difference between non-profits, family-owned, and publicly-held corporations.

This opinion by SCOTUS is “... an outrageous step against the rights of America’s women ...” (Nancy Pelosi) and “... takes us closer to a time in history when women had no choice and no voice ....” (Senator Patty Murray). Thank God they can’t stop women, but they will have to use black-market pharmacies where you have to pay cash for your abortifacients.

Oh, yeah, that reminds me: It’s not the employer health plan, it’s the employee health plan which is a right, not a benefit for working at these companies. I’m really happy that Obamacare has cleared up this whole mess. Just because the employer pays for a benefit plan, doesn’t mean the employer should have any control over it. The bureaucrats at Health and Human Services make much better decisions.

Richard Hector

Roseburg

Letter: No acceptable excuse for condition of Roseburg National Cemetery Annex

July 14, 2014 — 

Don’t disgrace our veterans

It has been a little more than a year since my first letter regarding the grounds at the new Roseburg National Cemetery Annex in Roseburg. To summarize: Thousands of dollars were spent to put in a beautiful new cemetery for our veterans and within a couple of months of the initial interments last March, two-thirds of the grounds was dead or dying. There were many excuses given, none of which made any sense.

One response indicated that some money had been acquired through the VA to resolve the lack of a sprinkler system around the columbine wall area. This sprinkler system and the laying of sod (over the dead weeds/grass) was finished two days prior to the Governor making a visit last month.

I invite all to drive through and look at the grounds. The one end near the flag and where internments are currently happening is gorgeous. The remaining two-thirds of the grounds has dead weeds (no grass), some dying trees and the addition of water bags at the base of many trees; several of those appear to be empty.

I know the primary importance is the healthcare of our veterans, but also important is the care and appearance of their resting place. How many cemeteries do we see with dead or dying grounds? There is no excuse that can be made that is acceptable; it’s a disgrace to our veterans.

Joyce Smith

Roseburg

Publisher’s Notebook: Care packages for soldiers really make a difference

July 13, 2014 — 

Imagine walking around in 100-degree temperatures, lugging 85 to 100 pounds of gear (body armor, ammo, water, rifle, etc.) for maybe 12 hours in a land thousands of miles from home, not knowing if your next step will be your last.

Then imagine finally arriving safely back in your camp, unloading all of that gear and finding a white box on your bunk filled with treats from home.

That would be a pretty cool way to end a day in Afghanistan, wouldn’t it?

Steve Frack thinks so. It’s why he’s been volunteering his time to fill lots of gift boxes to send to the men and women we send to places like Afghanistan to do our dirty work for us.

And if you don’t think war is dirty work, you’ve never been to war.

Frack is one of those “retired” guys who never really retired. He sold his veterinary clinic in Southern California some eight years ago and moved to Roseburg with his wife, Toni.

A longtime member of Rotary, Frack didn’t take long to get involved in his new community. It’s what Rotary is all about and why communities like ours are better off than they would be without Rotary and other service clubs.

It also didn’t take him long to get back to being a veterinarian. Frack generally works four days a week at Douglas County Low Cost Veterinary Services in Roseburg, where he’s already performed more than 6,000 surgeries.

Frack’s support for the military has been a constant since he helped with wounded military dogs during the war in Vietnam.

“I’ve always thought of what it would be like to be in a foxhole in the middle of nowhere and someone hands you a box from home,” he told me.

I’ve gotten a box from home in the middle of nowhere and it was priceless.

With the help of some funds from his North Roseburg Rotary Club (I’m a member and we meet Tuesday evenings at Kowloon’s), Frack has been sending five boxes a month to two different commanders overseas. It’s easier to send the care packages to the commanders than directly to the soldiers because of the constant troop movement. The commanders dole the packages out to the soldiers.

Each box is filled with nonperishable items such as granola bars, candy, nuts, razors, lip balm, Q-tips, toothbrushes, eye drops, oatmeal (Umpqua Oats donated an entire pallet of oatmeal cups) and beef jerky, thanks to a donation of jerky from the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe.

The postage runs roughly $15 per box, according to Frack.

The need is expected to grow with the deployment of Roseburg’s Charlie Company. That Oregon National Guard Company will head to Afghanistan in September to provide security at Bagram Airfield near Kabul. Charlie Company is part of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment, which includes many Douglas County soldiers.

Frank has been in touch with Charlie Company commanders and will start shipping the care packages to them once they reach Afghanistan.

Bagram Airfield is the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan. Before the U.S. took control, the base often fell under Taliban control and continues to be a constant enemy target.

So Charlie Company’s task won’t be a walk in the park.

Frack attended a recent Charlie Company barbecue to get a sense for what the troops might want in the care boxes.

“Bubble gum seems to be a big hit,” he said. “It gets super hot there this time of year, so everything we ship has to be sealed so it doesn’t deteriorate.”

Hand wipes and body powder are also popular among the troops, according to Frack.

Magazines such as Smithsonian and National Geographic are in high demand as well. “Many of the soldiers don’t have Internet access, so the magazines provide a good source for entertainment,” he said. “And the soldiers often share them with the Afghan children, who want to learn English.”

And you can never go wrong with candy and sunflower seeds. Frack said the soldiers also share the candy with the local children. Many of the soldiers have children of their own back home and I suspect the connection provides some semblance of reality amid the insanity that surrounds that region today.

Frack could use some help and that’s where I’m hoping you come in. If you could help defray the shipping costs, $15 will send one box. Your donation through the North Roseburg Rotary Club (P.O. Box 22, Roseburg, OR 97470 Attn. Steve Frack) would also be tax-deductible.

If you are willing and able to donate goods, or would just like to volunteer to help pack or ship boxes, contact Frack at 541-672-5219.

This isn’t about supporting a war. It’s about our troops; our sons and daughters, moms and dads, husbands and wives who are serving us far, far from home.

The least we can do is maybe make their time there a little bit better.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.

Editorial: The community must support Umpqua Community College’s expansion

July 13, 2014 — 

No one wants to see a promised $8.5 million from the Oregon Legislature get stripped away from Umpqua Community College.

The state funding has been designated for the college to construct a $17 million building to educate future health care workers.

Landing the cash, however, means matching it with funds from Douglas County. Coming up with the best way to do that has the college’s board of trustees and President Joe Olson in a bit of a quandary.

They’ve resisted forming a campaign to raise the funds through a bond measure, because county voters soundly rejected a $40 million proposal two years ago.

Instead, trustees believe they can raise $5 million from grants and donors. They’ve voted to borrow the remainder, as much as $3.5 million, and repay the loan with increased student fees.

They expect the fee to be $5 or $6 per credit and they’ve given themselves until September to decide when they would implement the fee.

We question this approach and urge the trustees to spend this interim period planning a campaign and fundraising effort so the students don’t have to bear so much of the cost.

Why? Primarily because of the nature of the college. Umpqua Community College was founded 50 years ago by this community because it was needed, wanted and approved by voters.

Expansion of the college should come about for the same reasons. Community support and community funding must be shown. It shouldn’t be hard to find. Everyone knows we have an aging population in Douglas County and the need for health care workers is increasing.

If trustees were to propose a bond again, it would be for a much lower dollar amount, the purpose would be better defined, and the economic climate just might feel a little more comfortable to voters.

The college also may have endeared itself to many voting families by reopening its pool, setting up a veterans center on campus, establishing a satellite campus in South County and offering free tuition to top county graduates.

Spreading the cost of a new health, nursing and science building across all Douglas County property owners would reduce the cost per person dramatically, as well as reducing the term of the bond.

Placing the extra fees on students could double their fees. Full-time students taking 15 credits pay an average of $85 per term now and that would spike to $165 or $175 per term, or as much as $525 for a single school year.

As recently as June 18, trustees said a loan backed by student fees would be instituted only if the college didn’t meet its fundraising goal by the February deadline set by the state. It seems premature to make a decision about a deadline that’s seven months away.

The trustees need the philosophical and financial support of the entire community before constructing this building. Nearly one-quarter of the cost shouldn’t be borne by students attending classes over the next 20 years.

Besides, the college would also like to build a new industrial arts building and the state has appropriated $8 million toward that building. Where will the college turn for the matching $8 million by 2017 if it’s already tapped out its students, and ducked the approval of voters on the health, nursing and science building?

Letter: Do the work for the agreed upon pay or find another job

July 11, 2014 — 

Bonus pay unmerited

I promised myself I wouldn’t write a Public Forum letter, but this payroll debacle in the Veterans Administration made me go back on that resolve.

“VA gave bonuses to 65 percent of execs.” “Merit pay came despite delays.” There were numerous other quotes from the articles, too.

I was employed by the California Highway Patrol for more than 30 years. I retired from top management with responsibility for hundreds of personnel and multimillion dollar budgets, but never heard of a bonus or merit pay reward.

I did what I was paid to do to the best of my ability and felt lucky to have the job. Once, I left behind more than 800 hours ($35,000) of unpaid overtime, because policy didn’t allow it when I was promoted. Was I happy about it? No, but getting promoted sure felt good. That’s what you do when you’re devoted to your work.

It’s disgusting to see bonuses paid to any governmental employees who swore to do their job to the best of their ability. They knew the pay and benefits scale when they went to work and should be happy to have a good job with promotional potential for pay raises. If they don’t like the job as originally offered, quit and find another, if they can in this economy.

If employees don’t do a good job, with or without bonuses, fire them and find someone who will. More than 12,000 new applicants just graduated from our two major universities. They’re eager to work, probably starting at far less than the dissatisfied workers made before they were fired.

Many people live on Social Security, welfare or less. They’d love to just put food on the table from a very small portion of what those VA executives were paid.

John W. Hope

Winchester

Editorial: Roses & thorns

July 11, 2014 — 

ROSE

Taking a handstand

People are often told that to be successful in life, it’s essential to be flexible. Roseburg’s Hannah Truitt has that quality in body, mind and spirit.

The 18-year-old coach at Umpqua Valley Gymnastics has been putting her limber limbs through their paces for most of her life, starting with her first gymnastics lessons at the age of 4. She and her family gave up a lot as the young athlete grew stronger and more accomplished. For years, Truitt put in hours of practice while her friends moved on to social occasions without her. It all crashed to a halt when Truitt crashed, falling on her head during routine exercises in the summer before her sophomore year at Roseburg High. She dropped out of the sport when chronic pain prevented her from advancing her skills.

Determined to take care of her body, Truitt started a regimen of weight lifting and cardiovascular exercise. She earned scholarship money and performed community service as Miss Umpqua Valley. When she was ready, she returned to gymnastics — as a coach inspiring kids and as a student with a stronger-than-ever focus and dedication. She’s preparing to compete again in the fall and hopes to be accepted to the Oregon State University gymnastics team.

We’re betting that Truitt’s strength of character will vault her to the top of her ambitions, however high they are.

ROSE

Keeping afloat

The first person who stayed afloat by inflating an animal bladder and carrying it into the water must have been really smart.

He or she found a creative way to keep from sinking underwater. He or she wasn’t about to drown.

It’s still wise to have a personal flotation device. And because of advancements in life vests, there’s no need to pump up animal bladders.

You can even borrow a life vest for a day or weekend from the Myrtle Creek Police Department and the South Umpqua Memorial Pool in Myrtle Creek. The life vests can be checked out at the pool at the corner of Rice Street and Orchard Drive.

We assume only a tiny percentage of the population will borrow one this summer. The offer, however, serves as a good reminder for a large number of people.

Just by making the life vests available and promoting it, the police and pool have contributed to public safety. The loan program highlights the fact that life vests save lives.

Rivers are strong attractions during hot summer days, like the ones this week. Whether it’s because of too much sun, too much drink or too much bravado, too many people get into trouble.

Life vests are a smart way to rise above those problems.

ROSE

Destination met

A group of Dixonville churchgoers met a goal that’s helped them establish a healthy habit. Members of Pine Grove Community Church completed their 7,700-mile pilgrimage to Jerusalem on Sunday.

The members began walking together twice a month, wearing pedometers to track their steps so they could convert them to miles. Their pastor, Dennis Kreiss, kept track of their miles, as the crow flies, and boasted their success on the church’s reader board.

Organizer and parishioner Valerie Gordon wanted to show her fellow church members that walking could make a difference in their health and weight. That’s exactly what happened. And by doing it together, they got to know one another better and collectively work toward their goal.

While the destination was symbolic, they now need to return home, so Pastor Kreiss suggests they just keep walking.

Others have reached the same conclusion. More than half of the walkers who participated said they will continue walking. Two-thirds said they feel better about their health and plan to continue exercising.

They’ve been labeled “walking warriors” at their church. We’re going to call them successful and inspiring. May others follow their great example of fellowship, exercise and good health.

Letter: How VA hospitals stack up to veteran’s experiences

July 10, 2014 — 

VA audits were way off base

This is regarding the June 22 front page article in The News-Review. The first thing I checked was the source of the audit and of course it was completed by the Veterans Administration.

The Roseburg appointment audit numbers in the table are a total fantasy. If we can expect similar audits every two weeks and if improvements to the system depend on those audits then we will continue to see no improvement to the system.

There needs to be an audit of the veterans’ experiences with the system, not an audit of the VA’s books and record keeping. It has already been established that the VA’s reporting is full of holes.

As a disabled veteran, my own experience is not even close to the numbers on the table in the article. The “established patient wait time for primary care” of 4.46 days has never happened for me. The usual time has been four to six weeks or more. The “established patient wait for specialty care provider” has never been less than four months for me. About the only way to get into mental health is to tell them you’re suicidal, and don’t even get me started on the emergency room, where the waiting times are terrible.

Truth in our government is a quality that seems to be lacking in these times and these numbers continue that trend. Just ask the veterans who fought for this country.

Dennis Davis

Roseburg

Letter: Politicos deserve no special financial or health care considerations

July 9, 2014 — 

Get insurance just like we do

I’m writing to suggest that after Republicans, Democrats, presidents, vice presidents and other politicians leave office, they would not be allowed to live off of taxpayers’ money.

They should be required to find work and file for unemployment benefits, just like everyone else. They should also be mandated to get health insurance with no income and no job. If they don’t do it, they, too, should receive fines, like everyone else.

Loretta M. Keys

Roseburg

Letter: Health care wait time in Douglas County not limited to veterans

July 9, 2014 — 

More doctors are needed

Taking a long time to be able to see a doctor is not limited to veterans. It is a way of life for many people in our community, even if they have good insurance. My doctor referred me to a specialist and it took three months to get in to see him and then more than two additional months to have the needed surgery.

I know many people who no longer even try to see primary care doctors here in Roseburg. They go to Medford, Eugene or Portland for specialists and the emergency room or urgent care for routine matters. If your doctor retires or leaves the area, plan on a two- to four-month wait to find a doctor who will accept and see you as a patient.

Our medical care is in trouble and it started before Obama. We need more health care workers and until that problem is fixed, the situation will only get worse for both veterans and private patients.

Ruth E. Saily

Roseburg

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