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Unhealthy for the Unwealthy
I applaud Lisa Davis' cover story on nursing homes ("Trickledown Health Care," Sept. 11). She put her finger on the fundamental cause of inadequate care: low staffing levels.

I am a nursing home ombudsman. I am also a certified nursing assistant (CNA). I have seen (and smelled and heard) my own share of the nursing home horrors described so vividly by Davis. I, too, have concluded that nursing homes provide shoddy care because they don't employ enough CNAs.

How many more CNAs do we need in nursing homes? Highly respected advocacy groups like the Washington, D.C.-based National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) recommend minimum day-shift workloads of five residents per CNA. Right now in the Bay Area, day-shift CNAs face workloads of seven to 11 residents.

Who will pay for increased CNA staffing levels? Certainly not nursing home executives who earn huge salaries while paying workers poverty-level wages. Still, there's hope.

For example, I have crafted a pilot project that sends into nursing homes CNAs who make $12 per hour. Moreover, these CNAs' day-shift workloads range from two to five residents. The important thing is that, little by little, we who care about nursing home residents show the world the dramatically positive effects (on residents and CNAs) of increased CNA staffing levels. Lisa Davis' article is a big step in the right direction.

Christopher Cherney

Bowie's Sour Notes
I was surprised by Sam Prestianni's column "What Wynton Doesn't Hear" (Music, Sept. 11). While I am somewhat partisan, having just slogged through Marsalis on Music, the bile and vitriol were enough to alarm any fair-minded reader. If Prestianni, Lester Bowie, and the rest of the Art Ensemble of Chicago really believe that people don't listen to AEC in greater numbers because Wynton Marsalis says they're no good, perhaps they just don't know any better.

Marsalis relentlessly promotes jazz as music that everyone can, and by rights should, enjoy. Perhaps this is part of what AEC and their allies find so reprehensible. Their dedication to making jazz recondite, abstruse, and esoteric demands that they treat Marsalis as a heretic.

Bowie doesn't want people like me to listen to AEC; he need have no anxiety on that score. Marsalis wants me not only to listen to jazz, but to enjoy and understand it. I recognize the compliment implicit in the invitation.

Robert Vincent Walker-Smith


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