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Friday, November 12, 2004




It's time to reform workers' comp system

I am an orthopedic surgeon who has practiced in Hawaii for more than 30 years. During this time I have observed the deterioration of the Hawaii workers' comp system. In my view, two issues override the others:

» Access to care. Orthopedic surgeons are one of the main specialist providers for work comp injuries as theses injuries are predominantly to the musculo-skeletal system. I am aware that many orthopedists no longer will see injured workers or have severely limited their access to care. The reasons are twofold: Remuneration is low, and the paperwork required is onerous. Some of the doctors have complained to me that it actually costs them money to take care of the injured workers. A specific example of decreased access to care is the fact that Straub Clinic closed down its Occupational Medicine department last May.

» Return to work. Hawaii's workers have one of the lowest return-to-work rates in the country. The sooner an injured worker returns to work, the better is his prognosis for recovery. It is my opinion that decreased access to care to Hawaii's better physicians correlates with the delayed return to work because of the dependence on and overuse of passive care modalities, such as massage, acupuncture and narcotic medications. Short-term passive care can be helpful. But to continue it on for many months encourages the patient to remain disabled and prevents his active rehabilitation.

Thomas Grollman M.D.
Lihue, Kauai

Friedman column perpetuates division

Thomas Friedman's Nov. 5 column, "Two nations, under God," is an interesting example of why the divisions he loathes continue to deeply divide this country. Unfortunately, his own portrayal of the issues only serves to perpetuate that division.

For example, in the third paragraph, Friedman states that the separation of church and state "bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers" ought to remain "inviolate." However, Friedman is misapplying our founding documents if he thinks they relate to such current issues as prayer in school or religious displays. The 1st Amendment simply says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Recent displays of the Ten Commandments in courthouses have not involved Congress making any laws. Neither has prayer in school. Friedman perpetuates a myth about the Constitution's position on religion. ("Separation of church and state" is a phrase not found anywhere in that document.)

Other examples abound. At this rate, there is not much hope for reconciliation between divided parties. Let us hope that, in the hands of better writers, these issues will get discussed in a manner which fosters genuine healing for our nation.

Phil Hollstein
Kailua

Commissioner did not intend to make slur

The headline for Tony Sommer's Oct. 28 article, "Community lashes out after slur," was sensationalism at its best. I don't think quoting three people is representative of Kauai's community, especially when two of them have axes to grind against Kauai County Police Commissioner Leon Gonsalves Jr.

I know Gonsalves personally and professionally and there is no doubt in my mind that he does not have a mean or racial bone in his body. I am 100 percent "pake" and I did not take offense.

The article's Jewish reference was in my opinion, mean-spirited and racial. Gonsalves was unaware of Michael Landon's and Deputy Chief Dan Venneman's Jewish ethnicity and I know that it doesn't matter to him.

An innocent mistake was made with no intent to "slur" anyone.

Gil Chang
Kapaa, Kauai

Hawaiian Nation laws should be observed

This is in response to an attorney for a non-Hawaiian student arguing that Kamehameha Schools' Hawaiian heritage policy is a racial exclusion that violates federal law (Star-Bulletin, Nov. 5).

This attorney might have been watching Fox News, which reported that the Hawaiian Islands were given to the United States. What was missing was the explanation that it was given in the same way that a wallet is given during a mugging. The United States overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii and has made subsequent verbal apologies but little else and has not been held accountable.

If you are a fair-minded person that believes in justice is not only for the rich and powerful, then you will agree that federal law prevails except where an aggressor nation overthrows a peaceful nation that was not a threat and when the aggressor nation admits this act was wrong, then the laws of the peaceful nation supercede or trump the laws of the aggressor nation.

So whenever Hawaiian issues surface the choice is simple. Allow Kamehameha Schools to continue the policies that were put in motion before Hawaii was overthrown or give the islands back to the Hawaiians.

Smoky Guerrero
Mililani

Voters want lawmakers to work together

Your Nov. 5 editorial "Lingle, lawmakers need to get along -- for voters' sake" hit the nail on the head. It's clear that voters in Hawaii rejected the strategy of the Lingle Republicans. John Kerry won handily, their handpicked Board of Education candidates lost badly and they lost one-third of their members in the House.

Having BOE candidates simply parrot the governor's line that what the Legislature did on reinventing education was "shibai" and fake went nowhere. Having House candidates have as their main platform their support for the governor was rejected. Having the Republican Party assert that electing more Republicans would result in more "balance" simply made no sense. The governor should take this as a wake-up call to work with the Legislature rather than relying upon press conferences, public opinion polls and threatening Democrats. Otherwise, it might be the beginning of the end of the New Beginning.

Conversely, the Democrats should use this as the leverage they need to work with the administration. It was less a partisan vote and more that voters wanted independent, critical-thinking policy makers no matter which party they represent.

Aisha Arion
Pearl City

Bottle bill will not have intended effect

The new bottle law probably is not going to work from the consumer side (Star-Bulletin, Oct. 29). But it will certainly work as a revenue stream for the state. When I was a teenager on the mainland, there was a deposit on bottles. You could redeem your bottles at any retail location where they sold those bottles. You could redeem them for the cash, or use them as the deposit on a new purchase.

From the consumer side, it was convenient -- and it worked, removing nearly 75 percent of glass bottles from trash collections and landfills.

Hawaii's plan, however, has not been well thought out. Having to drive many miles, in many cases, to a recycling center is not something many families will do, or want to do after the first time.

Why not call this what it is -- just another unavoidable tax on the consumer and a great revenue stream for the state?

Once the consumer has to wait in line after driving to a recycling center, they won't want to ever do it again. It won't be worth the money and time spent. The cans, bottles and plastics once again will be in the trash stream, and people once again will be paying for something they aren't getting.

Bill Martin
Kurtistown, Hawaii

Each of us can help alleviate traffic

Regarding the letter "Put traffic flow ahead of parking" (Nov. 10): It's our government, and if we want them to build more roads, they will be pleased to do so. They cannot and will not tell us to use our cars less. It is up to us to tell each other.

So we can tell each other how much we want to stop paving over our small, beautiful island. Maybe we can each begin by using our cars less. Maybe we can choose to leave our cars at home one day a week. If everyone did, traffic would improve immediately. On that day, we can walk, ride a bike or a skateboard, rollerblade, catch a bus, carpool or stay home. Those of us who do will be healthier, and everyone will be happier.

Edo Biagioni
Honolulu

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The Star-Bulletin welcomes letters that are crisp and to the point (150 to 200 words). The Star-Bulletin reserves the right to edit letters for clarity and length. Please direct comments to the issues; personal attacks will not be published. Letters must be signed and include a daytime telephone number.

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