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Dear President Obama,
How was Hawaii? Did you get to improve your handicap on the golf course? I saw where you took the girls out for shaved ice.
I know your vacation wasn't much after the underwear bomber tried blowing up a plane on Christmas Day.
I'm glad you are back at work. I hope you are refreshed enough to help me out with a couple of things folks in Levy might want to know.
The stimulus bill that you had passed earlier this year, we got a bicycle/pedestrian path from Manatee Springs State Park into Chiefland and a couple of miles or so of County Road 40 being repaired. It was about $1.4 million.
I saw where Jacksonville got $22 million.
We asked for some police officers in the police stimulus plan. We did not get them, but the Chiefland Police Department got a couple of new patrol cars.
Our county transit is getting funding for a new program to take people to work.
We were counting on getting those unsafe-at-any-speed bridges replaced in Cedar Key, but the transportation bill doesn't have any money for that. It does have money for a high speed rail to serve Tampa and Orlando. I think your buddy Gov. Charlie Crist and the Republicans in the state Legislature made that decision to take back the money we were promised.
It makes one long for the days when you were in the Senate and Congress decided to give 55 people a bridge to nowhere in Alaska. We have more than 55 people in Cedar Key. Come visit. I promise a balmy vacation for you and shaved ices for your daughters.
I see where the House and Senate are coming back to work soon on the Health Care Reform bill. As someone who enjoys the perk of single payer health care courtesy of the government, I am grateful to even have health insurance. Of course, it does not cover everything, so like those ladies who want abortion coverage under the proposed legislation, our family must stroke out a check for supplemental insurance. It covers all the things the military promised my husband they would provide for 20 years of his military service but won't be delivering.
But here in Levy County, most of our residents are not so lucky. And while most of the uninsured in cities have emergency rooms where they can seek care, we also do not have that luxury in Levy.
If you have an emergency or you are uninsured, you get to ride at least 30 minutes to hospitals in Gainesville, Ocala or Crystal River. These places have world-class facilities and they are always growing.
I'm not forgetting the Nature Coast hospital facility in Williston, but it's not truly prepared for all emergencies or handling the uninsured. In fact, it may be changing hands as I write this.
If a person can hold out for a while on an emergency, the uninsured that is, they can try the county health department. It's in a building over 40 years old and has doctors examining patients in spaces smaller than my walk-in closet.
I see where Sen. Ben Nelson got all sorts of goodies for Nebraska for its Medicaid program and other stuff in return for voting for the health care bill. I hear some other senator traded his vote for some money for a dental school.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also did a little horse trading for his vote. He got money for more than just his state. He got money for community health clinics nationwide.
Right here in Florida, we had a senator trading his vote for some health care for seniors living in South Florida who want to keep their advantage program that lets them go to gyms and get preventive care.
Good for them. When we had two commissioners discuss a project with an FBI agent, they got slapped with an indictment, convicted and now face prison time.
Guess they should have gotten more than a trip to New York City for a couple of days.
Maybe if they had said, “ I'll give you my vote for a $64 million hospital in Chiefland ,” they would be heroes of parliamentary procedure.
They should have asked because the state Health Department says our 1,000 plus square miles of space has some downright unhealthy people, among the estimated 40,118 residents.
A state health assessment for our county in 2008 gave us a failing grade on:
Poverty, deaths from cancer, motor vehicle crashes, diabetes and chirosis; vaccine preventable diseases for all ages; babies dying in their first year, neonatal deaths and postneonatal deaths, women who don't get pap smears, mammograms or have clinical breast exams; adults who don't get colonoscopies, heart or stroke care, or see a dentist because of cost; diabetics who don't get eye exams; adults who did not get a checkup in the last year, could not see a doctor due to cost, do not have a personal doctor and do not have any type of health care insurance; adults who are overweight, adults who smoke, and more.
Yes, there's a question in this.
We have heart doctors moving here because their patients find the trip to Gainesville to be too much of a stress. We have an opthamologist who moved here to serve his patients who were not in Gainesville. We have a dialysis center moving here. We have a new medical group that moved into the county.
But if I need that colonoscopy, that diabetes management education, the mammogram, healthy baby care, have a baby, cancer treatment or any surgical procedure or emergency treatment, I must leave the county.
The state has given us a certificate saying we can build a hospital because we need one.
There's a company that wants to build it. They own the land and will use shovel-ready plans from another hospital they built in Georgia.
We need one thing that can be found in the health care reform bill: a $64 million loan. Let's call it a bailout like the ones to the banks and automakers.
For a county that has had double digit unemployment since June, I think we could call it jobs stimulus, too.
Mr. President, can you tell us why health care reform won't be coming to Levy County, a place where people are dying for it?
P.S. Could you tell your friend Charlie to hunt up that money his transportation department promised us before you promised him a train? We would like to have those bridges so the folks in Cedar Key can get to the doctor and hospital safely.
Lou Elliott Jones is editor of the Chiefland Citizen and can be reached at 493-4796 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.