Maintain hospital chaplain program

In the words of that great American philosopher, Yogi Berra, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

When I started practice in 1974, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor had a full-time chaplain. Two years later, the hospital administration decided that they had to cut expenses. Since the chaplaincy program did not produce any revenue, it had to go.

At a medical staff meeting, one physician said that the position of chaplain was so important to his patients that he would contribute to Rev. Donald Schermerhorn’s salary. Soon every physician on the hospital staff volunteered to contribute. With this show of support from the medical staff, the hospital administration backed down and reinstated the chaplaincy.

Being a hospital chaplain is a specialty in the ministry requiring training and certification, just as being a neurosurgeon is a specialty in medicine requiring training and certification. You would not want your neurosurgery performed by a family physician. By the same logic, you would not want the work of a hospital chaplain performed by a parish minister.

The two assistant chaplains at EMMC received that training from the present chaplain, Rev. Rex Garrett. Once the program is discontinued, there will be no way for local ministers to get the training they need to act as the “volunteer chaplains” envisioned by the hospital administration.

I would urge the hospital administration to re-think the implications of their action, and not end the chaplaincy program. I also urge the medical staff to show support for the program as we did in the 1970s.

Marshall Smith, M.D.

Blue Hill

Obamacare repeal all politics

The Graham-Cassidy bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is basically about politics, not health care. The president and Republican majorities in Congress have yet to score a major legislative “win.” After voting for seven years to repeal and replace without having any idea how to do it, just about anything will do.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey admitted, “I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win. I think most of my colleagues didn’t. So we didn’t expect to be in this situation.” Last week, his Iowa colleague Sen. Chuck Grassley said, “I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered. But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”

In one crucial respect, though, Graham-Cassidy is about health care. It would reduce federal Medicaid spending over time and give states an opportunity to make fundamental decisions about shaping the program. Protection for persons with pre-existing conditions could become a pious hope. It would no longer be guaranteed.

To meet a Sept. 30 deadline, the Senate must vote this week on the bill, after a single hearing and with only a “ preliminary assessment” from the Congressional Budget Office. The states would have just two years to shape and implement their new programs. No wonder the National Association of Medicaid Directors opposes Graham-Cassidy.

Judith Keenan

Deer Isle

America’s ballot box error

Facebook recently announced it will turn over to Congress copies of more than 3,000 politically themed advertisements bought through Russian accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election in their bid to tip the presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.

Should we be surprised when a great power tries to get an elbow up on a rival state by getting honest hard-working blue-collar workers in that state so confused that they’ll vote for an unstable leader who will not only diminish their country’s ability to function rationally but probably destroy it?

It took the German people — and much of the world — a while to recover from an egregious error they once made at the ballot box.

If there is anything to learn from history, it is that many people who live in North America will survive the present ordeal — even if one of the governments on that continent does not.

Robert Skoglund

St. George