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Hospitals can’t be trusted to set the right workloads for nurses

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

As a registered nurse, I am troubled reading A.J. Wilhelmi’s recent letter to the editor, “Let Hospitals Decide Workloads for Nurses.” Mr. Wilhelmi, CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA), has clearly never worked at a patient’s bedside. Here’s how I know: he argues against safe nurse-to-patient ratios as proposed in Illinois House Bill 2604.

I became a nurse for a challenging career that inspires, educates and advocates for others. However, I’m often expected to take more patients than is safe, in my clinical judgment. I talk to fellow nurses. We agree, given our reality of how hospitals decide to staff, that this bill is a step in the right direction. My patients require frequent monitoring and interventions, with acuities ranging from post open-heart surgeries, strokes, gunshots, fall risks, complications from substance abuse and more. When asked to take that “extra” patient, nurses are tasked with reminding hospital management of what is ethical, safe and good nursing care. Ratios are so high that nursing assistants — if we’re lucky to have one — also fear coming to work.

The hospital industry has become big business, bringing in billions of dollars. While Mr. Wilhelmi insists the IHA’s concern lies in patient care, the hospital industry’s shift reveals its true priorities: hospital bottom lines. When hospital administrators make decisions about staffing budgets, they often do so to the detriment of both patient safety and the well-being of staff.

What we cannot trust hospitals to do on their own, we ask politicians to do by passing HB 2604.

Mary Nnene Okeiyi, South Loop

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Aldermen need new voices on zoning

In a matter of weeks, we will have a new mayor and many new City Council members. It is time to ask new and old City Council members to add a wider variety of residents to Zoning Advisory Councils, to promote inclusion, diversity and equity in zoning and development decisions.

Currently, ZACs are optional, and almost half of the wards in the city have formal or informal ZACs to advise aldermen on zoning and development. ZAC members are appointed at aldermen’s discretion. Some ZAC members are from local community organizations. Some have building, development or real estate interests. Other members are simply political allies of the aldermen.

Instead of arbitrarily appointing ZAC members, maybe aldermen would consider developing a ZAC model that would include renters, affordable housing occupants, Housing Choice Voucher program members and others who would advocate for people who have been poorly represented by ZACs in the past.

Representation by a diverse group of housing occupants could help rein in zoning decisions that maintain segregation or advance gentrification. If City Council and all Chicagoans are sincere about working toward racial and economic equity, let us change the composition of Zoning Advisory Councils to end racial and economic housing segregation.

Monica Dillon, Norwood Park

Plant trees every day, Illinois

The federal government is ravaging forests and the environment. A progressive state like Illinois can still be green, via planting trees every day of the year.

Trees are the lungs of the universe that curtail global warming, excessive heat and pollution. Trees provide ideal habitats for birds and a vast array of wondrous wildlife species. Planting trees makes a city aesthetically beautiful and enhances property values. Trees add serenity to neighborhoods and can even reduce violence.

Everything about trees is beneficial, never detrimental.

Brien Comerford, Glenview