E & P: Those letters about hospital need to cover new ground

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate February 27, 2014 09:51 am

Letters to the editor are understandably a well-read part of any newspaper. After all, they represent the direct voices of readers, unfiltered except by judicious editing if the newspaper is doing its job.

Occasionally, however, so many letters are written on the same topic that the editor has to eventually step in to avoid redundancy and encourage discussion of other subjects. When it comes to Sutter Coast Hospital and its proposal to convert to a Critical Access facility, this is one of those times.

The Triplicate has printed dozens and dozens of letters, along with numerous longer Coastal Voices pieces, on the subject. Lately there’s been a new surge of missives, some of which appear on this page today and others of which will be printed Saturday (I’ve got plenty in hand).

After Saturday, I plan to reduce the number of letters that I print on this topic. Those presenting fresh viewpoints that expand the public dialogue will still be published, as well as those responding to new developments.

This decision reflects only a desire to step away from sheer repetition. What happens to our hospital is of great importance to our community. All that letter-writing, organized or not, is strong evidence of the public concern over possible hospital downsizing.

There’s clearly no shortage of people who fear a future in which more patients must be flown to faraway hospitals because of fewer in-patient beds at Sutter Coast. There’s no shortage of discontent over how an attempted move toward “regionalization” played out with the hospital’s Board of Directors. And there’s no shortage of outrage over the salaries paid to top officials of the hospital’s mother organization, Sutter Health, even as it moves to cut its costs.

At this point it’s safe to assume there are more local residents who have the aforementioned concerns than residents who feel the hospital is moving in the right direction to assure its continued viability — although the latter viewpoint is shared by some of the community’s medical professionals.

New developments or revelations on this issue will be reported thoroughly on our news pages and will no doubt be discussed thoroughly on the Opinion page as well. I’m looking forward to covering new ground on this and other topics.

Election season ahead

One patch of that new ground involves the June 3 election. Traditionally, local campaigns partly play out through letters to the editor. Whether they are the products of organized efforts or individual inspiration, I’ll endeavor to print as many of them as possible as long as they follow these guidelines:

• One election-related letter per writer every 30 days (this limit also applies to the candidates themselves, if they’re moved to correspond). E-mail them to  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  if possible — paper copies take longer to process.

• The 400-word limit is in effect for all local election-related missives — the option of longer Coastal Voices pieces is not there. This allows us to print more opinions, rather than wordier opinions.

• Letters to the editor are all about local commentary — tell us how you feel and why. Local views on national issues are welcome, as are out-of-town views on local issues. Letters should not make claims or accusations that require substantial efforts at verification — those are news tips and can be sent to the same location.

Mr. Skeens goes to Cincinnati

Finally, farewell and good luck to Anthony Skeens, a Triplicate reporter for more than three and a half years, most of the time covering public safety and courts. He returned this week to his native Ohio, where he’ll work for CityBeat, an alternative weekly newspaper in Cincinnati.

Anthony brought our coverage of Pelican Bay State Prison issues to new heights with his four-part series, “Inside the SHU.” Check it out at triplicate.com.