Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee, on overuse of antibiotics:
What will we do as more and more bacteria become resistant to the drugs that are used to kill them and prevent infections? That has been a central question for public health experts and health care providers for decades; still, it is disconcerting when we see that we are losing ground in certain areas.
Such was the case last week, when a report from Tennessee health officials looked at how hospitals statewide performed in preventing health care-associated infections in the first half of 2013. For every bit of good news, there was at least as much that was alarming.
Yes, hospitals in Tennessee have a good handle on bloodstream infections, better than most of the country. But in two areas, risks for Tennessee patients are significantly worse: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, the latter a sometimes deadly form of diarrhea.
MRSA outbreaks have made headlines over recent years in parts of the U.S., as this form of staph bacteria has evolved that is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin. In health care settings, it usually occurs in hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis centers during surgeries or around intravenous tubing or artificial joints. And as its name suggests, once the staph spreads, there no longer is any drug to stop it. Prevention is virtually the only hope for patients in these cases.
The statistics that the state points to are these: If you are a patient in a hospital in Tennessee, your chances of getting a MRSA infection are 12 percent greater than they should be. A urinary tract infection? Your chances are 40 percent higher than they should be.
Many of the resistant infections in Tennessee hospitals appear to center on use of urinary catheters. The more patients who use them without actually needing them, or who are kept on catheters longer than is absolutely necessary, the more opportunities there are for infection to occur.
This could point to another likely reason for this troubling report: If health care facilities are understaffed, or the staff are poorly trained, they are more likely to keep the catheters in patients longer.
Ultimately, we have to ask: Are doctors and patients doing their part to discuss thoroughly and candidly the risks and best practices for the patient's condition? And when the patient's condition is such that he or she cannot be an active participant in that discussion, there needs to be someone who can.
The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on the role of the wilderness:
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
The great naturalist John Muir wrote that more than a hundred years ago, and his philosophy is why it's important to protect wilderness areas around us.
It's the basic reason behind state and national parks and wildlife refuges and national wilderness areas — not to keep us from contact with nature, but so that we'll be sure to have some places to have nature to enjoy.
The importance of wilderness goes far beyond our enjoyment of nature. The Wilderness Society ticked off these examples:
— Biological diversity. Plant and animal species face serious threats from destruction of habitat caused by development. Wilderness areas allow nature to progress at its own pace.
— Clean water and air. Wilderness areas protect water supplies for some of our major cities. Forests are the lungs of the nation, removing harmful pollution.
— Jobs. Wilderness sometimes is seen as a hindrance to economic growth, but the outdoor recreation generates $646 billion a year in economic activity and sustains 6 million jobs.
— Fighting climate change. The minimal management of wilderness areas provides a natural laboratory for examining how nature responds and adapts over time.
Next Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a far-seeing piece of legislation adopted long before most of us ever heard of anything like climate change.
The law provides a procedure for setting aside wilderness areas from creeping development.
"The most important lesson climate change has taught us is that existing protected areas are not big enough to sustain our fish and wildlife," the Wilderness Society said.
Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel on saving naval history:
While it's highly unlikely that captains in any future Vol Navy will encounter a periscope popping up out of the water on Fort Loudoun Lake, they could pass a Cold War-era submarine anchored along their route to the docks near Neyland Stadium.
That scenario depends on a number of things, the primary one being a local group's effort to raise money to have the USS Clamagore transferred from Patriots Point near Charleston, S.C. This is a rescue mission with a lot of heart but one facing formidable obstacles.
The USS Clamagore was commissioned in 1945 near the end of World War II. Too late for that conflict, the sub nevertheless had a distinguished record for 30 years during the Cold War. Its technology was twice improved, and it was one of only nine submarines converted to a GUPPY III designation — the Navy's Greater Underwater Propulsion Program.
According to a Patriots Point website, the Clamagore was decommissioned in June 1975 and added to Patriots Point six years later. There, it has been part of a tourist attraction that also includes the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. The Clamagore is the only GUPPY III submarine preserved in the U.S. In 1989, it was designated a national historical landmark.
The submarine has deteriorated from years of exposure to saltwater, and estimated repair costs are expected to be $3 million. South Carolina, which operates Patriots Point, and the Navy have said the time has come to move the sub.
Unless someone raises the necessary money, the ship will be turned over to Reefmakers, a Florida-based organization whose specialty is sinking vessels to create artificial reefs after ensuring they are environmentally safe.
With that much interest in preserving the submarine — and naval history — someone or some group should be able to make it happen. While sinking the Clamagore to be part of a reef saves the ship from being scrapped, Richardson has a point: It would be a shame to have it resting on the ocean floor. Local governments should look closely at a plan and see if it is workable.