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Editor’s note: The Charleston City Paper periodically publishes letters received from readers. To submit your own reaction to City Paper coverage or local issues, we welcome letters to the editor.

11/13: Data integration is no small accomplishment

To the editor:

The recent integration of the MUSC- Roper St. Francis data systems is no small accomplishment. A genuine improvement to address a significant weakness in the region’s healthcare service delivery subsystem. Kudos for your work.

The existing privacy policy is excellent, and clearly, you live its intent. Privacy protections can go a tad too far for healthcare staff in an emergency. They need immediate information respecting the patient’s history.

For example, my wife was taken to your emergency room last week. In that process, I was asked questions to which I did not know the answers. The current model relies upon whoever is at the scene. It is better than nothing. Introducing another random variate into a situation does not improve it. Too many unknowns to be parsed quickly impede the delivery.

The emergency technicians’ questions were relevant to her care. Logically this is an invasion overriding the privacy standards. So, the existing standard implicitly waives the privacy standards in emergencies. Good thing these people ask questions.

The answers to the technician’s query were in my wife’s medical data. Emergency technicians need “limited data emergency access.” A top-level reveal of the health-relevant indicators to the known underlying life-threatening conditions. They would have had better information for their evaluation than I could provide at that stressful moment.

The physician and patient beforehand can decide on an “emergency window” data presentation. This joint action permits the patient to exercise their privacy rights for the limited release use by emergency personnel. In emergency cases would lessen the risks. The shelf-life data retention standards need development.

It can be done better with better compliance with the existing privacy standards. What needs to be disclosed is subject to your healthcare and legal policy analysis. For each patient, no matter the service institution selected, using a standardized checklist to give the emergency technicians more hints about what could go wrong with my wife’s health in the emergency presentation would help them. It would lower the risk coefficient in these situations.

Next issue: The patient history query is another random variate. I have been asked to provide this information many times. It is highly relevant to care decisions. It does not seem to find a home anywhere. Where is the graveyard for this vital information, which is subject to privacy constraints, that disappear with each repeated asking? Beats me.

– Fred Palm, Edisto Island, S.C.

11/3: Call to action for dark skies again

To the editor:

Among the many exceptional natural wonders we enjoy here in the Lowcountry, such as the beaches and sea life, there used to be a brilliant view of the dark sky, stars and the Milky Way. 

There are far more lifeforms on this planet that depend on the dark skies of the night than the average person may suspect. From sea turtles and birds to insects, the dark skies are crucial to their abilities to migrate and reproduce. For us humans, observation and contemplation of the stars, planets and constellations – whether it is a small or substantial part of your time – undoubtedly connects us to the cosmos from which we sprang. Enjoying the night sky is an ancient privilege of heritage, privilege and indispensable to our wonders and imagination.

Many of you may not realize that unchecked light pollution erodes our view of the night sky and instead of seeing that inky background as the stage for the celestial drama, light-polluted skies paint a grey-washed background with reduced contrast and clarity of everything in view. You may ask; what is the source of this light pollution? Much of the lights we install on our homes, businesses and properties are unshielded. Rather than illuminating the ground as intended, they scatter light in all directions. This is what is known as sky glow. In addition to sky glow, unshielded outdoor lighting is the source of glare – a bright source of light that has a direct path to your eyes. 

Contrary to popular belief, brighter lights do not mean better lighting. Glare interferes with our night vision when we are driving or walking or looking for trespassers or someone potentially causing malicious mischief. There have been peer-reviewed studies comparing the intensity of outdoor lighting and the reduction of crime.  Some of those studies show that crime increases rather than decreases as the intensity of lighting increases.  See: “ Artificial Light at Night: State cop the Science,” June 2022.

Unshielded lights also are often the cause of light trespass, which is defined as spill light cast where it is not needed, warranted or wanted. Not only does it interfere with natural rhythms on this planet, but it can interfere with your neighbor’s darkness and sleep. It’s also a waste of money and energy. If your outdoor lighting on your property, home or business is shielded so that all light shines only on the area that needs it, thank you for being a great neighbor and contributing to the common good of all life. You are saving money on your electric bill and saving life!

For those of you who do not have properly shielded outdoor lighting, we who love and need the night sky, consider your outdoor lighting situation and maybe do something about it. Are you planning new construction of housing or a business? Or in the case of existing buildings, private and public alike, or local government buildings such as a fire, police station or community building. Please ask for night sky-friendly lighting that complies with the International Dark-Sky Association guidelines. 

South Carolina ranks 23rd in population in the country. Sadly, there are cities and towns in our great state that have just as much light pollution as large cities in the country. Pittsburgh, Penn., for instance, is one major city that noticed light pollution’s negative effects and has begun the process to address and reduce light pollution. We can do better all across South Carolina. Hampton Plantation State Park is working on becoming the state’s first dark-sky park. Let us lead the example to bring back genuinely dark skies, to not only do our part in protecting the night sky for future generations to behold, but to protect all life and the flora that depend on it.

– Tom Berta, Charleston, S.C.

10/26: Supporting safety of children in our community

To the editor:

In your article titled, “Nonprofit, task force fight labor, sex trafficking,” the values and work of the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center was misrepresented.

As a children’s advocacy center serving Charleston and Berkeley counties, Dee Norton is the coordinating center for child abuse response and works with our community partners to streamline services for children and youth who have experienced abuse, including child trafficking. Dee Norton seeks to support child safety and healing by concentrating on a team approach. This collaborative approach to child abuse relies on community partners like law enforcement as an integral part of our work.

Recently, the Office for Victims of Crime awarded our Improving Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Address Child Trafficking (IMPACT) Program its third consecutive grant. Our IMPACT Program aims to expand and strengthen the trauma-informed services for minor victims of human trafficking in our region and will further improve the identification of minor victims of sex and labor trafficking. This grant will help 200 youth impacted by trafficking in Charleston and Berkeley Counties over the next three years and train more than 150 professionals in identifying those most at risk in a culturally competent way. Our IMPACT program is not possible without the work of law enforcement and our other 30 partner agencies.

This grant recognizes Dee Norton as the Lowcountry’s leading experts in child abuse, and we are thankful to be able to continue the work of preventing abuse, protecting children and healing families with it.

– Beverly Hutchinson, executive director, Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, Charleston, S.C.

10/16: Absentee ballot experience discussed

To the editor:

I just read this editorial and am prompted to share my experience a few days ago: 

I called the Chas. County. Voter Registration office to request an absentee ballot because I will be away on election day.

After a song and dance with the woman who answered because she couldn’t find me in the system due to my having a hyphenated surname, then finally she found me after  giving her my entire SSN.

Next, she basically dissuaded me from voting absentee since I told her (upon her asking) that I will be in town two weeks prior to the (Nov.) 8 and could vote in person.  She mentioned that there will be a number of sites  to choose from. I didn’t push for the absentee ballot anyway and told her I’d vote in person.

Afterwards, I wondered why her in-person voting push.  For some who don’t want to do it because it is inconvenient to go in person, they may say the hell with it and choose not to vote at all after a phone conversation like this with a county staff person. 

After reading the editorial that explains new rules with witness requirements, etc., I now wonder if her dissuasion was to keep my ballot from being tossed if not received in time or if completed wrong. If I had not read about these new rules and that the county is not notifying folk that something’s not right with their ballot, I would still be very annoyed at that phone call’s outcome and pissed that I wasn’t gladly offered what I had called for.

I wonder how many other voters are  experiencing the same-flavored conversation, though some may take an abrasive stance and demand the absentee ballot anyway despite her (& her co-workers?) sway toward voting in person prior to Nov. 8 versus absentee.

Continue to be well and thanks for your great journalism.

– Alada M. Shinault-Small, North Charleston, S.C.

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