In response to an op-ed in the February WSJ, Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck, M.D. decided to give her own two cents. Again. She was one of the three VA physician whistleblowers who were honored by the Office of Special Counsel in December 2014 after they helped shine on a light on the crisis going on there. Her entire response is here but here I wanted to show you some bullet points:
- Marginalizing physicians is the same playbook the Department of Veterans Affairs has used for years. Most medical center directors aren’t physicians (mine has a civil engineer in charge); many clinical departments don’t have doctors as chiefs (our compensation and pension head is a respiratory therapist with management training, and our mental-health service is run by a psychologist).
- We have lost many physicians in multiple departments due to resentment and blowback when doctors have brought ideas on how to best care for veterans.
- I asked the deputy secretary of the VA to “bring the doctors back in close. We understand the processes of life and death, and we know where the snipers are.” We understand the complex variables and vulnerabilities of the body and mind.
- Physicians take a sacred oath to hold the life of a “whole soul” in our hands. And we know how to make medical care happen, from the daily flow of a clinic to diagnosing and helping human hurt. It’s what we studied so hard and long for, and ache to do as well as we can.
- “The current absence of such leadership is shocking.” And without changing that in the VA system, more doctors won’t sign up.
Here is someone who gets it. What she doesn’t understand, however, is that the covert mission by administrators in healthcare has been to undermine the trust patients have in doctors. The goal is to call themselves and their facilities “providers” and therefore take control away from doctors. By doing that they can fire doctors at will, higher lesser trained and lesser educated caretakers and make themselves more money in the process. What happened at the VA continues to happen everyday and at every hospital around the country.