Using the “Impaired” Term Against You

After Pat Conrad, MD wrote his piece about PHP programs, I received the following (with permission to print):

I joined a physician as an employee in a practice many years ago. I was given his name by his brother. I visited and met with him. The time predated the internet. He and his staff were warm and friendly. I thought it was a good match.  I was to replace a doctor who left him a few months earlier over differences. I could not check this out.

We relocated. Some of the doctors on the hospital staff said I did not seem like someone he would hire. I did not know what he meant.

My wife became pregnant via IVF. There were complications and I would have to take her to the ER. The head doctor said this was disruptive and we needed to terminate the pregnancy. We did not. I was called in one day and told my contract was to be cancelled. I started to look for a new position. But this was not fast enough for him. 

He called me in a few weeks later and told me had cancelled my contract. My attorney reviewed the contract and showed where it could not be cancelled without cause (loss of license, drug abuse, and similar issues).   

I came in one day. The nurses and the residents said they were told not to take any of my orders as I was impaired.  An anonymous letter reached the Medical Society/Board that I presented to work under the influence of drugs and alcohol. I never used any illicit drugs or nontherapeutic medications. I do have a drink or two at weddings, etc. I never drink when working. In fact, he was upset that I did not drink at the happy hours he held as I needed to be home with my wife and our adopted children. 

In any event, he cancelled my contract and my health insurance on the spot. I was able to get COBRA and it was important. Our baby was born 10 weeks early and was in NICU for that time. 

I had to meet with the impaired physician program in the medical society. The conclusion was I did not use drugs. I was stressed in a hostile work situation. 

I was able to relocate. In fact, I went to work with a doctor that I had worked with for several years on a prn basis. He knew me and had been a resident with the other doctor. He would not comment with his experiences with him other than he was a smart man.

I sued for breach of contract. I cannot elaborate on this due to some clauses involved. We found in discovery that he had done similar actions (although not identical) to other physicians contracted to him.

The “impaired” tag that physicians are getting is scary. It makes physicians NEVER want to get help. This story is decades old but the same playbook is being used today. Be careful out there. Very careful.

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129150cookie-checkUsing the “Impaired” Term Against You