A few days ago, Medium.com posted an article entitled, “Unmasking the Truth: CDC and Hospital Administrators Are Endangering Us All.”
While I gave the writer high credibility in ratting out the CDC , hospital administrators, and the Trump administration for their inexcusable and unforgivable failure to prepare for the Coronavirus pandemic, I didn’t take it further than pointing out on Facebook that it didn’t surprise me.
When I was at the University of Iowa’s master’s program in hospital administration from 1967-69, I learned an ethics lesson that to this day sticks with me. The program and its late director, Gerhard Hartman, were as ethically bankrupt as is Donald Trump and his administration.
At the time, the master’s class was divided into two and three-person teams to do what was then known as a “Community Study.” That was the euphemism for students compiling the boilerplate data and drafting recommendations for Hartman’s consultation engagement with one of several hospitals in the Midwest. It was good to experience a real-world scenario that contributed to a hospital’s master plan. So far, so good, right?
Here’s why I assert the ethical bankruptcy. Often the students on the project made multiple trips to the hospital. Then, the data needed to be presented properly and typed up into a report that would become part of Hartman’s report and recommendations to the hospital board of directors. These were the days before word processors were common, by the way. Who paid for all this? The students. Each team paid for its own travel. We paid for the typing. We paid to produce the report, such as duplication. We paid for all expenses associated with the project.
Meanwhile, Hartman used the resources of the university and his students while pocketing a hefty fee. At some point in 1977, Hartman got caught, at least according to a monograph by the late Samuel Levey (of Levy). But before that minor bit of justice prevailed, thousands of dollars flowed through this system with no one objecting to the charade. I suppose it reflected the culture of the time; but, it also reflected the lack of oversight and accountability. To this day I regret failing in the courage to be a whistleblower.
But others have the courage to be the so-called canary in the coal mine and in this case it’s someone on Facebook called Miss Airstream. This nurse at an unnamed hospital posted this video on Facebook and YouTube. I dare you to have a dry eye at the end. Her video inspired me to post this to this blog because I spent 25 years in the health care industry, many of those jobs soul-crushing. And because I had to do things to others that ran against my sense of right and wrong. Maybe I needed to write this as an atonement for those years of selling out.
I realized, of course, that ethics, integrity and resulting behavior are individual attributes of character. So I don’t condemn all hospital administrators or paint them with such broad brush strokes. But, I can say that this lack of integrity doesn’t surprise me in the Trump era. And it doesn’t matter if the institution is a for-profit (or, in the euphemism they like to us, “investor owned”); or if the institution is nonprofit or government owned. Hospital administrators will claim their fiduciary duty is to the institution, but their loyalty is to the community. It’s a nice ploy trying to claim having the best of both worlds.
For me, the best of all worlds was to leave the business and find something to fill me soul. I did it in 1995 and thank God daily that I had those years of journalism.