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Reforming the CNMI healthcare system


Editor’s Note: The following is the testimony offered by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Grant E. Walker in reference to Senate Bill 19-04, which proposes to transform the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. advisory board into a governing body. This testimony has been submitted to the Senate and House Health Care Committees.

Third part of a series

My contract was swiftly ended for “insubordination,” even though I was not in a subordinate role to anyone. Due process was skirted. The hospital bylaws for a hearing and appeal were simply denied by the CEO and her DMA sidekick. The chief of staff ran away from the situation and for the security of his job; I can’t really blame him. Now it got even worse. Now, carrying that little girl with her mom turned out to be an act of the second coming of the devil. All of this was put on paper. None of this was true. None of this was confidential as the letter was delivered by the police on a restaurant patio during which time I was being interviewed to do some occasional orthopedic helping out in Guam.

I had three patients in the hospital whom I had just performed surgery. One was in the process of workup for a blood clot. I had clinic patients that I had not yet seen in follow-up that I had also operated on. I hadn’t even so much as removed their post-operative dressings. One was a complex three-hour elbow fusion that Dr. LaVene, the general surgeon, said was one of the most technically challenging he had ever witnessed.

I walked into Godfather’s Restaurant where the owner knew all about this and the contents of that supposedly confidential letter. Even if I returned home to practice, I would have to verify that my CHC privileges were abruptly terminated and I would have to disclose the reasons why. I am not at liberty to try and hide this. All credentialing applications ask the same questions that would uncover these false accusations, and since I am licensed in five states this would mean five trips for psychiatric evaluations, amounting to tens of thousands of my dollars, a permanently scarred reputation, questioned integrity and a licensing paper trail that would lead back to the CHC CEO’s office where it was sure that I probably would never get a job again anywhere—all because I wanted to help some fellow Americans on some remote Pacific islands. That means those people that I could help and had no one else would have no one. The ramifications to all of those years of training and experience were huge. It meant that the money I send home to my 84-year-old mother would stop. Twenty-eight years of experience, six degrees…all wasted.

So, do I have a right to be disgruntled at this point? Heck, no, I was pissed! With my everlasting gratitude, the board of trustees chairman Jack Torres invited me to plead my case. During this time the board requested the CEO and DMA to present to them any and all facts on the nature of my termination and why the hospital bylaws were not adhered to with regard to due process. They heard non-verifiable excuses like, “We can’t tell you because we have to protect Dr. Walker’s confidentiality rights too,” I waived them. Then there was the myriad of unsupported statements that when attempts were made to verify them, were found to be completely fabricated. You could not believe how much my sense of morality was punched in the stomach. Would you not think more of a director of Medical Affairs and a hospital chief executive officer?

I must add one more kick-in-the-pants on my way out the door: that patient with the breast mass…my final check was shorted the equivalent amount of operating room minutes (remember it was performed in the clinic) amounting to $1,500, which was deducted from my last payment without my authorization

A great idea is developed over time. I shared you my story because I wanted to show you what it is like when unchecked power by non-elected officials is allowed to be held absolutely and soon here I will suggest the fixes and the health care reform needed.

To be continued tomorrow.

Grant E. Walker, M.D.
Special to the Saipan Tribune

Grant E. Walker, M.D. (Special to the Saipan Tribune) Dayao
This post is published under the Contributing Author. He/she does not normally work for Saipan Tribune but contributes for a specific topic or series.

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