Common Sense

Letters to the Editor

Corporate Head-Hunters: “Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Are Doing…”

As Editor of Common Sense, I periodically receive information that becomes the grist for my next column in our newsletter. I recently received such a correspondence from Gary Gaddis, MD PhD FAAEM, one of the founding members of AAEM. I decided that it should be shared with our readers. 

I don't know about you, but there seems to be an endless number of calls, emails, and messages that I receive at work and at home. Some of these are from “headhunters” for corporate management groups, looking for “bodies” to fill holes in schedules. How many times have you had those irritating interruptions, while working a busy shift, by a new unit secretary who “puts a recruiter through” to you? This seems to occur with the highest likelihood when you have been juggling details for multiple patients on a busy shift, right? Just what you needed, one more interruption! 

One particularly persistent and aggravating company somehow has obtained one of my son's cell phone numbers, and calls him regularly. I am not sure if an infantry Captain is the person they need to fill “holes” in some contracted facility’s emergency physician schedule, but they seem to think so. 

Does this circumstance sound familiar to you? Now let's hear from Dr. Gaddis, because he took such a communication, sent as a text message to his mobile phone, and turned it around in a manner that probably speaks for many of us. Gary wasn’t on anyone’s cross, as the title might imply, but I think the title of this column expresses the level of frustration some of us feel when we are contacted by corporate “headhunters.”

In December, Gary shared the following with me:

Dear Andy, 

You may enjoy my response to a correspondence I have received from a TeamHealth “headhunter” and to which I have replied. I offer this for consideration for publication, for your column in Common Sense.

Sometimes, the opportunity to advocate for reasonable work environments and to try to educate those who work for employers that one could view as "ethically challenged" are just too opportune to pass up.

Let’s start with the text message that I have recently received from a recruiter:

Hi, this is Michelle (name deleted out of courtesy) from TeamHealth. I am reaching out to you to see if you would be interested in be part of our Emergency Medicine HIT Team working full-time within the Barnes-Jewish Hospital System. Located in MO and IL. We are paying $275.00 an hour plus travel expenses for a commitment of 120 hours per month. We have PRN rates available for less of a commitment. I look forward to speaking with you! Warm Regards, Michelle

Now, this hits close to home because I work in the BJC system, albeit at its academic "mother ship." I need to send this correspondence on to our corporate leadership, but that is a separate but related matter.

I am frustrated that the leadership of our system contracts with TeamHealth for its emergency physicians, and I am going to try to use my social contacts with our system leadership to try to educate them why TeamHealth is, in my opinion, not good for our system’s health.

Meanwhile, pending my setting an appointment to talk to the appropriate members of our leadership team, here is what I have sent to this "Michelle," who is probably just doing her job. I would guess that she is ignorant of the issues that led to my rejoinder, below, but here it is:

Hello Michelle: 

I would guess that you have a tough task, to find a doctor for this role, but I am not looking for Locums work and frankly, I know of too many doctors who have had adverse experiences with TeamHealth and similar physician staffing corporations, to be able to recommend any colleagues to you in good conscience. In your free time look up U.S. House of Representatives Bill 3267 re "Waivers of Due Process." 

Due process is an important worker protection. I hope you have it in your employment contract. TeamHealth has a documented history of seeking Waivers of Due Process (WODP) by physicians whom they employ. Doctors who work under this onerous provision often feel constrained against speaking up, when hospital procedures represent a danger to patients' health. 

You may soon learn of a "whistle blower" suit against a corporation similar to TeamHealth, EmCare, a corporation that has been absorbed within an entity called Envision. I understand that this matter is tentatively set to be tried in February or March of 2019. I have come on good authority to understand that the plaintiff has declined a six-figure settlement offered by the defendant corporation in that matter. Obviously, I am sworn to secrecy as to further details, but that which I state in this paragraph is fully factual.

Therefore, TeamHealth is radioactive to me. At least until they publicly renounce their prior practice of requesting WODP by their employed physicians, they will be on my "Do Not Fly" list. 

If they have ever made such a renunciation of the practice of inserting WODP into their contracts, then I am as of now unaware.

Thank you for the opportunity to educate you a bit about ethical vs unethical corporate practices.

Gary Gaddis, MD PhD FAAEM

I think many of you would agree with the opinions Gary expressed in his text to the recruiter. I don’t think he was rude, but he was firm, and I think he responded to “Michelle” with a message that others of us might have texted, had we taken the time.

Happy New Year!


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