Editor: The decision regarding the termination of Dr. Bushman’s contract has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this decision by the hospital CEO simply does not make any sense. There are no winners; everyone loses, and a different decision could have been made that would not have been so destructive.
I served as the hospital board attorney for more than 20 years. I fully support the local hospital, and I understand the importance of the hospital to this community that it serves. The community certainly benefits economically and in so many other ways when professionals, administrators and business owners live in the community that they serve and do business in. It is difficult to build a community when so many of the key players choose to live elsewhere. Dr. Bushman has lived here for almost 30 years; he raised his family here and made his home here. He has supported this community in many ways, and by choosing to live here, he declares without any reason to doubt that Willcox is “good enough” for me and my family.
Dr. Bushman has developed over those many years a relationship with his patients, friends and community that runs deep. He is a caring and compassionate man who has helped countless people. He has provided hours of service, such as free physical exams for young athletes and Boy Scouts, being present and available at school athletic events and visiting those in need. He has served his patients with this same concern. For example, you can call Dr. Bushman at home or on weekends if necessary, and the list could go on.
A petition in support of Dr. Bushman was recently circulated online. Almost 600 people expressed their support. In order to support, you must give your name, address and e-mail address. Approximately half of those expressing support took the time to add a comment, most expressing their personal experience with Dr. Bushman as their family doctor. Many of Dr. Bushman’s patients have a personal relationship with him as their family doctor that extends over many years. This type of doctor-patient relationship is priceless and means so very much to the patients, their families and to the doctor. Both are in a position to manage the health of the individual so much better when the medical history and so many unrecorded aspects of this history are known by the doctor. When this type of long-term relationship is abruptly terminated by a third party, it is understandable and foreseeable that this decision is not going to be well received by the patients, their families and their friends.
Terminating Dr. Bushman’s contract also has a negative economic impact on the clinic and the hospital. This impact is both immediate and long term. Many of the patients will go elsewhere, and therefore their medical care will not be provided locally; and this community loses when that happens.
Since this decision was made, I have read several articles in the national media about the dilemma that the medical community faces regarding the opioid crisis. While solving the problems associated with addiction is critically important, dealing with people suffering from chronic pain is also very real. There are many policymakers and medical providers who are looking at the recent guidelines and asking, “When, if ever, do we make exceptions?” There is a debate going on, and it is not surprising that the Osteopathic Board and Dr. Bushman are caught up in all of this. However, it is interesting to note that none of Dr. Bushman’s patients are complaining about his medical care and none of the medical professionals that he works with and know firsthand how he treats patients are raising concerns. In fact, many have indicated that Dr. Bushman has helped them get off the opioids and pain meds that had been prescribed by others.
There are many other good reasons that could be included here that would support a different decision. The hospital CEO has indicated very emphatically that the decision was his alone and that no one else was involved in or responsible for this action.
Therefore, based on my understanding, it was his decision to terminate Dr. Bushman’s contract with no prior notice to Dr. Bushman or his patients or the clinic. While this may be well within the power and authority of the CEO, it does not seem very wise.
There could have been several things done before the medical board meeting to help better prepare for the meeting. For example, the services of the hospital attorney have been provided to other medical staff members to deal with issues before medical boards. Why not in this case?
There could have been consultations with the board and others about what to do in order to avoid terminating Dr. Bushman’s contract; and even with the action that the medical board took, there could have been communication with the hospital board, medical staff and clinic to determine what to do to avoid terminating Dr. Bushman’s contract and avoid all the negatives that flow from that.
The Osteopathic Board certainly anticipated that Dr. Bushman would continue seeing patients and did not intend to impair this in any way except for the 90-day restriction regarding the prescribing of opioids, etc., pursuant to recent guidelines. Therefore, it is clear that terminating the contract was a local decision and not required by the medical board or any statutes.
It seems to me that if the CEO was concerned about Dr. Bushman, who lives here and has served the hospital and this community for almost 30 years, and cared about the impact on Dr. Bushman’s patients and their families or the financial health of the clinic and hospital or the loyalty and support of the community for the hospital, he would have considered other options. When the consequences of a decision are all negative and adversely impact so many people, that just might be an indication that it was a wrong decision.
Calvin W. Allred