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Mar 25, 2006

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Dr. Mary Johnson

But Black won't step down, Ed. Because, as the pundits have told us over and over again, he is too big to fall (that's why he thought he could get away with all that he did in the first place). Besides, the ethical standard these days for government & non-profit officials is pretty much equal to the level of a busted gutter in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Ethics smethics. These people do not care about anything but money and power.

Of course, I'd like to be wrong.

Ed Cone

Just curious, but can you provide examples of pundits who have said, over and over again, that he is too big to fall?

Also, isn't the post a call to define ethics standards upwards?

Dr. Mary Johnson

Sure Ed. "NC Spin". On PBS every Sunday morning. The discussion panel has been falling all over itself to examine yet excuse MistaSpeaka. And everything Black says publicly indicates very clearly that he intends to stay in office.

"We've got to do something about ethics." Well, yeah. Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon (now), calling to define the ethics standards upwards (and please be clear I do not disagree). But what does that actually MEAN Ed? Does this bandwagon have any wheels? Because elevating the standard seems to mean everything BUT firing people who break the rules and prosecuting those who break the laws.

Mike Easley's (Democratic) administration has been a JOKE when it comes to fiscal accountability - especially in healthcare. AND, as they blather on about "ethics", everybody wants to focus on the future - while pretending past bad deeds don't matter. It's a cop-out.

If anybody in Raleigh gave a rat's tail about "ethics" in the non-profit arena and public service, someone in Raleigh would been talking to me three years ago. Because I've got two hospital officials hands-down on perjury, contempt and fraud. When you trash the life and practice of a doctor because she did the right & ethical thing for a patient (knowing she was in the line of fire) . . . and then you lie and lie and lie some more to cover your financial excesses and your tracks . . . it just doesn't get any lower than that.

I'd ask JR (at the N&R) if it had been his daughter (as the patient OR the doctor) caught up in my mess, how would he feel. But I'd be wasting my time.

Sorry I digressed. But I've got first-hand experience with how much the politicos value real ethics.

jsykes

Dr. Johnson:

Could you send me your email address? I would like to speak with you.

jeffreyhsykes@gmail.com

Dr. Mary Johnson

No problem, Jeff.

By the way, Ed. I just checked out the "Greendogs" blog (as on at least on occasion, a "greendog" on the N&R blog has seen fit to offer a "yawn" at my tale of woe - so much for valuing ethics).

It seems that not all the dawgs are happy with the organization's (I think sadly belated) decision to call for Black's resignation - one called it a "defacto pronouncement". What do they think MistaSpeaka was doing whe he inserted the eye exam into legislation without proper debate?

Patrick Eakes

Mary, indicting the ethical standards of the entire "not-for-profit" world is simply misplaced frustration. I can name 50 ethical, self-sacrificing executives who run not-for-profits without breaking a sweat.

Ed Cone

Mary, what is your point?

That people who want Jim Black to step down should not say so, because they did not say so earlier?

That calls for ethical standards should be silenced because "we all know" that politicians are not ethical?

There seems to be some momentum growing toward change in Raleigh. That's a good thing, isn't it?

Dr. Mary Johnson

Patrick, I assure you (after meeting with Howard Coble's assistant yesterday . . . to discuss matters that should have been handled six months ago when I met with him face to face) that my frustration is well-placed. I have seen a lot of very UGLY stuff in the non-profit sector - a good deal of it outside of Asheboro. I simply do not understand how it has gone on for so long. But then I do.

When some of those "ethical, self-sacrificing" executives/political officials/newspapers stop ducking the deeds of the bad apples and help me/others find the justice we've been denied because our laws aren't enforced, then I will buy your argument. But I've seen too many people do the "hear/see/speak no evil" monkey act to buy it now.

To quote the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was NOT thte vitriolic words or violent actions of the bad people, BUT the appalling silence and indifference of the good people.

Our generation will have to repent not only for the words and acts of the children of darkness, but the fears and apathy of the children of light."

Where non-profits and government agencies are concerned, we are very much in a period of social transition. FEMA, the Red Cross, the United Way, the huge medical centers, federal and state agencies (like the NCMB, State Bar, DHHS, JCAHO, and the IRS), not to mention law enforcement . . . everything that I once trusted and put my faith in as a citizen, as a taxpayer, and a young doctor . . . has fallen off the pedestal. So as far as I am concerned, those "good" guys need to really break a sweat and do something about the "bad" apples. If they don't, it's all just lip service.

Ed, do not put words in my mouth. You KNOW that's not what I'm saying. Yes, reform . . . REAL reform . . . is a good thing. But it has to be real - not the public relations snow job I'm quite certain some of these guys would like to blow up our tails (to quote one, "We have to make it look like we're doing something"). My POINT is that the calls for ethics reform in Raleigh should have come long ago - and because the calls should have come earlier, the people doing the calling should be all the louder now. We're millions, if not billions of dollars, in the whole for the waiting. That's your kids future - and our retirement. And hey, maybe (just maybe) the politicos touting reform should start paying attention to those of us who were jumping up and down screaming (and being ignored - Hello JR) about this kind of garbage eight years ago (returning correspondence would be a start).

I really admire the guy who started the "JimBlackMustGo" website - he saw that something stank (in his own party) and he did something about it - he didn't wait for consensus or ask permission or worry about Rotarian standards of going along to get along (very much like what I've tried to do with mine). Likewise, I've really got to admire "ProCare" for taking on the shameless greed and excesses of Bob Greczyn's non-profit BCBSNC.

The "greendogs" want cudos for standing up and doing what they should have done some time ago. Okay. Cudos. But what's next for the bandwagon - now that it does have some momentum?

Ed Cone

I don't know if the Greendogs want kudos or not. They made a statement that I thought was worthy of a link, so I linked to it.

And no, I don't know what you think. I've been reading your comments for years, and I still don't know what your story is.

Could you possibly summarize it in one paragraph of simple, declarative sentences? No more than 100 words, no cryptic allusions, no sweeping statements. Just fill in the xs: In the year x, I worked as x kind of doctor at x hospital. x happened to a patient named x. I did x, but x did x. My complaint is x. x did x in reaction to my complaint.

Patrick Eakes

Mary, given your obvious charm, it's really hard to believe that you have not gotten more help with your situation.

Patrick Eakes

Making sweeping indictments of the entire not-for=profit industry is absurd. There are some that have abused the public trust, and there are others that could run more efficiently, but most do a great job of fulfilling their goal of helping others.

Impugning the integrity of many organizations of which you know nothing is the type of stance that undermines your primary goal of shining light on your situation and its alleged misdeeds.

With very few exceptions, not taking the iniative to help you does not equal a breach of ethics.

I'm with Ed on his request. I have never gotten a clear understanding of the situation you reference frequently. Please lay it out for us.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Patrick, my "charm", as you call it, has eight years of edges sharpened by slams and cracks like that. Did this one make you feel better?

Ed, the fact that you've been reading my statements "for years" (I've only been blogging since February 3, 2005) and still say you do know know what happened tells me that you haven't read anything very closely. The case has been summarized on my website (www.asheboropediatrics.com), and the criminal complaint I submitted to the Randolph County DA is posted there in its entirety. If you're really interested, take the time to READ it. You're an intelligent guy and I think things would be clear if you did.

I once, long ago, sent you an e-mail and asked you to take a look (as a blogger). I asked for your help. You never responded. And one of those edges got rougher.

If you're not interested, I'm not sure why I'm making the effort here to "sound-bite" it in 100 words or less, but here goes:

From 1996-1998, I was in public service - at "non-profit" Randolph Medical Associates (owned by Randolph Hospital) - recruited to my hometown with nearly $200,000 of the taxpayer's money. In January 1998, after voicing concerns about some of the stuff that was going on at the hosptial, I was threatened - told to shut up or else. Two days later I was called in by the nurses to intervene in a neonatal case(the doctor who botched the case was employed by a local affiliate of Cone - I am prohibited from revealing patient identities). The baby survived - by all accounts due to my action and efforts. I reported the incident to Peer Review. Two weeks later I was fired, but not really - the practice kept me under contract and banned me from seeing patients for six months - telling me I would be fired for cause if I opened my mouth. I was not allowed to smoothly transition my practice (as the loan-repayment agreement the practice made with the federal government clearly stated was my right). In fact, the government did nothing to enforce any of the terms of the agreement until months after the fact. As a result, my practice was destroyed. All the taxpayer money that was used to recruit me was poured down the drain. Disgusted, my partner ultimately left Asheboro (she got loan repayment too - more federal money down the drain). In 1999, I sued RMA. The government program I served (the National Health Service Corps) asked for feedback about my experience and I gave it - in confidence, in a letter to Clinton DHHS Secretary Donna Shalala. In 2000, the hosptial sued me for "libel" for providing that feedback (tremendously humiliating in one's hometown). Letters from colleagues supported my version of events, and assured officials that I was telling the truth. The cases were settled, out-of-court, in 2001 in my favor (for less than a year's salary). During negotiations, the hosptial represented the practice to be all but bankrupt. Afterwards, I discovered that hospital administrators repeatedly lied under Oath about the confidentiality of their "non-profit" books and (skyrocketed) salaries - withholding the information in defiance of a judge's order. The settlement was therefore negotiated in bad faith - shorting me considerable funds I might have been able to use to come home and resume my practice. This consitututes fraud (it's not rocket science). I reported the perjury and contempt and fraud to the Randolph County DA in 2003 - and asked for an independent SBI investigation (as every lawyer I have ever spoken to has told me is a legitimate expectation). The DA killed the investitgation before it could take place and has not answered a single correspondence explaining his actions. I have repeatedly asked for Congressional and State intervention. I've written Board Members and Asheboro City leaders (all fine upstanding people looking the other way) - no response. The newspapers have ignored the story.

I don't know if it was 100 words or less, but I sincerely hope this helps. I was a whistle-blower before whistle-blowing was cool. Maybe neither one of you would be angry if you had been treated in this fashion, but I doubt it. I sincerely hope that a physician caring for someone in your family is never faced with the choice I had to make (in the middle of the night less than five minutes) . . . or that your child/loved ones are never at the medical mercy of a system that would put a doctor in that position in the first place . . . a system that is determined to excuse those who did.

Because of the complexities of the case, it is the JOB of the state and federal government - via regulatory agencies and law enforcement to investigate claims like mine - and prosecute them if crime occurred. These people are paid to pay attention - be it to 100 words or 100,000 or 1,000,000. I've spent eight years fighting a battle that never should have had to have been waged in the first place. I did my job and my duty and I will be DAMNED if I am going to beg - especially in the wake of "disproportionate share" and Jim Black. I am going to DEMAND!!! I am going to be in these people's faces. And I will question the integrity of those who have stood by and allowed it to happen when their job was to do exactly the opposite.

I ran out of "charm" a while back.

It is the job of newspapers like the N&R to report it. JR can't spare a reporter to send down to Randolph County these days. I haven't been "persuasive" enough. I suppose people like Ethan Fiensilver move him more.

It's Saturday, and I have things to do and places to go. I hope the re-telling of my sad story has kept you both entertained.

Ed Cone

"In January 1998, after voicing concerns about some of the stuff that was going on at the hosptial, I was threatened - told to shut up or else. Two days later I was called in by the nurses to intervene in a neonatal case(the doctor who botched the case was employed by a local affiliate of Cone - I am prohibited from revealing patient identities). The baby survived - by all accounts due to my action and efforts. I reported the incident to Peer Review."

This seems to be the nub of the story, and it remains terribly unclear.

What concerns did you voice, and to whom? What "stuff" are you talking about? Who threatened you, and how (in writing, in person) and with what?

What incident did you report to Peer Review? What was the manner of the report?

What is the purported relationship between the "incident" and your subsequent firing?

Roch101

While Ed is correct that there remains some mystery about your story, Dr. Johnson, it's no longer the nub of the story. Since you negotiated a settlement, it appears as if the only remaining issue is the alleged perjury. I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me as if you were indeed defrauded on your settlement, that you may have further recourse through civil action against the hospital. Have you considered such an action?

Dr. Mary Johnson

Ed, you are asking questions that I cannot answer publicly in any significant detail because the law does not allow me to. Patient identities and records are privileged and confidential - and I have done my best to honor that as I pressed to see my own rights upheld in this case. Furthermore, Medical Peer Review is done in secret. It is done in secret to (1) protect patients' privacy and (2) encourage doctors/nurses/medical personnel to speak openly and without fear of exposure, litigation and retaliation. But the fact that it is done in absolute secrecy is also Medical Peer Review's biggest problem. The process is immune from any kind of legal discovery - even in malpractice cases (something that the News & Observer has picked up on and is starting to wirte stories about). Because of that blanket immunity (not to mention, the "right to work" laws in this state), doctors have little recourse against hospitals which may use the process inappropriately (i.e. for economic purposes or to silence whistleblowers - double ditto in my case). The meager laws that are in place to protect physicians are not enforced - and "whistleblower protection" only became a legal reality last year (to my knowledge, that law has not been tested in court). My website links a series of articles done by the Philadelphia Post Gazette that describes the problem in great detail (if you're really interested).

There is no question that the laws governing Peer Reveiw merit reform - for I do not belive we are going to fix the "medical malpractice crisis" or get tort reform until doctors demonstrate we can do a better job of policing our own.

You want something summarized in less than 100 words that cannot be summarized in less than 100 words. Besides, it IS summarized, in all of the detail with which I am comfortable, in the criminal complaint now on posted on the Asheboro Pediatrics website. Get past the first page or so of pure perjury and contempt (written in the legalize prescribed by NC Statute), and you will get there.

I cannot publish all of the documents I have provided to the Randolph County District Attorney that support my complaint. And even those I provided to him have patient identities blacked out. But I have provided enough evidence to the DA to more than merit an independent SBI investigation. It has not happened. I've also repeatedly asked the N&R to publicize the case and bring pressure to bear on the DA (since the Courier Tribune is not going to do it). It has not happened.

I am sorry "the nub" of the story is "terribly unclear" to you. It does not seem to be to others. And again, if the government were doing its job in this case - had ever done its job, I would not be blogging at all. I served my community honorably and well, and for my trouble was professionally robbed, raped and left for dead. From day one, the law and "ethics" have been on my side. The problem was that no one else was playing by the rules because they knew the rules would not be enforced. I do not believe, after what I have been through, that I should be explaining to the government why my case is significant and has merit. It is the job of the government agencies that puport to serve the public good (and can examine the information I've submitted) to explain to me why my case does not have merit. They can't do that because you cannot argue with the black and white of sworn discovery responses. So they just don't answer questions or correspondence at all.

I am sick of the Jim Blacks of this world thinking they can do whatever they want to whoever they want because they are who they are and they know who they know. If "the call" is to define standards upwards, then we need to start with the "non-profits", because the scams some of these organizations & their officials have been running on the premise that they served the public good are just shameful.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Roch, why would I return to civil court when civil court was corrupt in the first place? Perjury is a crime. Contempt is a crime. The sundry misdemeanors described in my complaint are crimes. So prosecute the crimes. Restore the integrity of the system before you ask me to re-submit myself to it.

The settlement was negotiated in bad faith. Randolph Hospital officials lied and concealed information vital to my damages claim - even after a judge ordered them to provide the information. Furthermore, one of the conditions of settlement was that I be afforded a patient list - and this was never provided.

The "nub" of the story is that I am a doctor in public service who did my job and my duty in exactly the way I supposed to do it. I played by ALL of the rules. And everyone else in this mess ignored them. The people who breached the contracts and broke the laws got big fat raises and lived happily after after (on the public's dime). And I still cannot afford to come home and start over again ten years after coming home the first time.

I have a headache now (it's always pleasant to relive this), and am going to bed.

Roch101

"Roch, why would I return to civil court when civil court was corrupt in the first place?"

Umm, because it sounds like your current efforts amount to beating your head against a wall?

jsykes

I agree that Mary's case is complex and requires much study, but it seems clear to me that what she is asking for is for the system to work as it should.

We all know the powerful are given a pass unless there is a compelling circumstance to hold them accountable, such as public pressure.

Instead of grilling her to put up or shut up, we should bring pressure to bear on the attorney general and the SBI to give her what she deserves: an unbiased examination of her complaint by an independent party.

However, I know first hand that the theoretical system of justice we talk about is a world apart from the practical system that metes out "justice" in America.

I was able to spend 145 days in solitary confinement in the Forsyth County Jail after an officer concocted a wild story about my belief system while I was incarcerated in 1996. Then, in court, as I was pleading guilty to a crime I committed, the prosecutor made up two complete lies to try and convince the judge to send me to prison. I submitted myself to justice and accepted its decision, but was aghast at the lack of veracity in the structure.

Two plus two does not always equal four, and that is what Dr. Johnson wants.

Ed Cone

I'm not asking her to put up or shut up, JS. I'm asking her to explain the case to me in a way I can understand it, using specifics instead of generalities.

I'm still at the beginning, and I'm still asking basic questions. The answers don't require naming patients or breaching confidentiality.

E.G., What concerns did you voice, and to whom? What "stuff" are you talking about? Who threatened you, and how (in writing, in person) and with what?

What is the purported relationship between the "incident" and your subsequent firing?

Instead of huffing that everyone else has understood you, Dr J, maybe you could step back and see that you are not presenting this in a way everyone can understand. A wide variety of media seems to have not taken up your story -- maybe that's because it's not something they can get their arms around.

You have a forum here, with several people trying to help construct a clear narrative. If you want to use it, great.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Ed, it's been crystal clear from about your third post that I do not have "a forum" here. Just like at the N&R, I've been goaded and insulted for trying to get someone to help me focus attention on making the system work the way it's supposed to work - the way YOU would expect it to work were you in my shoes. We're way past "the beginning" here. If you had been to the Asheboro Pediatrics website and read the criminal complaint, from start to finish, you would not be asking some of these questions. Since re-working and updating the site in January (again, I asked for your input and got the cold shoulder), I've been told that it reads very well. It takes time, but if you're really interested what you need to know to understand this case is there.

You're a smart guy. I cannot just "put up" a lot of this "stuff" for the whole world to see. The law limits me to "generalities" when I talk about this situation publicly . . . meanwhile Randolph Hospital has hidden behind and abused laws designed to protect the public - and hospital officials have gotten rich.

I am not going to "shut up" about it. But the only way I would be able to give you the information in the fashion you want is to write a book and change the names to protect the guilty.

I've gotten the same kind of treatment from government officials whose JOB it is to read complaints like mine, and it's maddening. This case would not be so "complicated" if they had done their jobs in the first place and enforced the simple terms of a federal site agreement - a CONTRACT Randolph Hospital & RMA made with the government to recruit and RETAIN doctors to Asheboro. It would have taken ONE PHONE CALL to have stopped all of this in its tracks eight years ago. But DHHS is no better than FEMA.

The press is even worse. The Courier Tribune has totally ignored the story in deference to the Chamber and Country Club connections that hospital officials use and enjoy. Meanwhile, the N&R can't spare a reporter to look at what I can legally show them - even for one afternoon. But they can write stories all day long based on a confidential report that the law says they shouldn't even have. Has anyone investigated the David Wray leak yet?

I've been told over and over again that my case merits an independent investigation - just like Homestead - just like the David Wray debacle. The reason I "get" the Wray case is because, as an employee, I have both been in David Wray's shoes and (if any of the allegations against Wray's leadership are true) fought someone who grossly abused their power.

We're watching too much "Law & Order" and believing that the law works like it does on TV. When did we become a society where one has to file a lawsuit to get the law enforced?. I should not need a lawyer to report a crime and see it investigated. Roch, your question should be, WHY has Dr. Johnson been banging her head against a wall? Returning to civil court and spending lots of money to do just that (because everyone can just lie in court with no consequences whatever) is not an "option" I wish to pursue. And you're absolutely right. The story is not so much now about the circumstances of my firing, but what happened during the legal process that the two of you put so much trust in. It's simple perjury and contempt and fraud now. Black and white sworn discovery responses in which two people charged with the public good lied.

I put my trust in the law. And so far, it has not worked. So your questions should be WHY isn't the law enforced . . . and WHY can't Dr. Mary Johnson get the independent investigation that everyone everywhere says should have been initiated in 2003? Everyone that is, but the Randolph County District Attorneys camped out on Worth Street in Asheboro. They won't answer correspondence or return phone calls or schedule meeting to explain their decisions. Is this acceptable or accountable government to the "forum panel" here?

The answers to the questions you should be asking mirror and tie into the reasons why Jim Black got away with so much for so long.

Ed, I am sorry I apparently stepped on your toes when I pointed out that the "progressive" Democratic Party has not been at all progressive when it comes to the political machinations of Jim Black. But it's the truth. I am very skeptical of "ethics" reform getting anywhere in Raleigh - given my own experience with "non-profits" and "ethics" - not to mention many of the headlines in the newspapers over the last five years . . . from "disproportionate share" to Homestead to the Red Cross to the United Way. The tax dollars have been there for the taking and very little has been done to stop it. Even Big Jim says he will push for reform. He clearly expects to be there to push it - and that says more about the "momentum" and the bandwagon than any observation I can make. "Greed is good". And it will stand because instead of holding the perpetrators accountable, our society goads (and sends the bill to) the victims. And that would be us.

As for "huffing", I did not mean for this thread to deviate in the fashion it has. But you asked and I answered as best I could.

Ed Cone

I've never seen an episode of Law and Order, for what that's worth.

And I have no affiliation with the Progressive Dems, they just posted something I thought was worthwhile, so I linked to it. My toes are unstepped-upon.

I'm a reporter.

You have said for some time now that you have a story to tell. I'm asking you questions to frame the narrative.

You respond in a number of ways, but not by answering the questions and helping me and my readers construct a simple timeline of events and roster of players.

Your strategy to date has not worked. Rather than lecture and accuse and point back to your previous efforts, maybe it's time to rethink your presentation.

You do have a forum here.

You write as if we had a some longtime relationship, but we've never met, or talked. I've tried to penetrate the verbiage at your site, and in your comments, but with limited success. Now I'm trying in public to work with you, and you say it's not happening.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Heavy sigh. Ed, I HAVE answered your questions - to the best of my ability and mindful of the laws that govern privacy and confidentiality. I'm not going to cross that line - for that would make me no better than the hospital officials who illegally released confidential Medical Board and Peer Review documents that I authored to discovery.

You are not going to get this one in less than 100 words and you are not going to get privileged or confidential information. I don't work for the N&R.

The "verbage" of the complaint is the legalize prescribed by General Statute - the language lawyers understand . . . because if you present it in any other form (as I did the first time), the excuse they use is that you're not being specific and they don't understand. At this point in time, making them understand is much more important than making it easy for you.

Mindful that the story was getting lost in the verbage (and sidetracked by all of the other non-profit slime) last year, in January the website was majorly streamlined and updated. Again (inasmuch as you've dissed it several times in this thread), I've been told (by collegues mired in similar situations) that it is a very good, well-written, detailed summary of an extremely complicated case. It paints an ugly picture of small-town medicine, says a lot about the state of "ethics" in North Carolina, and speaks to the abject failures of the state to really protect doctors, nurses and patients.

The "nub" of the story - the perjury, contempt and the fraud - ARE POSTED on the Asheboro Pediatrics website via the link: "Perjury Complaint submitted to Randolph County Sheriff Litchard Hurley and Asheboro Police Chief Gary Mason". It is very specific (the actual documents that support the complaint are not posted/linked because I am not the computer whiz you are), and contained within the first three pages. The rest of the criminal complaint answers your questions as specifically as I publicly can - regarding the circumstances of my firing.

The public records Randolph Hospital administrators lied about and withheld during litigation & settlement negotiations are referenced on the site - and the source is noted. "Guidestar.com" offers copies of the last three years of any non-profit's IRS 990 returns for free - older returns are archived.

For the record, I think I'm giving your readers more credit than you are. I think they are smart enough to "get" this story via what is up and posted on the website. I don't really have a "strategy". I have simply been asking for help - in whatever forum I can find.

You're a reporter. So have at it. Follow the money (right into "non-profit" executives' & doctors pockets). And understand that the law (many would argue a bad one) ties my hands and puts me in a box. The only reason I've had a window is because Randolph Hospital administrators broke the law. At least two professional publications (articles linked on the website) have felt that my story sheds disturbing light on the difficulty doctors face standing up for patients in a corporate environment. Unlike the N&R, those reporters called me up and conducted in depth interviews - and before they did it, they went to the website and did their homework. They managed to get through "the verbage".

I've asked for your input about presentation before and you blew me off. Here on your "forum", you appear to be more perturbed with me - for not spoonfeeding you something that is already available on the website (that excuse always works for JR) . . . rather than being the blogger I know you are and using what you've got to question the actions of hospital officials and law enforcement.

As an aside, a Randolph Hospital nurse faces federal charges for stealing patients identities - on the watch of the very adminstrators who worked their magic on my life. I wonder why she thought she could get away with something like that? Could it be the example these gentlemen set?

Your featured post today is about open government and accountability. My case is ALL about that. And we actually have met . . . at last year's blogging forum in Greensboro. And I've studied your blog for some time. I do feel like I know you. Most of the time I think you're a reasonable guy. But today someone told me I had been "Coned".

Ed Cone

I do not understand your need to personalize this discussion. I do not know you, and I have no personal animosity or other strong feelings about you.

I'm telling you that I'm interested in your story, but that the way you tell it here and elsewhere do not make it completely clear to me.

The fault may lie with me, but my lack of understanding is nonetheless real.

I do understand that after your long struggle, this is frustrating to you. But we are where we are.

You have a number of people reading this thread, and asking for clear and concise information. How you choose to use this moment is entirely up to you.

i'm listening

None of us get it, Mary. Many of us have tried very hard. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. The story is extremely murky and you can't seem to tell it without invectives and tangents. You frighten potential allies away with hostility and sarcasm. You discourage further exploration of the topic with broken record recitations that are non-specific and emotional. You seem unable to state facts without several accompanying expression of your feelings. It makes it very hard for someone who is not inside your head to get a read on the situation and understand the sequence of events and what was done wrong.

I hope that you do find some who can help you. Your spiteful attitude towards some who possibly could -- including the media, politicians, and bloggers -- makes your current strategy unlikely to be successful.

I know, I know -- if I had been through what you'd been through... I understand you can't change how you feel. I'm just saying if you want a resolution to your situation, you might try a different tack than the one that hasn't worked all these years. Calling everyone else lazy and dense does nothing but create ambivalence towards you. Give people a chance.

Dr. Mary Johnson

"i'm listening", you're absolutely right. I cannot change how I feel. I don't want to. Likewise, I am not going to apologize for those feelings - or just roll over. I spent a very long time dreaming of becoming - and then becoming a doctor. Despite being warned against it, I came home to be one. What Randolph Hospital did to me is just unacceptable. And it's VERY personal.

Again, I've never had "a strategy". But I will say this. When this originally happened, being "nice" and playing by the rules didn't work.

In fact, for years I was silent and played the hands I was dealt by the rules I was given. But the hands were dirty - and no one else was playing by the rules I relied upon. I am tired of being the victim and the pawn. My perspective is unique because I have been there and done that . . . many, many rounds . . . with lawyers and politicians and regulatory agencies . . . NONE of whom have done their jobs. In the meantime, on the road, I've seen doctors and practices meltdown and patients left out in the cold . . . things in clinical practice that would chill your spine . . . and corporate behavior that (I hope) would infuriate you. Worst of all, I've watched people charged with the public good bleed the "non-profit" healthcare system dry - stuffing their own pockets full - all the while telling us it was "charitable" and for our own good.

It's not a story is going to get told in the Jerry Bledsoe "just the facts" fashion. But it's definitely a truth disguised as fiction, "House of God Part 2" candidate (although God has nothing to do with it).

I've got nothing against bloggers - and no real beef with Ed (it's his blog and he can be however he wants to be). But "angry", "sarcastic", and "hostile" towards politicians and the media? You betcha. And after Jim Black, Homestead, and "Disproportionate Share" (to name only a few of the dirty, public money-sucking scandals that have grabbed headlines) I've gotta ask WHAT DOES IT TAKE to get others FEELING that way? Because feelings are what makes people MOVE.

My primary frustration right now is that anyone going to the Asheboro Pediatrics website now should very much "get it". When I first uncovered the "litigation misconduct" (in 2003), and went to the DA with the allegations . . . certainly when I submitted the re-worked complaint a few months ago . . . the newspapers should have AT LEAST reported that the allegations had been made (like I dunno . . . Homestead?). I staged protests in front of the hospital in 2004, and the only newspaper that showed up was the weekly Randolph Guide (God bless Robert Roule). That kind of journalistic apathy compounds the problem because this particular DA is not going to do anything unless his seat is very hot. Now my story is publicly posted in excruciating detail in the form of the very criminal complaint I re-filed (meticulously reworked for the umpteenth time) . . . retold in a fashion that spoonfeeds the information to the government officals and lawyers I've been forced to play with.

Roch is right. The circumstances of my termination (bottom line: the medical whistleblower was shot) are more or less a mute point. At this point in time the legal issue is simple. Randolph Hosptial administrators, (CEO) Bob Morrison and (VP) Steven Eblin, defied a judge's order and lied repeatedly under Oath about fiscal matters relevant to a damages claim (during discovery of their own "libel" lawsuit). They did it to hide assets (not to mention the salaries they paid themselves - and the physicians who "inherited" my "business") . . . and to minimize the damages they paid out at settlement. They devalued a physician's sacrifice and struggle against a warped system . . . and ultimately made it virtually financially impossible for her to start over and fix what they destroyed (the purpose of my lawsuit in the first place). The law (IRS code/US code/NC Statute) is clear. What they did IS perjury (a felony). It's contempt. And it's fraud. Their Board of Directors (honorable men all - or so I'm told) either passively or actively let them do it . . . and have done NOTHING to address their bad behavior now that it has been exposed. All of it merits an independent investigation by local and state law enforcement - as well as prosecution.

So why hasn't it happened? Could it be that I do not have the right last name - or make contributions to the right politicians/party? Or smooze with the right people?

You haven't felt anything until you've been called a liar by liars in your own hometown - AFTER you took the bullet doing the right thing for a patient that wasn't even yours. It's been eight years, and it's simple kids. I want to come home and live/work near my family and friends. And I want to do it in an environment that encourages honest and ethical behavior - free from financial back-stbbing and fear. The "reign" of Bob Morrison and Steve Eblin at Randolph Hospital must end. I don't care how "cooperative" they are with Cone.

Ed, you either care or you don't. If you're really interested in my story, go to the website and work with what is there because that is all I can legally and "ehtically" give you in a public forum. Like I said, I do not work for the N&R, and there are certain things I am not going to do. It's a matter of "ethics". My case makes one thing resoundingly clear. Our laws do not support ethical behavior - either individually or institutionally.

If, as a "reporter" you want to talk to me "off the record", e-mail me or contact me through my webmaster. In the meantime, I will continue to comment and offer opinion as I see fit on the blogs - and hopefully find the time to develop my own.

Bubba

LOL!

"But today someone told me I had been "Coned"."

I think that's considered a debate tactic, but I think it's probably better than being "conned", Mary.

Ed Cone

My primary frustration right now is that anyone going to the Asheboro Pediatrics website now should very much "get it".

That's the problem in a nutshell. You know the story, so you think the way you are presenting it is, or should be, clear.

When you are told that your presentation is not clear, you get defensive and argumentative.

It might be helpful to step back and remember that this is not something most of us have lived with for years. We don't know the story. And when people tell you they are having trouble getting traction on the narrative, it's meant to be helpful, not hostile.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Yeah, Bubba, getting "conned" at settlement was worse. But the play on words was not a debate tactic. It's what someone (considerably more sympathetic than Mr. Cone) told me yesterday. Several folks reading my posts this weekend have managed to read past the "cold hard facts", and pick up on the hurt, isolation, & frustration in my ordeal. I've gotten some much-needed support and encouragement - people telling me to continue telling my story because it's important and needs to be told/heard. When I embraced the concept of blogging (under my own name - a huge risk to take as a physician) I had hoped to find more of that in the blogs (since bloggers pat themselves on the back so much for shedding light & air on stories the big gun media outlets ignore). But I haven't really.

Ed, the story is on the website. And the website has been considerably re-worked . . . taking in mind legitimate criticisms like yours. Since the re-do, I've gotten a number of very positive comments - both about the way the information is presented, and what it reveals about our system of medicine and "justice". I have been assured that it's more than "clear". The site will be updated periodically (as I just got last year's 990 returns on Randolph Hospital and RMA) . . . and (on the advice of Howard Coble's assistant) am working on more letters to send (yet again) to the IRS and US Attorneys.

I've come WAY more than half-way for the journalistic types with short attention spans who want everything spoonfed in 100 words or less (if that's a "hostile" observation, so be it - I've felt very much cornered here this weekend). I think it's time those journalists met me in the middle . . . because time has proven that I've been RIGHT about the dirty goings on in the North Carolina "non-profit" sector for all of the eight years I've been fighting the battle to come home.

So take or leave it. As a reporter, use it or don't. I have other irons in the fire. But be advised that I don't plan to "just go away". By the way, that was the expressed wish of the RMA Director who fired me. You want names - his name was Mike Bridges. The guy never moved from Greensboro, but he knew what was "best" for my patients, my partner and I in Asheboro. He "left" RMA a few months after he fired me. And he's slept in his own bed every night for the last eight years while I have not. I think he works for a Greensboro Cardiology group now.

As an aside, I've often wondered that if another newspaper picked up this story and ran with it . . . would the N&R then jump on the bandwagon and use quotes from my blog posts to write their story . . . and call that "journalism"?

I think I'm done here. A response to one of my posts on the N&R's "Letters to the Editor" was really nasty (and I'm getting lectures on hostility?). So much for blogger hospitality.

I have taken enough hits to the heart for one weekend.

Ed Cone

Dr J, if what you are looking for is support and encouragement, I can provide that. I have enormous respect for physicians (my dad was one) and plenty of suspicion of institutions and entrenched interests.

However, it was my impression that you are looking to spark an investigation of your case.

Reporters need to look for facts, not express their emotions.

I don't know the facts of your case yet. My reactions have been as a reporter.

A careful reporter would have to try to reconstruct the story from the ground up, with an impartial and dispassionate point of view.

If you are looking for emotional support, say so -- I'm a very loyal friend. Perhaps I misread your intentions.

me

...sigh...

I don't know much about reporters and reporting...but if I were a reporter...and had ANY interest in this story...one more sigh... I would have made contact and spent a couple of hours off the record deciding the merits of the story. I suspect that she will talk openly off the record via phone or face to face. If not, come back and blog "no change....no understanding...moving right along"

Why did JR not respond or spend a couple of bucks to hear the story? That might be the spin for a freelance reporter.

Good luck to both,

me

PS...and yes I agree that the Doc attacking the person that she sends letters to is dumb.

Roch101

Dr. Johnson, here's my crack at your story in 180 words. It is not my view of the facts, it is my summary of what you assert based on the information on your web site.

-----------------------------
In 1998, Dr. Johnson was called to the Randolph Hospital neonatal unit where she resuscitated a dying newborn. The baby survived and Dr. Johnson decided to file a complaint against the baby’s attending physician. Hospital administrators advised her not to and two weeks later, she was fired.

In 1999, Dr. Johnson filed a lawsuit against her former employer. (Presumably, for wrongful termination.) The case was settled and Dr. Johnson received $120,000. In 2000, the former defendants filed a libel suit against Dr. Johnson. The details and outcome of that case are unknown.

In December of 2005, Dr. Johnson filed a criminal complaint against the Randolph Hospital administrators involved in the prior civil cases. Dr. Johnson alleges perjury and contempt of a judge’s order when the administrators claimed, in sworn depositions, that they had provided information requested by Dr. Johnson, which Johnson asserts they had not, and by claiming that certain financial information was confidential -- information that Dr. Johnson subsequently found to be publicly available. Dr. Johnson asserts that these actions defrauded her of a fair settlement but she has filed no further civil action.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Close Roch.

I was threatened (in writing - a memo from Mr. Bridges) two days BEFORE the clinical incident in 1998. I was told not to express any concerns about the behavior or actions of others without clearing it through him first. At that time, I was chair of the Perinatal Committee at Randolph Hospital - and complaints were coming directly to me. Mr. Bridges was a non-clinical practice director. He had no authority inserting himself into peer review matters. I intervened in the case knowing I was putting myself in the line of fire - but really having no choice.

Breach of contract. Negligence. Tortious interference with contact (a kind of anti-trust claim). Slander.

The "libel" lawsuit was quietly dismissed at settlement. The "details" of that complaint were actually published front-page in the Courier Tribune when the lawsuit was filed (my case had been ignored until the hospital filed its lawsuit), and are presumably available through their archives. It was an intimidation and humiliation tactic that backfired.

I first brought the perjury and contempt to the attention of the Randolph County District Attorney in 2003. The December 2005 complaint is actually a re-write of the 2003 correspondence - resubmitted after a fall 2005 story in the Courier Tribune discussed the processing of criminal complaints, and it became clear mine had not been given the attention or treatment it deserved.

Ed Cone

You told the N&R for its article of 8/17/01, after withdrawing your breach of contract suit in exchange for the settlement, at which time the hospital dropped its libel suit, "I'm very happy, I wouldn't have done anything differently," and you agreed to a joint statement with the hospital saying both sides found the settlement acceptable.

Even if you are correct that the other side misrepresented finances and screwed you over on the settlement amount, what is the relevance of rehashing the details of the original case?

I don't mean to suggest that the alleged actions of your opponents in the financial portion of the case, if true, are acceptable, or that you didn't get hosed.

But why are you talking about all the medical stuff and pediatric care that you were willing to stop talking about five years ago? Isn't this at bottom a dispute over compensation?

Roch101

Ed makes a good point, especially when it comes to being able to offer a succinct summary of your story. Everything leading up to the now-settled suits is background, the complexities of which make a quick telling of your story nearly impossible.

I would humbly suggest that, in the future, if someone should ask you about the battle you are fighting, a quick and accurate answer would be:

"I was involved in a legal dispute with Randolph Hospital. I was paid $125,000 in a settlement. I have since learned that some of the administrators gave information during sworn depositions that I consider false and I think their statements defrauded me of a proper settlement amount."

That's your story, really.

Dr. Mary Johnson

No. It's not really . . . since the questions are really about truth and ethics and the proper conduct of people charged with the public good - particularly in the healthcare arena. A number of people affected by this mess would tell you that the worst wounds and hurts and insults were not about money. I'm sure the parents of the baby I helped would tell you they're glad I made the decision I made.

Money is certainly the only language Bob Morrison and Steven Eblin understood. Recovering my losses from the perjury and contempt and fraud/theft would be nice (I could come home). But if you think this is solely about money, Roch, then we are not at all on the same wavelength.

"Me" is absoutely right (until she/he lost me at the P.S.). Any reporter worth his/her salt and with ANY interest would start with an "off the record" conversation - a "face-to-face" to look at the evidence. JR has had three years to spend a few dollars and send a reporter down to Asheboro to do exactly that. He hasn't. So I find all of his blather about stories of local import and open government empty rhetoric. The N&R's "coverage" of the Wray debacle just smells. I've decided to stop telling him because he's not listening.

As for criticizing the people I am writing, I tried the "suck-up" routine for YEARS - begging and pleading with the government agencies that were supposed to have my back to take my back. Three years ago, a lawyer told me that I should not and did not need to pay a lawyer in order to report a crime and see it prosecuted. A few months ago I ran all of this by a District Attorney (not of this area) who assured me I had a legitimate beef . . . and that many DA's take perjury very seriously. As a front page N&R story told us last month, others do not (and if perjury is not taken seriously, Roch, why in God's name would I subject myself to another round in civil court - indeed, why would anybody turn to the courts in the first place - if everyone can just lie and get away with it?).

If the Randolph County District Attorney does not care that people are lying in procedures in his courthouse, the only way I am going to get anywhere at this point is to jump up and down and scream and yell - and embarrass/shame the people who are not doing their jobs into doing their jobs. The more noise I make, the more it threatens their power or their money flow. I guess that's "strategy", but I would not consider the people who have offered it (or myself) "dumb".

And Ed, your offer of "friendship" is nice. And I will take friends when I can get them. But I already have friends - good ones - strong ones - men and women of character and backbone who stood by me through thick and thin. What I need now is a reporter who's really interested. It's fairly clear I need to keep looking.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Ed, as an addendum (and to be fair), I note that you have at least been curious enough to go back and look at the newspaper coverage. At the time I accepted the settlement (physically and emotionally exhausted and at the end of my emotional/financial rope - I'm curious, have you ever been sued?), I was under the impression that punitive damages were not taxable. For that is what my lawyer told me - to get me to accept the settlement. He lied. Speaking of "ethics", the NC State Bar doesn't think that's a problem. The hospital's lawyers (who should have known better than to let their clients file false answers under Oath) also lied when they told us that the hospital/practice were nearly bankrupt, and could not afford to pay any more. According to the State Bar, that's no biggie either . . . it's called "agressive representation".

Lawyers talking about "ethics" (that means most politicians) now just cracks me up (not).

So I guess, to answer your question, I saw a little daylight and thought I had a good deal . . . until I paid the lawyer . . . and Uncle Sam came knocking . . . and I later discovered Guidestar. You're right. I got hosed.

When I said I would not have done anything differently, I was refering to (1) taking the case and helping the baby and (2) not rolling over and just taking what Bob Morrison and Steve Eblin dished out.

Due respect to the reporter, I think I've walked enough of the walk . . . and paid enough dues . . . to talk about whatever I want to.

Roch101

"No. It's not really . .."

Oh. Well, good luck.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Thanks. Roch. I know you mean it.

While Ed is hunting up headlines, he might delve into a few more:

For instance, about a year after I was fired, a prominent Asheboro obstetrician was disciplined by the NC Medical Board. I've avoided public comment on the case (now public record) because of my very high regard for his then-wife and child (who were put through hell) not to mention his then-partner, a dear friend, who eventually left Asheboro. I’ve also kept my peace in deference to the fact that, of all of the principals involved in this mess, he is the ONLY one who EVER told me that what was done to me was wrong and he was sorry (it may count for less after he was caught, but it still counts for something). To my knowledge, I am the only member of the Randolph Hospital Medical Staff who ever questioned his behavior BEFORE it blew up in everyone's face (I wrote him a letter and asked him WHAT THE HELL he was doing/thinking?). He did not appreciate the concern. And if you watch any TV at all, you know hospitals are Peyton Place – and “the boys” don’t care at all about the extracurriculars – and who cares if the extracurriculars makes “the girls” uncomfortable? I was basically told to shut up. And not too long after that, I got fired. The hospital had little or no comment on the case when it finally broke: citing medical board review and patient confidentiality.

And then, a little while later, there is the news story about the entire Randolph Hospital Department of Anesthesia quitting at once. I suppose all of those doctors were just "disgruntled employees". The hospital had little or no comment on why those doctors left: “personnel issues are private”.

And then there is the former RH nurse in federal court - pleading guilty to the felonies of stealing patient identities (I understand state charges are still pending). Again, I wonder why she thought she could get away with something like that. Could it be because of the environment she was working in, and the example her superiors set? They can get away with a felony – why can’t she? Saith the hospital: "No comment".

Specifically related to my case, Ed might also research advertising in the Courier Tribune . . . ads sponsored, in part, by Randolph Hospital, that promoted a doctor (employed by a Cone affiliate) as having skills and training he did not possess . . . ads that prompted unsuspecting parents to choose him to care for their newborn infant over others more qualified. So much for “truth in advertising”. There is no "Department of Neonatology" at Randolph Hospital. But this guy told parents he was its Chairman. Of course, eventually he was elevated Chairman . . . of the Department of Family Practice. I was fired after “cleaning up” his medical mess - and he gets to sail right along. Makes sense to me (not). Apparently it’s okay with the Randolph Hospital Board of Directors . . . and local reporters.

If hospital administrators had played fair during litigation, I would keep my peace about all of this as water under a broken bridge. They did not. And I don’t owe them anything – especially not silence.

Maybe Ed should try pulling up the very few letters the Courier Tribune did print after I was fired - by frustrated parents looking for a "forum" and wanting an investigation . . . but having the door slammed in their faces . . . by the very “non-profit” practice and hospital Boards of Directors that were supposed to hold administrators accountable to the public . . . and by the “free” press. For our newspapers have gone "corporate" . . . publishers and editors smooze to their biggest advertisers . . . and suck up to the Chamber and Country Club and City Council types that all sit on the BOD’s.

Does this sound vaguely familiar?

Ed writes good Op-Eds on "open government" and accountability. Well, my story is all about that - particularly where "non-profits" are concerned. Ask yourself why it was necessary for Randolph Hospital officials to drive two excellent, dedicated, ETHICAL Pediatricians out of town. It wasn’t about patient care. You want to talk about money, Roch? Well, FOLLOW IT . . . right into the pockets of Bob Morrison and Steven Eblin . . . not to mention the doctors who “inherited” the practices that my partner and I could not transition because every possible roadblock was thrown in our way.

You want to know what hospitals really put first? Take a close look at North Carolina’s "disproportionate share" hospital-billing scam (because Mike Easley's administration is not going to do it) . . . billions of Medicaid dollars misappropriated (with some of our biggest & best hospitals in the mix). Yet, as a physician, I am supposed to storm Washington every time the government wants to make program cuts. What about doing something about the rampant fraud and abuse that we all know is there BEFORE we throw more good money after bad?

Money is behind a system of medical peer review that is soaked in fear and wrapped in secrecy - that has the tendency to shoot the messenger and kill the whistleblower - and keep information from patients even as they pursue legitimate malpractice claims. I've often wondered how, in the Jessica Santillon case (at Duke), how that heart ever got into that girl's chest. You cannot tell me that no one in the medical food chain . . . not a lab tech, not a nurse, not a medical student . . . no one picked up on the fact that the donor's blood type did not match the recipient's. You cannot tell me that someone somewhere did not look at the record and say to themselves, "What the . . . ???". But they kept their mouths shut - because they were guppies in the food chain . . . and guppies get eaten by the sharks. For someone's livelihood is first and foremost about money.

Money is behind the glorified indentured servitude that many young physicians enter into in order to pay their medical school loans. “Money for government service” (a song John Edwards liked to sing) turns these naïve, idealistic youngsters into helpless pawns. I’ve watched excellent foreign-born physicians jump through hoop after hoop after hoop to stay in this county – brilliant, gifted people who contribute mightily to our society literally begging for visas, while those here illegally do whatever they want under the radar. It makes NO SENSE!!! Again, in my case, over about $200,000 in federal money went down the drain when Bob and Steve worked their magic, and no one so much as whimpered. Comparatively speaking, how much money went down the toilet in the Homestead debacle and you-all want heads on platters?

Money is behind a system of economics and commerce that let companies lap up “incentives” and tax exemptions . . . and lets them recruit “cheap labor” to make the profit margins even larger . . . but then lets them completely off the hook in terms of providing help/support to the public educational and medical systems that so many of their workers are literally “dumped” on. Where insured patients are concerned, money is all about the “middle man” inserted into the patient-physician relationship by “managed care”. Meanwhile, “non-profit” NC Blue Cross Blue Shield, supposedly the common working man’s insurance “safety net”, is literally wallowing in its profit margins – all the while trying to justify 2.5 million dollar bonuses to its CEO.

Money is behind a system of malpractice litigation that is out of control – sucking billions from our healthcare system. There are no reasonable checks or balances . . . anyone with a grudge and filing fee can make any allegation under the sun and totally disrupt a physician’s life FOR YEARS. Yes malpractice is out there. Yes, patients deserve a forum when it occurs. But hey, why don’t we do something – anything – to fix the system by which physicians “police” their own . . . BEFORE we start passing laws that limit patients’ rights for redress? Why don’t we make it possible for a physician to say, “I’m sorry”, without setting him/herself up for years of litigation? Figure that out . . . fix that and you will have “tort reform”.

Money is behind powerful politicians who dupe and use us to suit their own ends. The methods Jim Black used to pass that eye exam law (and pay back his political buddies) was way beyond sleaze. The “Black must go”, “ethics in government” bandwagon is really rolling now. But HOW did this get past the watchdogs at the NC Medical Society and NC Pediatric Society in the first place? Is there a little too much smoozing going on?

Ed and JR talk a good game about open government and accountability – they say they want more people talking (JR especially keeps asking for story ideas and input). But JR has ignored this very “local”, very relevant to the headlines, story for years. And Ed is on his own blog grilling someone who has come forward and who IS talking as if she were a nut – or a criminal . . . using her "verbiage” (born of years frustration and a fight neither one of you can or want to understand) as an excuse not to look at the facts. Perhaps BOTH of these reporters should direct their questions to the gentlemen and hospital she is talking about . . . or to the regulatory agencies & law enforcement officials that were/are supposed to police their behavior. Healthcare is not all about flashy cardiology and cancer centers.

“Good luck” getting any “traction” on that.

Anytime you or Roch want to talk one-on-one, Ed, let me know.

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