A Kansas City-area medical director was fired from his job after urging his bosses to hire more staff to quell shortages, and is not accusing them of valuing profit over patient care.
Dr Ray Brovont served as medical director as Overland Park Regional Medical Center in Overland, Kansas, just near the Missouri border, and previously was a doctor in the Army.
He told NBC this week that he was fired after nudging executives to and other leadership to make crucial changes that would elevate patient care and help stressed and burnt out employees.
Other doctors and nurses say these are frequent occurrences in the industry, and blame private-equity owned staffing firms for valuing profits over all else in the health care industry.
Dr Ray Brovont (pictured) served as a former medical director of Overland Park Regional Medical Center in Overland, Kansas. He claims that hospital leadership values profits over patient care and left the ER critically understaffed
Brovont told NBC that the emergency room (ER) staff shortages were the most critical, as hospital leadership wanted to continue expanding the unit without adding the necessary staff.
‘These administrators who make these changes and implement these policies don’t feel the downstream effects of their policy changes,’ Brovont said.
‘They look at the outcome, and the outcome is ‘Hey, we’re making money.’
The hospital Brovont worked at is owned by HCA, a for-profit healthcare system based in Nashville, Tennessee.
In 2014, HCA decided to double its size to 343 beds, adding a pediatric emergency room as well.
The former medical director reports that his staff was being asked to be in ‘three places at once’ as they juggled multiple crises.
Patients in the ER, by definition, need the most urgent care as they are often arriving in a dire situation.
Brovont said that at times when a doctor would answer a ‘code blue’ situation – when a patient’s heart stopped beating or their breathing stopped – they would leave an ER patient unattended, which breaks standard safety protocols.
Brovot (pictured) was awarded $29 million in a wrongful discharge lawsuit, which was later appealed to $26 million, after he was terminated in 2017
In 2015, Brovont reached a breaking point, believing the hospital’s expansion exacerbated what was already a dire situation.
He took up the issue with EmCare, the health staffing company that worked with the hospital. It is owned by Dubilier & Rice, a private equity firm.
Hiring one additional doctor would solve the issue, Brovont believed, as it would allow for their to be at least one doctor on hand to examine incoming ER patients and comply with federal guidelines.
He tells NBC that Dr Patrick McHugh, a EmCare employee who was served as his boss and his now no longer with the company, that his request could not be met for financial reasons, and that ‘profits are in everyone’s best interest.’
In late 2016, he wrote a memo to management once again highlighting his fears, and was fired in January 2017.
Overland Park Regional Medical Center (pictured) is owned by HCA, a for-profit healthcare company. It partners with EmCare, which has the parent company Envision, for its staffing needs
‘Envision clinicians, like all clinicians, exercise their independent judgment to provide quality, compassionate, clinically appropriate care based on their patients’ unique needs,’ Envision, the parent company to EmCare, said in a statement on the matter.
‘The concern raised by Dr. Brovont was related to a hospital policy, not an Envision policy, and predates Envision’s current leadership team.’
Brovont would file a lawsuit for a wrongful discharge and be awarded $29 million by a jury, which was later reduced to $26 million on appeal.
Envision’s emergency medicine group operates with with than 540 facilities across the country, the company told NBC.
Staffing shortages at hospitals, nursing homes, and other similar facilities has been a longtime problem in the U.S.
A shortage of available workers due to the high barrier for entry, combined with low pay in some areas mixed with private equity firms and other for profit enterprises involving themselves in the industry has created a recipe for disaster.
While Brovont’s story began long before Covid, the pandemic has only made things worse.
Long hours in grim conditions – where witnessing dozens of patients dying daily became commonplace in some major areas – have led to many workers leaving in droves, further exacerbating what was already an issue.