Friday, November 09, 2007

An Academic Medical Center with an "A List?"

The Dallas Morning News just printed a story about one hospital's alleged "A-list."

UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas keeps a detailed list of wealthy, high-profile and influential people and their family members to ensure that they get favored treatment if they become patients.

Here is what is known about the people on the list.

The News reviewed a list dating from 2003 and found a virtual "Who's Who" of Dallas and the region. The list is maintained by UT Southwestern's Special Assistance Office and appears to identify wealthy and influential people who either are or might become major donors to the university. The list also includes family members, employees, friends and even one prominent person's maid.

Business titans Trammell Crow, T. Boone Pickens and H. Ross Perot appear on the list along with members of their families. Others include social event planners, fashion designers, several former Dallas mayors and current Mayor Tom Leppert.

The list also includes executives and several nonmanagement employees of The News and its corporate parent, Belo Corp.

Politicians at all levels of the country's government made the list. They include Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, as well as current and former members of Congress and their family members, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and her husband; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson; and former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost.

State officials include Sen. Royce West and House Speaker Tom Craddick and his wife. Local names include former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and her husband, former state Rep. Steve Wolens; and the late Dallas County Commissioner Chris Semos.

Dr. Ron Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Parkland Memorial Hospital, is also on the list.

What are the alleged advantages of being on the list?

Dr. John McConnell, executive vice president for health system affairs at the medical center, said people on the list only get a personal greeting when they arrive at the medical center, might get a special escort to their appointment, and sometimes get free parking.

He also said some people on the list could have a doctor come to the emergency department, even in the middle of the night, to admit a patient who needed immediate care.

"There are patients who are friends of the university, including major donors. Like every other hospital, we have an ability to make sure they don't have any service letdowns," Dr. McConnell said. "We are not ashamed of having this program. If you have people who are important to your business, you're going to treat them well when they walk through the door."

Dr. McConnell did not deny that patients on the list could readily get appointments at UT Southwestern's prominent clinic, the James W. Aston Ambulatory Care Center. But he also said that any patient who complained could also get similar treatment.

This story at least raises the suspicion that people on the alleged "A-list" may get not only some extra amenities, like valet parking, but also better access to care than the average patient.

This seems to imply some slippage from the mission of a partially publicly supported medical school and medical center. For example, the UT Southwestern mission statement is [with italics added for emphasis]:

* To improve health care in our community, Texas, our nation, and the world through innovation and education.
* To educate the next generation of leaders in patient care, biomedical science and disease prevention.
* To conduct high-impact, internationally recognized research.
* To deliver patient care that brings UT Southwestern's scientific advances to the bedside — focusing on quality, safety and service.

Unfortunately, too many of our revered not-for-profit health care institutions seem to be lead in ways that do not always honor their missions

The leaders of these organizations should remember the duty of obedience, the legal requirement that the board of the organization (and hence its leadership) be faithful to the organization's mission.

Hat tip to


Anonymous said...

Dr. McConnell said. "We are not ashamed of having this program. If you have people who are important to your business, you're going to treat them well when they walk through the door."

Business as usual.

Steve Lucas

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how this is perceived as a problem. Anyone who works in a hospital recognizes that it would be impossible to provide this service to everyone, so the stance is that it should be provided to no one. The fact that this list exists doesn't change what happens to the "ordinary guy", and revoking the priveleges given to people on the list won't change what happens to the "ordinary guy."

Anonymous said...

The link to The Dallas Morning News story is broken. Try this: