DETROIT (FOX 2) – A former Detroit Medical Center surgeon said the hospital and its parent company are no longer focused on the health and well-being of the patients they care for, but instead prioritize financial benefits.
Dr. Shakir Hussein started at DMC’s Harper Hospital in 2011 and was the head of their kidney transplant program. Over the next nine years, the grew to gain national recognition. It ended in 2020 when he was fired. Shortly thereafter, the transplant program was halted.
According to the surgeon, he was fired by DMC’s parent company, Tenet, 48 hours after emailing the company’s general counsel. Tenet Healthcare is based in Dallas and is the for-profit owner of Detroit Medical Center.
In his email, he asked to speak to the board after saying his complaints had not been addressed. He read part of the email in an interview with FOX 2:
“I have witnessed unethical behavior and regulatory violations at DMC – the situation has escalated this year – particularly during Covid,” the email from 2020 reads. As we all know, Tenet is a publicly traded company that cares about public safety and human lives and is regulated and compensated by public entities like Medicare and Medicaid. ‘interior of DMC – which belongs to Tenet’
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According to Dr Hussein, the problems started in 2018 when he complained about patient safety and a top cardiologist. He said he emailed complaints to many people in power.
“Cinging everyone, including the president of this and the president of that, sometimes the dean of medicine or the CEO of the group – the CEO of the hospital – and of course it ended up being unpopular,” a- he declared.
He did it again in 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic when he again sounded the alarm over what he believed to be bribery violations. It’s something that Tenet had faced fines to the tune of $500 million elsewhere. He says once Covid started he became even more vocal about patient safety.
Dr Hussein said Harper’s first patient with Covid was a transplant patient, which forced more than a dozen doctors, nurses and providers to quarantine. He asked DMC to stop elective procedures.
“As a physician, patient safety is paramount,” Dr. Hussein said. “I said we need to stop – and I didn’t half say it – I said continuing to do this is really a crime against patients.”
He said it took an order from Governor Gretchen Whitmer for DMC to halt elective procedures. The reason, he said, was money.
“Because a lot of money is made from these elective procedures,” Dr. Hussein said.
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According to Dr. Hussein, there is more. He said DMC was slow to get on-site testing, short of PPE, and patients were sometimes housed two to a room – not knowing if or who tested positive for COVID-19.
“I think now it’s no secret that we’ve been in the news again and again and again and again. It’s not fun that I go on the news, it’s not fame that I love,” he said.
Sinai Grace made national headlines in the spring of 2020 for understaffing and piling up bodies in hospital rooms. But Dr. Hussein thinks this is all a bigger issue with Tenet healthcare.
The company has facilities across the country — and is acquiring more — but also faces questions from federal lawmakers about their use of CARES Act funds. Just last week – a Detroit News article alleged understaffing, delayed care and deaths. Anonymous nurses and doctors were asking Attorney General Dana Nessel to investigate.
“The vast majority of people who raise their voices, did so without giving a face or a name. And I think it’s time for more people to come out,” Dr Hussein said.
He said these were allegations he had been making for years and that he had emailed everyone from Nessel to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and lawmakers. states and the federal government.
He said he didn’t get much response.
“I am not a legal expert or a lawyer to know exactly if this is a crime or not, but I am a doctor and a doctor and I know when a patient’s life is in danger”, said Dr. Hussein. “Independently benefiting from patient safety – that’s the biggest problem. It means you’re cutting everything: you’re cutting education, you’re cutting infrastructure, you’re cutting maintenance. you’re cutting care. nurses, on staff.”
Dr. Hussein said he was worried about DMC’s future because other Tenet hospitals that served low-income populations in Philadelphia and Illinois closed after Tenet sold them.
In Detroit, a city that has seen so many people of color die from Covid, and in a state that is committed to ending racial disparities in health care – he said something needs to be done about Tenet and DMC.
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“The patients we care for are poor – mostly – they are not as well educated. So they are more vulnerable and in the minority – they are more vulnerable,” Dr Hussein said. “A lot of people in this community can’t afford to go anywhere else so we have to be there for them.”
FOX 2 has contacted DMC for a comment on Dr. Hussein’s claims.
“The DMC has an unwavering commitment to providing the safest, highest quality care and services to our community. We are proud to care for the vulnerable patient populations we serve and are proud of the work of our staff, nurses and physicians and their unparalleled dedication to our patients As previously stated, the decision to close the kidney transplant program was made due to several factors including lack of volume to support a high long-term quality, which was compounded by changes in organ allocation protocols by UNOS in the spring of 2021. The closure of the program was not the result of patient complaints or COVID protocols.Any implication that these are the reasons for closing the program is incorrect,” the statement said.
Last week, Nessel’s office said it had just begun its investigation.