A journalist observes life in the far north.
I wrote a story about a groundbreaking for a private surgery center, which is ending a monopoly held by the town hospital.
Leading the story, I wrote: “The physician behind a forthcoming surgery center said his facility will be more sterile, more efficient and less expensive than Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.”
The doctor, orthopedic surgeon Mark Wade, complained about the story because he never openly compared his business to the hospital. He stated that statistically private surgery centers have lower infection rates and lower bills than hospitals.
Wade used innuendo. I didn’t report it like that.
Wade set to have the record set straight. A clarification ran but Wade also wrote a column.
I feel compelled to point out misleading and grossly inaccurate statements written by Dr. Wade and published Aug. 28, 2009, on our opinion page.
First, Dr. Wade states that 250 people attended the groundbreaking. I reported 80 people. The doctor told an editor that he counted about 105 cars and trucks at the event. Maybe I underestimated the number at 80. I counted 50 people and gauged the counted people to be a larger proportion of the crowd than the uncounted people. Then I guessed. Wade’s offer of proof that he saw 105 vehicles does nothing to support his assertion that more than twice as many people were in attendance.
Wade writes, “I have never attempted to compare our facility to FMH (Fairbanks Memorial Hospital), because one cannot do this.”
This contradicts Wade’s other assertion that “outpatient surgical facilities offer a community many positive things. Statistically, they have lower infection rates, lower costs and higher efficiency. This means patients spend less time at the facility and receive a lower bill than they would have otherwise received from a hospital.”
Why can some surgery clinics be compared with some hospitals but not his surgery clinic and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital? And if it’s not fair to compare them—Wade called it apples and oranges in his column—why repeat the statistics?
The spirit of Wade’s column suggests he is a fan of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. He offers an anecdote about the exemplary care his 87-year-old mother received.
The full public record shows that Dr. Wade has at times been a critic.
I offer an example based on an April 18, 2007, report by an administrative law judge.
The judge, Christopher Kennedy, described a public hearing. Wade applied for state approval of his surgery center under a company name, Kobuk Ventures.
“Kobuk’s public relations presentation at the hearing was particularly remarkable, at one point showing a slide depicting the entity that operates FMH as a large pig-shaped pit into which its employees were dumping money that they presumably had extracted from the good people of Fairbanks,” the judge wrote.
Wade has done an about-face but instead of acknowledging that he makes it appear that I had no basis for casting him as a hospital critic in my story.
Doctors hold great moral authority in most communities. Some people are bound to read Wade’s column and take it at face value.
This doctor is being less than candid. I’ve never been so galled.