Pediatrics Answer

Dear Colleagues:

This is intended to inform the members of the Department of Pediatrics, and other members of the our bargaining unit, of the Union’s thinking in the complex and difficult political situation in which they find themselves. It is a state of affairs in which facts have been unfortunately elusive. The object of the Union is to contribute to a solution that keeps the faculty of Pediatrics at Wayne State and as members of our bargaining unit. We have some 600 members of our bargaining unit in the WSU School of Medicine (WSUSoM), of which about 450 are clinical faculty members who provide patient services through faculty practice plans. Slightly over 100 of these clinical members are in Pediatrics. Their loss would be a serious matter to our Union, but more importantly, their leaving would be a body blow to the WSUSoM.

The well-being of the WSUSoM is vital to our University. The research done there is the principal reason that we are in the High-Research category of universities. The patient services provided by Pediatrics are fundamental to the service role of the University to Detroit, Southeast Michigan and the State as a whole. The physicians trained at the WSUSoM often stay in the state to serve our citizens. More than 30% of the physicians in Michigan are trained by the WSUSoM, as were over 40% of those practicing in the Detroit Metropolitan Area. The future of the WSUSoM is intricately involved in the future of Wayne State.

In the following, I present an analysis of the problem and lay out some of the considerations that I see as relevant to it. There is no doubt about several things.

1. The Board of the University Pediatricians (UP), the faculty practice plan, and the leadership of Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM), have been negotiating since November, 2016 with the University of Michigan Medical School (UoM) with a view to leaving WSU and affiliating with UoM;
2.There is a suit filed by three Pediatric faculty members against the UP. That suit is in court now and facts revealed related to the suit have thrown light on the situation;
3. Relations between the UP and the WSUSoM have been fraught for a considerable time and have been exacerbated by negotiating positions that have been characterized as intransigent by both sides; and
4. The appointment of Dr. Herman Gray by the Dean of the WSUSoM has been an attempt to try to find a compromise in the situation that would keep the Department of Pediatrics at Wayne State.

I understand that the Judge in the case in which three Pediatric faculty members are suing the Board of the UP has issued a gag order on the parties in the suit. This stops the interchanges that have taken place between parties to the suit who have sent messages to the departmental faculty, two by Dr. Mary Lu Angelilli, and one each from Drs. McGrath and Secord, two of the three faculty members who are suing the UP.

I have been struck by the lack of involvement in these matters of the departmental faculty whose future is bound up in the outcome of this matter. These are some of the relevant facts that I have encountered in learning more about the situation.

It is clear from the email chain, made public by one of the parties to the lawsuit, that the Board of the UP has been deeply involved in negotiations with the University of Michigan Medical School for a considerable amount of time prior to the meeting on August 17, 2017, which Dr. Angelilli indicates was the date after which negotiations with UoM and MSU were “actively initiated.” There were discussions over signing non-disclosure agreements for the talks between UoM and UP as early as November, 2016.

In addition, Dr Angelilli indicates that the UP Board agreed to contract with a consulting firm, Chartis, to handle various aspects, from PR to organizational (“strawman”) solutions, attendant to the disaffiliation of the UP from WSU and the UP’s integration of it into the UoM Medical School. Chartis was to be paid $126,000 per month for their services, with UP picking up the cost of the initial month and Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM) paying each month after that.

There is plenty of blame to go around in the breakdown of discussions between WSU and the UP. The confrontation between President M. Roy Wilson, Vice-President for Health Affairs and the Pediatrics faculty in the meeting of August 17, 2017 was a major step backward. The threat to cut out the salaries of the faculty on November 1, 2017 by the Administration enhanced the position of the leadership of the UP who were already deep into negotiations with representatives the UoM. However, there are some aspects that the UP leadership apparently did not consider.

First of all, the UP Board was negotiating the future of an entire departmental faculty of 133 members, both clinicians and regular faculty, without consulting them. It will be argued that the negotiations had to be carried on in secret for political reasons. If they became public, there would be controversies that might impede the discussions. As knowledge of the negotiations has become known, that has been the case. Department faulty members have expressed to me that they were “shocked” by the details of what was being done by the Board.

Second, the legitimacy of the Board membership itself has been raised. The Bylaws of the UP specify the voting membership of the Corporation very precisely. Questions have been raised about whether or not the last election of the Board members followed the rules set out in the UP Bylaws. According to the relevant details of the Bylaws, voting members of the corporation are defined as faculty members:

1.licensed by the State of Michigan to practice medicine and surgery or clinical psychology. (Bylaws 3.1)
2. employed part-time or full-time in the of the WSUSoM; part-time is defined as holding a 50% appointment. (Bylaws 3.2) and
 3. who have an employment agreement with the Corporation authorized by the President or the Board of the Corporation (Bylaws 3.3)

Others may be members of the Corporation if they are authorized by the Board, so long as the number who are not faculty members they so authorize is “insubstantial” and “in no event exceed ten per cent (10%) of the total membership.” Bylaws 3.1)

Several points are important here:

1. According to the Bylaws those departmental faculty members who are not clinicians have no role under them in the election of the Board members. There are 28 such faculty members in the Department. Their professional future was being negotiated by representatives of a Board in which they have no formal role in electing its members. The Union represents these members and are considering what actions we might take to assure that their rights are not violated.

2. So far as I have been able to determine, no formal Board action on record in respect to expanding the membership of the Corporation. This is being written this during the period that a gag order has been imposed on the parties to the suit brought by three members of the faculty and thus I am unable to communicate with them on this matter. However, so far as I can determine there is no formal Board record of action with respect to expanding the membership. If such a required action was taken by the Board, there must be a formal record of it and a list of those to whom Corporation membership was extended. Further, no one I know have has seen such a list of the voters eligible to vote in Board elections. I have been told that the Board elections have been run in meetings by a show of hands with no attempt to assure that only those voting were on a formal voter list.

What does the future have for the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics? A lot of it depends on the outcome of the suit filed against the UP by the three faculty members. Its outcome may resolve some of the problems discuss above. Also, there are negotiations rumored to have begun with Henry Ford Health System (and others) about a future relationship that would affect Pediatrics as well as other departments in the WSUSoM. Like so much that affects this situation, there are limitations on we can do to affect the behavior of the actors in this drama. We are exploring with our lawyers what avenues we can take to protect the rights of the departmental faculty, both clinicians and others. Stay tuned!