Physician, Heal Thyself

October 21st, 2009

As reported in  “Hospital Rabbi Fired After Museum Shooting” (Washington Post 10/16/09), “Grieving for ‘Another Victim of an Evil Mentality’” (Washington Post 6//09), and “On the Firing Line” (Washington Jewish Week 10/07/09), Rabbi Tamara Miller was fired by George Washington University Hospital for posting an personal essay to the Washington Post “On Faith” blog about the shooting of Holocaust Memorial Museum guard Stephen Johns by white supremacist James von Brunn. The reason: her post (read it here) allegedly violated hospital rules about patient privacy and Federal law under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the US Health and Human Services Department (HHS) explanation of which can be found here. Rabbi Miller replies that she was expressing her deep-felt beliefs in the post, revealed no personal or family information beyond general information that had already appeared widely in the press, and that the hospital was in reality using the supposed privacy rule violation as a pretext to fire her. The real reason, Rabbi Miller said, was that she had made a complaint in 2007 after learning that her annual salary was $20-30K less than male directors of spiritual care at other local health-care facilities. Rabbi Miller had joined GWUH in 2001 as its first professional chaplain and had built the spiritual care department from nothing to 12 part-time chaplains. After she made her complaint and her request for a salary increase was denied, her performance reviews suddenly went from excellent to unsatisfactory, and she was reprimanded for “inattention to duties or unsatisfactory job performance” (which she denies). Watch Fox 5’s story below (they got this one right). Read my commentary and then sign the petition below on Change.org, or if you prefer email GW Hospital CEO Trent Crable directly to protest GW’s action (see email info and suggested text below).

 

On June 10, 2009 at the Holocaust Museum

James von Brunn walked into the atrium

Security guard Stephen Johns

Generously held open the door for him.

 

Von Brunn pulled out a rifle

And shot Johns, who fell to the ground.

Von Brunn would have kept on shooting

But the other guards shot him down.

 

Johns was taken to GW University Hospital,

With Von Brunn at his side.

Stephen’s family and friends

Rushed to his bedside.

 

Rabbi Miller, the hospital’s spiritual care director

Held hands and prayed with Stephen’s wife

As emergency room doctors

Tried to save Stephen’s life.

 

Other chaplains came

And Stephen’s pastor.

All of different races and faiths,

But they all prayed together.

 

But prayers aren’t always answered,

And Stephen Johns died that day.

The chaplains continued to provide comfort.

Rabbi Miller continued to pray.

 

As a Jew, she felt torn up inside.

As if it was protecting her that Stephen had died.

And in a sense, that was the case,

Since he’d stopped von Brunn’s attack on a hallowed place.

 

Von Brunn chose his target for that very motivation:

To shock and cause pain and victimization.

That’s the goal of terrorism.

But he didn’t count on the guards’ heroism.

 

Rabbi Miller went to the funeral.

2,000 mourners did Ebenezer AME Church fill.

Miller told a reporter she felt compelled to attend that day

As a Jew who tried to bring light on another dark day.

 

Later Miller shared the cry of distress

She wrote on that day, her own grief to process.

A fellow Rabbi said it might help clear the emotional fog

If she submitted it to the Post’s “On Faith” blog.

 

She wrote how shots of racism rang out on the Mall,

How 30 minutes later, unconditional love filled the hospital hall;

How chaplains kept vigil with the Johns family,

And tears and tenderness covered a veil of harmony.

 

She wrote how inside the operating room, doctors of every faith

Gathered their skills the wounded man to save,

And how when his big heart stopped beating

Their hopes and wishful thinking became fleeting.

 

She wrote of the family members she had lost

At another anti-Semite’s hand in the Holocaust.

She wrote of hiding Jews,

And numbered tattoos.

 

She wrote of family trees,

And escapees.

She wrote her deep feelings confessing

And did so with the family’s blessing.

 

Her post was 512 words, less than half the length of this one;

In posting it she didn’t realize what a horrible thing she’d done.

Five days later GW wrote her she was fired

Saying she hadn’t followed the rules they required.

 

She’d be terminated for misconduct because she’d disclosed a patient’s name

(Never mind it was already widely published, she’d be fired just the same).

She’d also spoken to a reporter without prior authorization

(Though she’d done that in private capacity and thought it wasn’t an abrogation).

 

Rabbi Miller’s colleagues couldn’t believe it.

Nor could Stephen’s family and pastor, who tried to reprieve it.

They wrote letters to the hospital and said throughout

That no personal information had been given out.

 

But in all of this there was a subtext,

That opposition to the heartfelt post was just a pretext.

The real reason for her firing, Rabbi Miller suspected

Was that her superiors with her were disaffected.

 

She’d been hired as GW’s first paid spiritual caregiver

A new Spiritual Care program to create and deliver.

She took the department from nothing to full fruition

Only to find she was making less than males in her position.

 

She’d complained to her superiors about this pay inequality

(Amounting to no less per year than $20-30K).

She suddenly started getting unsatisfactory performance reviews.

It seems GW began looking for reasons misconduct to accuse.

 

I called GW’s PR person for a comment;

He said it’s very serious Miller violated HIPAA regulations.

But HIPAA review doesn’t take place unless someone files a complaint.

And Stephen’s family and friends have made no such accusations.

 

On the contrary, they were grateful to Rabbi Miller,

As anyone in that position would be, including ourselves.

In fact, no one but GW even noticed the alleged infraction.

Would they file a HIPAA claim against themselves?

 

Not only that, even if a violation were found,

The enforcer (HHS’s Office of Civil Rights) is not to onerous penalties bound.

OCR first tries a resolution agreement or voluntary compliance,

Followed by corrective action in case of violator defiance.

(If a fine is assessed, it’s only $100 per occurrence).

 

If Miller’s wage gap complaint didn’t occur,

Would GW have so reproached her?

That they fired her for violating HIPAA is absurd

(You can always tell when something’s not kosher).

 

GW says they fired her their rules to uphold.

Rabbi Miller herself was surprised when she was told.

Instead of firing her, they could have given her HIPAA training,

Or better yet, some grief counseling.

(Sometimes even consolers need to be consoled.)

 

GW, in my view you’ve treated Rabbi Miller unfairly.

With this firing and your earlier demerits you’ve harassed her.

Nor are you doing yourself any favors:

This is clearly a PR disaster.

 

Funny, I didn’t see in your website’s Employment FAQs

A list of crimes of which employees may be accused.

And when I read your HIPAA Statement I was perplexed:

It didn’t saying anything about HIPAA’s use as a pretext.

 

I have a personal connection to GW I must declare:

My wife gave birth to our daughter there.

So I like GW Hospital, but be aware,

That I still don’t think what you did was fair.

 

So please take action, Mr. Crable

(As CEO, I know you’re able):

Rabbi Miller was unjustly fired

And so should promptly be rehired.

 

(And need I say –

With full back pay.

A fair salary review

Should also ensue.)

 



or, Create a Petition

Change.org

***

Email GW Hospital to Protest Rabbi Tamara Miller’s firing for having complained about gender-based salary discrimination

(Please BCC Newsericks so we can track the number of emails.)
 
To: lisa.mcdonald@gwu-hospital.com
Bcc: info@newsericks.com
Mr. Trent Crable
Chief Executive Officer
George Washington University Hospital
c/o Ms. Lisa McDonald
Director of Marketing and Business Development

 

Dear Mr. Crable:

I have read about the firing of Rabbi Tamara Miller in response to her alleged violation of HIPAA regulations and hospital rules, and strongly believe that it is unjustified. Rabbi Miller should be immediately re-instated with full back pay. Furthermore, a complete and fair review of her unequal salary complaint should be undertaken.

Sincerely,

________

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3 Responses to “Physician, Heal Thyself”

  1. uberVU - social comments Says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Newsericks: Women’s rights/gender wage gap. Rabbi Tamara Miller fired for complaining about salary gap. http://bit.ly/owme4

  2. Newsericks » Blog Archive » Death of a Hater Says:

    […] His claim to fame: blowing a good man away. […]

  3. Newsericks » Blog Archive » Rally for the Rabbi (or, it’s Miller Time) Says:

    […] reported by the Washington Post, Washington Jewish Week, and in our earlier post, Rabbi Tamara Miller was fired by George Washington University Hospital (GWUH) for posting a […]

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