Opinion
This photo, taken this month, shows a Border Patrol holding cell filled with migrant unaccompanied minors in Texas. (Photo: Center for Immigration Studies) This photo, taken this month, shows a Border Patrol holding cell filled with migrant unaccompanied minors in Texas. (Photo: Center for Immigration Studies)  

Healthcare Workers Facing Arrest For Speaking Out

Photo of Brian Joondeph
Brian Joondeph
Retina Surgeon
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      Brian Joondeph

      Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS is a Denver based retina surgeon, working both in private practice and academics, including several years in another country with nationalized healthcare. He is a recent graduate of a master's degree program in healthcare leadership from the University of Denver, and an advocate for smaller, more efficient government.

      Joondeph has practiced for 23 years as a retina surgeon, working both in private practice and academics, including several years in another country with nationalized health care.

Our southern border is leaking like a sieve, with immigrants illegally entering the U.S. from Mexico, Central America, and who knows where. Along with the huddled masses of refugees comes a host of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, scabies, hepatitis, and chicken pox. The public health implications are staggering as these refugees, along with their diseases, are being sent all over the country, where they can share their pathogens with everyone they come in contact with. Does anyone remember the flu pandemic from almost 100 years ago where 50 million people died, including 675,000 in the U.S?

Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas provides a shelter for 1000 minors who illegally crossed the border by themselves. The Border Patrol was expecting more than 60,000 unaccompanied youths this year, but that number was exceeded before the halfway point of the year. Not to mention far more youth who were not apprehended by border agents and are now free in the U.S. Naturally these refugee camps are staffed with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers to care for the many sick children.

Understanding the public health risks posed to Americans as these children are disseminated across the country, these healthcare workers want to speak out, alerting the rest of the country to the sickness possibly heading their way. The U.S. government, through The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would seemingly be all over this. The CDC’s mission is, “To protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S.” So why would a “government contracted security force” threaten healthcare workers with arrest if they spoke out about the contagion threat at these refugee camps?

Hired by the Department of Health and Human Services, members of this security service refer to themselves as “Brown Shirts,” the same name given to Hitler’s stormtroopers. They confiscated cell phones and any other communications devices from the healthcare workers, threatening arrest for anyone who didn’t comply. Children with lice, scabies, and serious mental illness were being placed on busses and planes, scattered across the country in time for the July 4th weekend.

“Everyone was paranoid,” according to one of the Lackland health workers. Quite understandable for a whistleblower attempting to speak truth to power. It turns out there are other government healthcare agencies threatening those who speak out. A scheduler at the Fort Collins, Colorado VA hospital was placed on an unpaid two-week leave, “punishment for not ‘cooking the books’ when scheduling appointments.” So much for honesty and transparency in government. President Obama, ultimately responsible for all of these government agencies, told us that, “This is the most transparent administration in history.”

Moving beyond the VA and border messes, what about the implications of “brown shirt” tactics in other areas of government run healthcare? Take Medicare for example. Time magazine’s senior political analyst Mark Halperin reminded us that, “The Affordable Care Act contains provisions for ‘death panels,’ which decide which critically ill patients receive care and which don’t.” What will happen to healthcare workers who speak out about such death panels? These ‘death panel’ stories are frequent in the UK news where, “Older people are routinely denied life-saving NHS treatments because their doctors write them off as too old to treat.”

Will speaking out about such stories here in the U.S. lead to suspensions or arrest? How different is alerting the public to infectious disease carriers being sent to their cities from describing fudged wait lists at the VA or elderly patients being denied life prolonging care because they are “too old”? The same government perfectly comfortable with using the IRS to punish and destroy its political enemies will be quite willing to bully healthcare workers into silence over abuses and dangers that well-meaning whistleblowers want to speak out about. The average American will remain blissfully ignorant until one of the grim reapers from the death panel comes calling, by which time it will be too late.

Dr. Joondeph is a retina surgeon at Colorado Retina Associates and serves on the faculty of Rocky Vista University School of Medicine. Twitter @retinaldoctor.