Nashville General Hospital

By Rosetta Miller Perry

— The Declaration of Independence asserts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Despite that idealistic statement, slavery was legal, and 20 percent of this nation’s population was held in brutal bondage without liberty or happiness or a real life. 

NASHVILLE, TN, June 28, 2018 — Nashville General Hospital has been held in brutal bondage by the city without liberty or happiness since 1890. Nashville General Hospital at Meharry has provided quality healthcare to the Nashville community for over 125 years. When it first opened as City Hospital on April 23, 1890 with one physician, seven nurses and 60 beds, the hospital’s mission was to provide health care services to the desperately ill or those persons unable to care for themselves or be treated at the local white hospitals.

Rendering for planned soccer stadium.

Yet in 2017 disgraced Mayor Megan Barry and her bean counters announced they would close the hospital (as if she was Trump without telling Nashville General’s CEO an African American male, the diverse General Hospital Board or city council members even though some of them represented that district.) The same week Megan Barry bragged about spending $225 million for Nashville’s European-style soccer field she debated whether to give General Hospital $13.2 million.

Barry’s conduct during this time resembled Trump at his worse. She acted as though the only opinion that mattered or had any value regarding the hospital and its importance belonged to her. Barry didn’t even think it was important to alert the doctors and nurses working there that she was considering closing the institution.

This kind of arrogant and yes, racist behavior, is deplorable and disgusting. It makes a mockery of her supposedly liberal credentials, and truly makes any Black persons, male or female, now rushing to her defense look at best silly, and at worse like sellouts.

Meanwhile, The Tennessean was silent as a church mouse about this hypocrisy of $225 million, but has weighed heavily into General Hospital’s issue with hiring an African American PR Firm who’s strategy was to market the hospital by going out into the community and actually meeting with churches and other civic leaders. They have attacked CEO Dr. Joseph Webb and the board without getting information from those African Americans they continue to consistently criticize.

It’s either culturally clueless or factually careless. Either way, it is indicative of the dismissive attitude toward black male leaders and the African American community by the Tennessean that has to be stopped by any means necessary. 

The Tennessean has published multiple stories criticizing the Hospital Authority Board’s decision to extend the contract Dr. Joseph Webb. 

As a result of former mayor Barry’s announcement that was thankfully overturned, we have been told Metro has suffered the loss of some of their best doctors, nurses and administrators. The initial uncertainty around the hospital’s fate has already caused significant damage that will take years to repair. This is NOT the time to have the hospital’s leadership challenged by a biased white publication (that also depends on African Americans subscribers for its circulation count for advertising). We know there are a disproportionate number of African-American and other minorities in Nashville  who require medical help, and would prefer being treated at General.

Furthermore, when an inexperienced young white male was interim CEO of Nashville General, the Tennessean didn’t utter a peep. He lacked the experience Dr. Webb has, so why didn’t our favorite majority newspaper attack General Hospital when a white person was in charge and learning how to be a CEO for a future position at a white institution?  That was a very good learning experience for a young white male,  and now he is CEO at another hospital. I have no problem with this. But were there no problems from 2009 through 2013 when he was there?  Where are the 2009 through 2013 audits? Why are there always problems when the CEOs are African Americans? Finally, it was once said “The MNHA board is tremendously grateful to … who has helped us navigate some very challenging waters over the course of his tenure,”   “He provided stability and leadership during a period of unprecedented change.   Yes, but he didn’t have The Tennessean writing articles challenging his leadership capability and remember he was a young man – learning and gaining experience.

Now read this carefully:  The hospital went from being closed to being funded. This doesn’t seem the right time to start chopping off the head of the leaders who are at the helm, unless you reside in the Tennessean’s Ivory Tower. 

Take a look at just a few of these statistics and it becomes clear that the Tennessean is intentionally misrepresenting the facts about Metro General’s financial status: 

****** General Hospital provides emergency service costs than are 45% less than other area hospitals, while still winning accreditation awards. 

****** General Hospital averages 80 million per year in uncompensated care and has provided a billion dollars in uncompensated care since 2005. 

The Tennessean is not utilizing accurate research or statistics. They are intentionally giving us false information about a hospital that primarily serves indigent people and minorities. 

The Hospital Board did not violate any legal restriction in renewing Dr. Webb’s contract, and we support their decision to take action and place the needs of the most vulnerable in our community first. Metro General Hospital does a tough job. Without strong, clear leadership the hospital is guaranteed to fail. While the cheers of soccer fans are heard by oblivious fans, someone must attend to the cries of the cancer patients and the under served and uninsured in this community. That’s what Dr. Joseph Webb and Nashville General do every day. 

Currently we have a competent, black male as the CEO of Metro General. The results? Improved financial performance and better relationships within OUR community. The disproportionate scrutiny over Dr. Joseph’s Webb’s performance as CEO is due to his race, plain and simple.  Tennessean, you should be ashamed in this day and age to revert to attacking Black leaders in our community, especially Black men.

When it comes to The Tennessean and this community: readers beware. Public funds for sports that benefit the wealthiest are treated as no brainers. Public funds used to help the poor and under served are examined with a fine-tooth comb. The hypocrisy and racism must stop! Tennessee has become the new  Mississippi which in reality is the old Mississippi which clearly anyone can better understand by visiting the new Civil Rights Museum located in Jackson, Mississippi which describes the complex history of the state. Even though Mississippi is considered a Red State, unlike Nashville, the capital city can boast that it has a black mayor, a black sheriff, a black senator, a black US congressman, a black CEO of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority and numerous other black officials. 

Wake up Nashville! Let’s work together in becoming known for more than legendary country music. How about being known for our diversity in city leadership?