Vanderbrook resigns from MMMC – He says he was forced out

Dr. Robert Vanderbrook

Dr. Robert Vanderbrook

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Dr. Robert Vanderbrook, of Clare, will no longer be affiliated with MidMichigan Medical Center – Clare.
An email from Donna Rapp, vice president of MidMichigan Health in Midland said, “Robert Vanderbrook, MD resigned from his practice on June 12. MidMichigan immediately took steps to begin communicating his departure. This included letters mailed to patients stating that he had resigned and offering options for alternate care.”

“Since that time,” the email continued, “MidMichigan has been working to review his patient base and reach out to those patients who have more acute needs. Patients have been notified that maintenance prescriptions will be refilled for at least 30 days based on patient need with the exception of pain medications which are more strictly regulated. This is considered medical best practice. Those patients on pain medications are being communicated with by letter to inform them of their options.”

Rapp added, “Furthermore, several other MidMichigan physicians with already busy practices have readjusted their schedules to see Dr. Vanderbrook’s former patients who have priority needs.”

“We know how concerning this situation can be to patients and their family members; that is why it is so important to us. We have many people within MidMichigan Health working daily to alleviate patient concerns and provide for their medical needs,” said Cheryl Yesney, vice president of MidMichigan Physicians Group.

In an article on the 9 & 10 news website, Glenn King, Vice President of Mid-Michigan Medical Center was quoted as saying they were surprised when Dr. Vanderbrook resigned and that they found out on June 12 that it would be his last day.
Dr.Vanderbrook’s version of what happened is different.

He said at a meeting he was summoned to on June 12, concerns were raised over a previous “threatening phone call” from a patient. He was told at that meeting that he would “most likely” be terminated, but was also given the option to resign. He said he was shocked and didn’t know what to say.
He said he felt he had to choose that option.

Dr. Vanderbrook has been practicing family medicine with MMMC-Clare for the past nine years and said most of his patients were treated under Medicare and Medicaid.”

He said threats are “routine” for a high risk clinic. He said he was told that the meeting was called because of the “overall risk” to the clinic.
He said, “I have always worked with, and listened to and tried to help my patients to meet their needs and to develop their self-worth and self-respect.”
Dr. Vanderbrook said, “MMMC was not comfortable with the risks of treating chronic pain patients, who are now denied their pain medication.”
No longer able to practice with the hospital, he said, “I’m still on the patients’ side and feel that they deserve better, but there’s nothing I can do because of the sudden and drastic measure MMMC took.”

One patient, Susan L. Smith, said in a letter to the editor, “I am only one of many who wish to express how much Dr. Robert Vanderbrook means to us and his community…he always took the time…his ways will be missed.”

Clare Ross is very concerned. “We were very happy with Dr. Vanderbrook. He is the best doctor my wife has ever had,” he said. “She has been on morphine due to a back injury from an auto accident. I don’t understand why they (MMMC) would let him go.”

He said they didn’t even hear that he was gone until last Monday. His wife had an appointment Thursday and is due for a refill on her medication. “We don’t know what to do,” he said. “They told us they were sending us a letter [to explain options] but we haven’t gotten anything.”

Another patient Tinesha Vollmar and her husband Louis are both patients. Tanisha has Multiple Sclerosis and her husband has had severe back problems since he fell off a roof. “We are both disabled,” she said, “and now we have no doctor.”

“I was very happy with him and so was my husband,” she said. “When MMMC let him go they left 500 patients without a doctor. Trying to find a new doctor is a joke. No one will see you.”

She continued, “MMMC told me they were working on finding us a new family doctor, but there is no one around here that can prescribe the medicine we are on.”
On the 9 & 10 website the article said, “The hospital is working as quickly as they can to find new doctors for Vanderbrook’s patients.”
Dr. Vanderbrook said he is still getting phone calls from some patients who are desperate for help.

“Rather than blaming MMMC or me as their doctor, they (the patients) should look at it as an opportunity to help themselves.” He continued, “I am not blaming anyone. Sometimes things happen in life that make you realize things are not as secure as you thought they were, but you can’t sit and feel sorry for yourself. I don’t feel sorry for myself at all, I’m going to make the best of it.”

He added, “I look at it as a chance to make something good of it. I hope my patients will do that too.”
Although he is still licensed and board certified, he said he does not plan to open a private practice in the Clare area. “I will pursue what’s best for myself and my family.”

On the 9 & 10 website news story Wednesday evening, Dr. Bob Townsend posted:
“As a physician myself I am proud that Dr. Vanderbrook was my doctor and cared for my entire family. ..For the record, I too am a pain physician in Mt. Pleasant and would gladly take all of his patients that wish to come to Denali Healthcare. The office number is 989-339-4464 and we can take appointments at four local offices starting tomorrow.”

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