Thursday December 12, 2013
The Most Honest and Punished Doctor in America?Tim King Salem-News.com
Rising like a phoenix from the flames of whistleblower retaliation, Dr. Gaston Cornu-Labat proved his critics to be painfully wrong on every count.
(QUINCY, WA) - When I think about the intense series of battles Dr. Gaston Cornu-Labat has won against seemingly insurmountable odds; losing and eventually regaining his right to practice medicine, it offers hope that others singled out and punished by public officials bent on whistleblower retaliation can also find real vindication.
His struggles are far from over. As it turns out, doctors who illustrate illegal and improper facilities and treatment practices are not popular in the medical community these days. What was once the most honorable of professions, is now a culture of fear and intimidation.
It all happened at a place called Quincy Valley Medical Center in Quincy, Washington. Rural communities naturally have a hard time attracting high level surgeons to their medical facilities. They lack the great pay and prestige of other medical centers in large, metropolitan areas.
What we learn from this account is that a) it is indeed possible to locate doctors willing to work harder and make less because a select few physicians realize the existing need of these communities and, b) Facilities of this nature are otherwise existing with sub-standard practices. They inadvertently create a situation where they can not improve without causing excessive discomfort with largely unqualified medical staffs.
An Impossible Role
But when you learn what levels of retaliation this man battled and defeated, it will curdle the milk in your stomach. It goes so completely against the grain of everything we know to be right, that it becomes appalling. I can't say this with certainty, but I suspect that Dr. Cornu-Labat's meticulous record-keeping skills are the only reason he emerged from this as a winner, because his honesty at that facility earned many enemies and many are in very high level positions- even now.
I will tell you before really opening this up, that the grand finale, where Dr. Cornu-Labat reads the Washington State Medical Board the riot act, is like the realization of a dream. Rarely if ever in life does a person have a chance to really set things into place for what they are, the way this doctor did.
When Dr. Gaston Cornu-Labat took his position at the Quincy Valley Medical Center, the hospital administration was thrilled. They had hoped to secure a bright mind such as his to raise the level of care at this aged facility.
One of the first things they asked him to for was to bring the hospital a capability to perform surgery services, which he did to great success. This one improvement brought the medical center to a position it had not previously held.
This should have been the beginning of many great things in this rural Washington community, however that did not turn out to be the case.
The success of the surgery department led to Dr. Cornu-Labat's being asked to assist in an overhaul of the entire medical facility, which he agreed to. However when this process began, so came the discoveries of unqualified employees in positions they were not suitable for. It was an alarming discovery.
Yet in the spirit of above-board integrity, he simply did what was right, he exposed what he found, because renovating the hospital meant at the bare minimum, operating in a legal and qualified manner. In this respect, Gaston Cornu-Labat had no alternatives. He had to report what he discovered.
Then, between February and July of 2009, Quincy Valley Medical Center authorities charged Dr. Cornu-Labat with participating in a series of investigations and improvements of said hospital.
It is true that this is often the point where professionals give up, accept defeat and fall silent. That was not to be the case with Dr. Cornu-Labat, who refused to ignore the serious problems and negligence that plagued QVMC.
He decided neither to keep quiet nor look the other way.
Things got so ugly for this doctor. As the focus of an integrated effort to repudiate his allegations, the officials of QVMC, the local police, the Washington State Medical Board, and other entities, including The Quincy Valley Post-Register, banded together and the allegations against him, rather than the very serious ones he raised, became the focus of the discussion.
We find fewer things more distressing than media that abandons its chief responsibilities to its community; and first and foremost of those are safety and truth. This doctor has been vindicated beyond a shadow of a doubt, by the most powerful entity that participated, the state's own medical board. This gives little credence to all those who vilified him, including local press.
It is a classic technique: attacking the accuser in unprecedented ways, far below the belt. The discrediting process used against Dr. Cornu-Labat is almost a textbook move. However he was not an easy target, not at all. Throughout his ordeal, he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that truth will win the day when it is documented and when the conveyor of that truth refuses to be quiet. They certainly picked on the wrong man.
It took years, but finally, on the 1st of December in 2011, vindication knocked on his door. On that day all doubts were eradicated; and on 12th December 2011 this was officially recognized and accepted.
Through the efforts of this doctor and others like him, great change can be accomplished. It takes support, and when the agency charged with overseeing doctors launches into vendetta politics against people of this caliber, they run great risk, and sometimes, as in this case, they lose very thoroughly. This story should have been front page in Seattle and beyond, but instead those agencies that depend on their economic support from this jaded industry have not touched it.
There is no question that this story involves the highest levels of public interest, and the truth is that many of the problems in QVMC persist. Some, Dr. Cornu-Labat says, "...have been either partially addressed, ill addressed or addressed only in appearance, others persist and several others have been generated; and since specifically in my case the damage has been so radical and the official recognition in my favor has been necessary but not enough".
Among the highlights of the campaign against this doctor, are allegations of 'mental instability' and Dr. Cornu-Labat being arrested while attending his son's first high school varsity basketball game, because the hospital CEO's child was attending the game, and to build a case against Dr. Cornu-Labat, the CEO had attained a legal restraining order against him. The child called the CEO father, who called the police, and they arrested Dr. Cornu-Labat in front of the entire high school parent community.
One key point of this doctor's legal success stems from his Psychiatric evaluations –in the end Dr. Cornu-Labat had been through two psychiatric and four psychological and neuropsychological evaluations, 6 in total! With a chuckle and a smile, he boasts the title of "one of the most officially sane individuals in the world!"
Those who have been down this road come to understand that these so-called 'experts' are often little more than legal tools for a particular side to benefit from. That aside, there was no easy way to paint this doctor as anything but exceptionally clear of mind.
The Psychiatrist, whose name is Robert I. Fink, wrote in his conclusion:
This is the first report on a series about the long journey of Dr. Gaston Cornu-Labat.
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.
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