Webster: Racism at heart of TMH investigation
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
While a small group of protestors demonstrated their support of Dr. Joseph Webster outside of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, administrators at the same time were telling reporters they can’t comment on specific reasons why the doctor was under investigation.
The four members of TMH’s administration didn’t name Webster, a gastroenterologist, but the doctor’s charge against the hospital has been widely publicized during the past week. Webster said his stance against the hospital’s practices, which he calls racist, is the reason his is being investigated by TMH.
Webster confirmed that he had a hearing with TMH’s administrators on Dec. 13. That case is continuing, he said, adding that the hospital’s board could go as far as recommending that his license be revoked.
Webster was never named during the hastily called press conference on Thursday. However, Dr. Andrea Friall, vice president and chief medical officer at TMH, said the hospital has been “fair, thorough and unbiased” in its hearing.
She added: “Every effort is made to help that individual understand the issue and they are given the opportunity to comply.”
During their brief meeting with the media in a TMH conference room, the administrators repeatedly outlined the hospital’s by-laws. They refused to address Webster’s case specifically, though.
“I’ve done everything right, except that I’m Black,” Webster said. “We will go until we get full justice.”
The central point of Webster’s complaint is his omission from a list of gastroenterologists that emergency room doctors should call. In his 30 years with the hospital, he’s gotten just one call in the last 15 years, Webster said. In all, he said, he was called six times and most of those were for patients who couldn’t afford the cost.
Webster contends that all of the gastroenterologists on the call list are White. He first expressed his concern to the administration in 2013, said Webster, who also estimated that over the period of time he’s been there he would have been paid at least $900,000.
Instead, he said, that money is being made by White doctors, while he was being offered patients who can’t afford to pay $1,000 for treatment. However, he said his case isn’t about the money.
“What has happened; we approached the administration in good faith to outline some grievances, some things that the community was concerned about. That’s the lack of representation of Blacks in various level of administration.”
Webster said TMH has been practicing racism since it opened and long after desegregation in the 1960s. He made his case by pointing out that it was at the urging of administrators at TMH that FAMU’s hospital was closed.
After the closing, Black doctors were forced to northern states for training, he said, adding that research money that went to FAMU was later diverted to TMH.
“That’s the TMH that we are dealing with,” Webster said. “Racism has never stopped. The Black doctors are afraid to speak up; like they are the whipping boys and whipping girls. They’ve been maligned. It’s apartheid in healthcare.”
Webster joined protesters into the early evening, following his statements to reporters. In the midst was his friend, Dr. Edward Holifield.
Holifield said he wasn’t surprised to hear that specifics of Webster’s case weren’t discussed with reporters.
“They have no justification in terms of what they’ve done to Dr. Webster,” he said. “When you have no justification and you’re doing dirt, the best thing to say is absolutely nothing.
“The appropriate thing for them to do would be to back off and to reverse their attempts to throw him off the staff and take his license. Short of that, and given their greed, arrogance and racism this whole thing is a sham.”