NAPLES, Fla. — Two rallies on opposite sides of a controversy surrounding NCH Healthcare were held in Naples Tuesday. Hundreds of community members and their doctors protested at Cambier Park against an NCH program giving the hospital more control than personal physicians over their patient's care. At the exact same time - 11 a.m. - hundreds of medical staffers rallied at NCH in support of hospital leaders.
Diane Pawl was one of many who showed up at the Cambier Park rally. It was part of an ongoing protest against NCH's six-month-old pilot program putting hospitalist physicians in charge of a patient's care, instead of the patient's personal doctor.
Pawl brought a homemade picket sign that read "My Life, My Choice, My Doctor" to the rally.
"I just can't imagine having a strange doctor come in the room and take care of me," Pawl said. "He doesn't know me, he doesn't know my complications. He doesn't know what truly works for me."
At the same time over at NCH's Garden of Hope, hundreds of medical staffers gathered to show their support for their administrators, including NCH president Dr. Allen Weiss.
"Focus on each other, focus on our patients - we're going to get through this," registered nurse Christina Carranza told those gathered at the pro-NCH rally.
Carranza said she organized the "Stand With NCH" rally to show the community that not all of NCH's medical staff oppose the hospitalist program.
"It's not representative of the staff," Carranza said. "The nurses, the other clinicians, the ancillary staff...we don't fell that way. We really just felt like enough is enough."
"This is the best hospital I've ever worked at," said nurse Chantel McFarland Bauer one of about two hundred NCH staffers who attended the half-hour rally. "They really care about their patients and their staff, and it makes for great outcomes."
Thursday night, dozens of doctors held a vote of no confidence in Dr. Weiss, and called on the hospital's board of trustees to remove him as president.
"it wasn't a legal vote," Weiss said. "It wasn't part of the medical staff bylaws....it's really disquieting and not professional."
He added that he thinks many on his staff feel battered by all the animosity over the hospitalist program.
"These are nice people," he said. "Every day, they take care of people in the worst moments of their lives, when they're the most vulnerable."
But geriatrician Dr. Ron Garry, a critic of the hospitalist program, said that and others who oppose the program don't have a problem with the caregivers.
"We love our hospital," Garry said at the Cambier rally. "We love our nursing staff, and that's why we're fighting for it. We think the hospital is heading in the wrong direction. Anything we say is directed at the administration, and not the staff at the hospital."