On March 26, 2020, in a yellow-walled hospital room at St. Ammonius Hospital, Theresa Willows* flatlined for the third and final time. She was the 1000th patient in the hospital’s care who was unable to be resuscitated. A single item connected all 1000 patients — discharge papers signed by Chief of Surgery, Dr. Dean Thompson.
Months earlier, in December 2019, Dr. Thompson was nearing the end of his tenure as Chief and awaiting a term renewal. It was then that he noticed other hospitals shutting down. Yet Thompson remained assured that nothing of the sort could happen at St. Ammonius. He began construction of a new plastic surgery wing.
January 2020. Thompson was called into a meeting of the board, where he was advised that an influx of at-risk patients were predicted to arrive at St. Ammonius, and that they would need copious amounts of care. Seeing no current presence of vulnerable patients, Thompson dismissed the concerns. Thompson denies to this day that he was warned of the potential risks, despite recorded evidence that proves otherwise.
On a cold February night, the first ill patient at St. Ammonius died. Thompson addressed the tragedy, stating that his “... administration [would] take all necessary steps to safeguard our [patients] from this threat.” Still, the looming threat of continued tragedy hovered distantly in the air well into the beginning of March. Patients requested private rooms. Some were turned away from St. Ammonius entirely.
In the face of this increasing panic, Thompson assured that the situation was “very much under control.” A sum of $2.5 billion was secured to quell any concerns and provide equipment to Thompson’s staff of surgeons, doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals. Thompson even increased regular public briefings to assuage any doubts. Yet as more and more patients fell ill, Thompson’s staff claimed they were sent to bedsides without so much as hand soap. Thompson’s 2.5 billion had not gone to increasing equipment. The plastic surgery wing continued to grow. Thompson was confident the problem would dissipate.
When this deflection failed, Thompson deflected. The doctor accused a group of Attendings of spreading falsehoods about the dangers at St. Ammonius, insisting they had slandered the work of the good people within the hospital’s walls. A few of the Attendings were fired. St. Ammonius began to crumble, and leading surgeons insisted that their at-risk patients remain as secluded as possible, much to Thompson’s chagrin.
On March 26, the day when Theresa Willows died in a tacky yellow room, Thompson spent the day boasting about the hospital’s new outpatient plastic surgery wing, insisting that researchers at the hospital had already achieved a successful cure for the ever-spreading contagion and even making a few phone calls to other medical experts. Thompson did not agree with or understand the advice of these experts, but he noted distinctly that the calls were, in fact, made.
As Chief of Surgery, “My authority is total,” Thompson said, insisting his decision-making was leading the hospital to successful recovery. He then used that total authority to shut down his health advisory board. St. Ammonius continued to spiral well into late May. Underequipped, uninformed and violently afraid, the hospital faced tumult. When a handful of patients pushed back at doctors who provided them with medical treatment, Thompson praised their bravery. If a patient did not want care, or if they felt their doctor was being overly cautious, or if they wanted to move about the halls of St. Ammonius while dripping blood, that was their right. Thompson himself had yet to consult any ill patients.
Saturday, June 20. Though conditions failed to improve, Thompson re-opened the hospital cafeteria first and the plastic surgery wing second, kicking off the success with a delightful-yet-sparsely-attended ribbon cutting ceremony. There was excitement in a few of the wards. Other patient wards silently listened to the endless echo of heart monitors, waiting for help that didn’t arrive. No longer receiving aid or attention, staff and patients struggled night after night.
Former St. Ammonius Chiefs, as well as other leading physicians globally, suggest that Thompson’s actions indicate clear medical malpractice. Between misdiagnosis, improper allocation of funds, violations of the standard of care and failure to order proper testing, Thompson is considered by many in the community to be unfit, at best, and, at worst, a neglectful criminal with blood on his hands. These experts believe that Thompson’s license to practice and board certification should be removed, many even calling for charges of neglect and complicity in the wrongful deaths that have transpired during his tenure.
Dr. Thompson has not been terminated from his position despite this outcry and near-constant press coverage.
In early July, when asked for a quote on the subject, Theresa Willows had no comment. She and over 134,000 other St. Ammonius patients were dead.
*The timeline of events covered in this allegory align with President Donald Trump’s neglectful response to the Coronavirus outbreak in the United States. Though not all instances of active harm are detailed, and names/details of death have been fictionalized, dates and statistics are verified. If you knew someone that died at St. Ammonius, I’m more than willing to bet you would sue Dr. Thompson for medical malpractice. Why is the President able to continue perpetuating the preventable death of the American people?
Editor's Note: The views presented in this story belong to the writer and are not necessarily reflective of North by Northwestern as a whole.
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