Patients protest in hopes of helping doctor regain position at Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Patients took to the streets last week to protest the dismissal of their doctor from Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital.
About 15 people gathered across the street from the hospital on Wednesday, July 29, waving signs and encouraging people to honk their horns to show support for Dr. David Hunter.
A physician who practices in internal medicine and pediatrics, Hunter has spent his entire career from 1990 at the hospital. He said he was let go on Tuesday, Aug. 13, due to a difference in opinion in management styles.
“I’m sad. My patients don’t have anybody to take care of them,” said Hunter, who stopped in at the protest to thank his patients. “A lot of these have been told that they can’t get a doctor.”
Pressed if the hospital cited a reason for his firing, Hunter claimed he couldn’t comment on that.
“I can tell you that it wasn’t about patient care,” he said. “It wasn’t medical malpractice or anything like that.”
Dianne Michalek, the vice president of marketing and corporate communications for Munson Healthcare in Traverse City, confirmed that Dr. Hunter no longer practices at Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital as of Aug. 14. She did not elaborate on the decision for why Hunter is no longer on the staff.
“For the privacy and protection of our employees, we are not at liberty to discuss any matters related to personnel issues or accusations of personnel issues,” Michalek said.
Michalek, however, said physicians and hospital staff are expected to follow an established code of conduct.
“We want the community to know that the hospital has appropriate human resources policies in place that govern all employee conduct, and we hold all employees to the highest of standards,” she said. “Anyone demonstrating behaviors that are contrary to the values we hold as an organization are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and actions are taken to ensure that we protect our patients and staff.”
The hospital sent a letter to Hunter’s patients on Thursday, Aug. 16, informing them that Dr. Hunter no longer practices at Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital. The letter states that patients who already had appointments with Hunter would be assigned to another provider. It also informed patients how to get medication refills, immediate health care, how they were going to transition to other providers, and an option of choosing a specific provider.
“We sympathize with, and understand concerns in the community related to access to care that result from this issue. Our top priority is to ensure that patients continue to have uninterrupted access to care,” Michalek said. “All patients affected by this situation have been transitioned to other care providers. There are five providers accepting new patients and we also had a new provider join us this month. In addition, we have a plan in place to ensure that patients receive any medication refills necessary.”
Further, Michalek said hospital officials are in the process of recruiting new doctors and providers.
“We are working hard to recruit more providers to the region and appreciate the community’s support and understanding through this process,” she said.
Dr. Hunter said he appreciated the support from his patients, and is hopeful he would regain his position.
“I feel horrible for my patients,” he said. “They have been giving me tremendous support, and I just feel bad that I can’t help them now.”
A smaller protest was also staged in downtown Grayling Wednesday evening, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and the I-75 Business Loop.
Al Bolmowski, a Grayling Charter Township resident, spearheaded the protests.
“Dr. Hunter is a great doctor and it’s really a shame that he’s not part of Munson anymore,” Bolmowski said. “We really love him in this town. A lot of people are really happy with how he takes care of them.”
Mike Hunter, Dr. Hunter’s brother, was at the protest by the hospital in a show of support of his brother and brother’s patients.
“I’m out here to support him and these other people that are disappointed, upset, and scared,” he said.
Mike Hunter said the family has deep roots in the community.
“Our family goes way back,” he said. “We’ve been around 150 years or more.”
Grayling resident Sarah Cable said she was not a patient of Hunter’s, but was there as a friend.
“I just like him,” she said. “I think he’s great and he is a real nice guy.”
Shaunda Zelaya said that Dr. Hunter and Dr. Charles Todoroff, who is still affiliated with Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital, helped her overcome seven and a half years of stomach issues, when she lost hope with other physicians in the region and downstate.
“I’m well and it saved my life,” she said. “It was pretty severe. At one time, they only gave three days to live.”