If
Curt Flood Had Been a Doctor

By

Leonard
Zwelling

       Curt Flood is not a name known to many
who are not serious baseball fans or less serious ones of a certain age (mine).
Flood was a native Houstonian who was a stand-out center fielder mostly for the
St. Louis Cardinals. He was a superb defensive player and a good hitter, but
Curt Flood’s contribution to baseball was made largely off the field for Curt
Flood said the magic word to major league baseball. Curt Flood when traded from
the Cardinals to the Phillies said—no!

       Curt Flood’s case against the major
league’s reserve clause that treated players like chattel tying them to one
owner for life went all the way to the Supreme Court. What many people do not
know is that he lost his case and was soon out of baseball. But the die had
been cast. Soon enough the players were able to gain some purchase with the
owners and the current era of labor relations in major league professional
athletics started.

       Curt Flood is to Barry Bonds’ millions
what Arnold Palmer is to Tiger Woods’ millions. I believe that it is safe to
say that Curt Flood was the third most important athlete of the 20th
century behind Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King. Yes, what  these three did on the field of play was
remarkable. But what they did off it for justice and civil rights for all
eclipses anything they did with their hands, racquet or bat.

       Were they all very wealthy? At some point
they were comfortable with Ali far more than that. Did they let their personal
well-being stop them in the pursuit of justice for their fellow Americans
whether black, female or contract captured? No, they did not and because they
did not, they are heroes in the history of the country not just in the history
of their own sports.

       So where is the physician willing to be
the Curt Flood of America? Where is the doc willing to say to the latest
administrative email—no, I won’t check the box so that you can make a greater
salary than I.

       Where is the doc that tells the schedulers
of the world how long a good patient visit needs to be to provide quality
medical care?

       Where is the healer of record who tells
the bean counters in the green eyeshades that seeing more patients is not why
he or she went into medicine and by the way the damned electronic medical
record neither saves money nor improves quality. It just slows me down.
Meaningful use, my ass. How about the meaningful use of doctors’ time as
opposed to 140 key strokes checking boxes to make the government happy.

       There is no question that a large-scale
labor action on the part of American physicians would inconvenience patients.
Since we seem to be doing pretty well on Sundays, closing a clinic while
staffing emergency services should prevent any unnecessary injuries to or
illnesses of patients. For sure it would get the attention of the
administrators, lawyers and accountants currently running our health care
system and gain a bit more power for the only essential part of the health care
industrial complex: patients and doctors and other providers.

There are many fine health care systems around the world
without pharmacy benefit managers, large insurers and eligibility counselors.

       If we really want to save money, all we
have to do is stop paying all of those people who are neither patients nor
providers and allow the people who really must be part of health care delivery
to get back to work.

       Apres moi, le deluge? If that deluge
(flood) is a Curt Flood, he or she needs to hurry up and get here. On its
current trajectory, medicine will be even more of a commodity than it already
is and doctors will be viewed as interchangeable parts unworthy of
participating in the very system they used to own.

       Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? How
about Curt Flood, MD? Ou est Docteur Deluge?

Leonard Zwelling