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Democratic campaign mailer draws criticism

Election 2012Clarksville, TN – The campaign for the District 22 Tennessee State Senate between incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Barnes and Republican Dr. Mark Green has gotten dirty.  In a direct mail flyer, paid for by the Tennessee Democratic Party and authorized by Senator Barnes, the flyer attacks Dr. Green and Gateway Medical Center.

On the front of the mailer, it has a picture of the Clarksville hospital in the background, with a picture of Green in the lower corner and reads, “This is Dr. Mark Green and this is where the hospital he helped run ranked in Tennessee” and shows the Consumer Reports logo with the headline, “The Lowest.”

The flyer refers to a Consumer Reports article that ranked Gateway Medical Center 37th in a survey of Tennessee hospitals for the quality of care given at it’s facility.

It reads: “State Senate Candidate Mark Green helped run the lowest ranked hospital in the state.” The flyer states that Mark Green “Puts his own financial interests first.” and, “Green helped manage the lowest rated hospital in the entire state with a death rate higher than the national average. Green was caught directing other doctors to “cherry-pick” healthier patients over sicker patients to boost hospital profits. Green pushed to allow doctors to pocket 100% of patient payments, cutting out nurses and health care professionals.”

The mailer backs its claims with references to the August 2012 Consumer Reports, a Mark Green memo to Gateway Medical ER physicians dated July 1st, 2004 and a Linkedin post dated July 30th, 2012. The flyer goes on to say, “Green is in it for the $Green$, not you.”

Gateway Medical Center officials are outraged. In an e-mail obtained by Clarksville Online and sent to the hospital board of trustees, medical staff, and employees, Chief Executive Officer Tim Puthoff had this to say:

“Our hospital has fallen under attack. Yesterday, many of you went to your mailboxes and found a very negative leaflet from the Tim Barnes for Senate campaign. This leaflet was primarily directed against the Senator’s opponent, Mark Green, M.D., who served as a respected member of our medical staff from 2004 to 2009.

Shockingly, this political propaganda also includes a vicious attack on our hospital and the quality of care provided for our patients. The leaflet uses misleading information about Gateway in a manner that is unjustified and extremely harmful – especially because our hospital is not at issue in this campaign.

I want you to know the facts. The mailer references a recent Consumer Reports article that ranked Tennessee’s hospitals.  However, the Consumer Reports article is based on old data and includes only 37 of the 120 hospitals in Tennessee.  That report does not accurately reflect the quality of care currently provided at our hospital.

The mailer also says that the mortality rate at our hospital is higher than the national average. That’s not true. In fact, our most recent internal data shows our overall acuity-adjusted mortality rate for August 2011 through July 2012 is in line with the national average.

Why would a political candidate attack our hospital? It is mean-spirited, insulting, and totally unacceptable that the very Senator who represents the district where we operate has disparaged our hospital and the care we provide.  Gateway Medical Center is a vital health resource, a major employer, and a good citizen. You know these things:

  • In 2011, the hospital provided care for over 60,000 emergency room visits, 11,000 hospitalized patients, and brought nearly 2,000 babies into the world.
  • We are a major employer with over 1,100 employees and a payroll of over $63 million.
  • Last year we provided over $30 million in charity and uncompensated care and paid nearly $3 million in property taxes to support our community.”

Puthoff goes on to say:

What you can do. Whatever your political views, I hope you will agree that this negative attack on Gateway is offensive and completely inappropriate for a political campaign. Your neighbors, your friends, your patients, and thousands of people in our community likely have received the Barnes campaign leaflet – and it will undoubtedly affect the way people feel about our hospital.

We know we provide quality care at Gateway. Senator Barnes needs to know that, too.  You can contact Senator Barnes and the Tennessee Democratic Party, which paid for the mailer, and tell them what you think of their campaign tactics.  I hope you will tell them that you are very proud of our hospital and that it is wrong to attack Gateway in a political campaign.  Contact information for the Senator and party leaders is attached.

I appreciate your support in this matter. I also want to remind you that, ultimately, our reputation will be based on the experiences our patients have at Gateway – not on negative messages in a political campaign.  As you continue to provide great compassionate for patients, we will continue to earn the trust and respect of our community.  Thank you for all you do – every day.

Puthoff concludes his e-mail by encouraging Gateway’s employees to express their opinions on the flier..

  • Contact State Senator Tim Barnes and the Tennessee Democratic Party
  • Please join us in our efforts to let Senator Barnes and the Tennessee Democratic Party know that it is wrong to attack Gateway in a political campaign. Ask them to:
  • Stop Using Gateway Medical Center In Their Campaign.
  • Respect Gateway’s Commitment To Be A Quality Provider Of Healthcare, Major Employer And Vital Contributor To The Clarksville Economy

Contact Tim Barnes

Contact the Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester

Contact the Montgomery County Democratic Party Chair Gene Lewis

Sample Text: Gateway is proud to serve Clarksville. Leave us alone.

Sample Email: I work at Gateway Medical Center and I’m proud to serve Clarksville. We provide quality care for our patients. Your mailing shows your disrespect for ALL 1,100 of us who work at Gateway. We work hard every day to provide for the health of this community. Our hospital is important as a major employer and vital contributor to the Clarksville economy. If you want to be a good neighbor like you say, leave our hospital out of your campaign.

Sample Phone Call: Hello, I’m [NAME]. I am an employee of Gateway Medical Center and I am proud to serve Clarksville. We work very hard to give our patients quality care. Your mailing shows your disrespect for ALL 1,100 of us who work at Gateway. If you want to be a good neighbor like you say, leave our hospital out of your campaign.

Clarksville Online contacted Dr. Mark Green and asked him to respond and he had this to say:  “It is unfortunate that my opponent has decided to attack the job creators in our area who keep our economic engine running. Our leading employers, Gateway Medical Center included, deserve unwavering support from their elected officials and it is a shame that my opponent does not share in that same philosophy.”

Hank Bonecutter
Hank Bonecutterhttp://www.clarksvillesmotorcycle.com/
Hank Bonecutter is a retired broadcaster and media consultant based in Clarksville, Tennessee. His career includes stints at WKDA/WKDF and WKQB Rock 106FM, WLAC-AM in Nashville. He concluded his career as owner/talk show host at WJZM-AM in Clarksville. Currently the President of Bonehead Promotions, he's an advertising consultant and media strategist. An avid motorcyclist, Hank blogs about his travels exclusively at www.clarksvillemotorcycle.com and www.clarksvilleonline.com You can follow Hank on on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dodgintheroadkill/, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/?lang=en, and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dodgetheroadkill/?hl=en  

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