De Groot becomes chairman of the medical staff

After my first day of practice at Carolus Hospital (later Boxtel Hospital joined us and the name was changed into Carolus-Liduina Hospital, but I stubbornly continued to use the name Carolus), we had a staff meeting in the evening. It started at 6 p.m. When, at a quarter to 11, we hadn't even started the round table, I wondered desperately, 'Where the hell have I ended up?' Nevertheless, I always attended all staff meetings, including those at Willem-Alexander Hospital, because I was a loner there and had to stand up for my own interests.

Back then, I sometimes heard that dermatologists don't have much say in the medical staff, with which I did not and do not agree. The medical discipline that you practice does not affect your (un)importance in the staff, or at least it does not have to. For many years during staff meetings I sat ostentatiously reading Current Contents and correcting manuscripts and proofs (I was the only staff member who published regularly). My main contribution in the discussions was to occasionally mutter, just intelligibly, 'can we wrap up this issue' or 'I don't think that's very wise, Chairman,' or similar remarks. When at one time the staff board had resigned in toto after a conflict with the management and, after a period without a staff board, an inventory was taken of who the staff members thought was best suited to become staff chairman, my fate was sealed and I held this office for 5 years, in the period 1990-1995. First task: forming a staff board. The most important position is that of board secretary, and I was very lucky: we appointed Vince Mollee, one of the hospital's clinical psychologists. I can't remember how this came about, I think he got the most votes as a suitable secretary during the survey. Why was I lucky with this secretary ? Because I had to be watched a bit. I always made an assessment at what problems there were and often would come up quickly with a (possible) solution, which I then wanted to work out and set in motion immediately or at least as soon as possible. Such an approach has the advantage that one can achieve much.

Vince Mollee in 2016

But it also entails a danger, and that is that you go too fast, don't think sufficiently about the consequences of your decisions and that the 'solution' causes collateral damage or even turns out all wrong. And by now I knew myself well enough to know that the chances of that happening were very real; more than once I had taken decisions too quickly and regretted them afterwards. So there had to be someone who would think along with me, offer alternatives, make nuances, change my mind, stop me or slow me down, and all this in such a manner that I would suppress my tendency to authoritarianism and accept the advice. And for that Vince, with his thoughtful and tactful demeanor, was ideally suited. In his contribution to the Liber Amicorum, Vince wrote that at one point I said, 'I may be chairman, but the course of action is determined by Vince.' And I meant that. We formed a strong team together and with the other board members.

In any case, I look back on those 5 years as Chairman largely with pleasure and satisfaction. We very quickly restored good relations with the management (later: board of directors) and the board of the hospital (later: supervisory board). Frank Vernooy, the director, later told us that our actions had prevented him from resigning. In his chapter of the Liber Amicorum Frank wrote: 'Mostly good memories I have of the period when you were chairman of the medical staff. After a long presidentless era, you had the courage, but also gained the trust of colleagues, to take on that difficult task. In that capacity you played several roles, always with the same intention: improving relations, improving the position of the medical staff in the organization and improving the position of Carolus Hospital. .... In the years that you, as staff chairman with your other board members managed to keep the interests of the whole well balanced, much has been achieved in the Carolus'.

It is probably not interesting enough for the reader to elaborate on the period during which I was staff chairman. What clearly changed with my arrival: the direction of staff meetings became tighter. Endless deliberations would be over. Meetings lasting for many hours were out of the question. When someone spoke for too long, I would ask him or her (it was usually a him; the current feminization of health care had not yet taken place) to finish or make his point, and repeatedly telling the same story was strictly forbidden. And above all: in the discussion, it was not permitted anymore to reopen items on the agenda that we had already decided on and closed, which also applied to doctors entering the meeting late. At the first meeting which I presided this resulted in a surgeon getting very angry as he tried to reopen a topic and was ruthlessly cut off by me. I could also be a bit of a bully sometimes. There was always someone falling asleep during the staff meeting and then I would shout: 'Don't you agree, A...', or ''What do you think of that, R...'? Success guaranteed.

Quite interestingly, while writing this, I am again thinking back fondly on my time as staff chairman. Being the boss (after Vince, but he never showed it) probably pleased me. Nor do I remember why I quit after 5 years, as Frank Vernooy rightly wrote in the Liber amicorum: 'Some plushness was not foreign to you.' Probably I was too busy in combination with the practice and various other board positions I held at the time in all kinds of bodies e.g. editor-in-chief of the Dutch Journal for Dermatology and Venereology. After I had arranged for a successor, I stayed on for another year as  board member in order to give my successor the opportunity to consult me when desired. However, this was only very sporadically necessary and I managed to avoid getting in his way.

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