Todd Woollen was my personal physician.
He always seemed to me to be a competent doctor.
I never had any issue with how he treated me in the dozen or so times that I saw him at the Crawford County Memorial Hospital (CCMH) Main Campus Clinic.
And then, on Saturday, February 15, I received a call from the clinic.
I was scheduled for a preoperative physical examination on February 18, prior to inpatient surgery on March 3.
Woollen was to do the examination.
The woman from the clinic told me that he no longer worked at CCMH and another physician would have to do the examination.
It wasn’t until that Monday that I heard anything about the letter Woollen had written.
Woollen warned that the coronavirus was coming, that no treatments exist and that drastic measures would be needed to control its spread and the consequences.
I talked to CCMH CEO Erin Muck after my physical examination at the clinic.
Muck told me that Woollen had resigned.
She said Woollen had not been distributing his letter to patients at CCMH, but had given it to some of the staff members.
He had given the letter to others away from the clinic.
Muck didn’t specifically say that it would have been a firing offense if Woollen had distributed the letter at CCMH, but she was very clear that she did not believe he had done so.
Muck told me she still considered him to be a good doctor and she would be open to having him back at the hospital in the future.
The Bulletin and Review reached out to Woollen, but we were not able to get in touch with him. We made it known that we would welcome his comments.
Not long after leaving CCMH, Woollen packed up and left Denison.
Rekha Basu, of the Des Moines Register, recently suggested – without any evidence – that Woollen was forced out after blowing the whistle about the coronavirus.
She talked to Rich Knowles, of all people, and long-standing CCMH critic Eileen Sailer.
Basu quoted extensively from the story I wrote, which was published in the February 21 Denison Review, but she didn’t bother to talk to me or any other actual journalist from Denison.
Basu wrote that, “some people connected to to (sic) the western Iowa hospital say officials were upset over how hard Woollen was sounding the alarm about the approaching coronavirus.”
She didn’t say who those “some people” were, however.
Neither Sailer nor Knowles had any inside information, according to the contents of her editorial.
She also stated that Woollen had given out his letter to patients at the CCMH clinic – in a paragraph that appears to be taking information from my story.
I wrote no such thing, however.
Basu faulted CCMH for not listening to Woollen.
“If given a choice between scaring people with too much information or keeping them safe, it’s a hospital’s job to keep them safe — and alive,” she wrote.
I have some news for Basu: CCMH can’t declare a pandemic or close the schools or order people to shelter in place.
Those decisions happen far above the level of a county hospital CEO.
Scaring members of the public about it might have caused some individuals to buy toilet paper or other supplies ahead of the curve, but Woollen didn’t achieve anything else.
If he wanted to do something significant, he needed to talk to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), the governor’s office, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the White House.
In lieu of recommendations from the CDC, IDPH or the governor, the best CCMH could do was tell people to take the normal precautions that we are all now taking to heart.
Sailer and Knowles praised Woollen in Basu’s editorial, but you won’t get that from me.
This community paid Woollen handsomely to work here - to the tune of about $650,000 per year.
When we needed him the most, he abandoned us.