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Medical Black Eye 

Inside Track

Bernie Sanders

Published November 5, 2003 at 5:00 p.m.

Suspended Burlington eye doctor David Chase and his wife Brianne Chase were in Chittenden Superior Court Monday morning fighting to hang onto their spacious Spear Street hacienda. Deborah Brundage, the third former patient of Dr. Chase to file suit for unnecessary cataract surgery, is seeking a writ of attachment on Chase's Shelburne home before the Chases can transfer the title.

The three-hour hearing ended before either the doctor or his wife took the stand. Judge Howard Van Benthuysen indicated a continuation of the hearing will likely be necessary.

Taking the stand Monday was Stephen Green, the whistleblower who put the Chases out of business and saved God knows how many people from undergoing unnecessary cataract surgery. Last July, state and federal law-enforcement officials raided Dr. Chase's Burlington eye-care clinic. The state charged that Chase had been performing cataract surgery regularly on patients who did not need it. His medical license was promptly suspended. Sources say a federal grand jury is currently looking into the case.Mr. Green was hired in June to be the new business manager at Chase's clinic. He holds an MBA from Cornell and has 40 years experience in the optical profession. He quickly realized something was very, very wrong. Green told the court he initially interviewed all 12 clinic employees. When asked what the biggest problem was, he told the court, they unanimously replied, 'Dr. Chase.'"Green learned of the doctor's unusual testing procedures and his falsifying of patient records. A check of records going back three years revealed a surprise. Despite the fact that his patient load was dropping, the number of cataract surgeries Dr. Voodoo Eyes performed remained steady.Dr. Chase's patient load had dropped from 7000 per year to "close to 4000," said Green, but the number of cataract surgeries he performed remained level at about 350 operations a year.

Three years ago, said Green, one out of 16 patients who went to see the Voodoo Eye Doc ended up getting cataract surgery. Two years ago it was one in 12, he said. This year the rate had risen to one in 10."If you have a patient drop-off," testified Green, "and the same number of surgeries are performed, something is wrong."Green decided to contact the Vermont Medical Practice Board. He said the board had already received one complaint about Chase's cataract propensities back in January. His new information, said Green, sparked the board's interest.Brundage's attorney, Mary Kirkpatrick of Lisman, Webster, Kirkpatrick & Leckerling, PC, told the judge there was "an atmosphere of fear and coercion" at Chase's St. Paul Street clinic.Judge Van Benthuysen asked Green if he had brought his concerns about the good doctor's unprofessional practices to Dr. Chase or his wife Brianne before contacting the Medical Practice Board."I did not," answered Green. "I felt like I was dealing with a fox guarding hens," he explained.One thing's for sure. Doc Chase and his philanthropic wife (former board chair at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts) are going to be spending a lot of time in courtrooms for the foreseeable future.

Douglas' IBM Strategy - It's not often you get a hired-gun business lobbyist to agree with Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders, Democrat/Progressive Mayor Peter Clavelle and Democrat Peter Shumlin. However, the Douglas administration's proposal to lower IBM's electric bill while raising everyone else's has done just that.

The business lobbyist, who spoke on condition he or she not be identified, has until now been a Jim Douglas supporter. Gov. Douglas is proposing a plan that will lower IBM's rate and increase the rate for all other customers. GMP is Vermont's second-largest electric utility with 80,000 customers."There's got to be a better way," said the business lobbyist. "I don't think it's right to make us all pay."Jimmy D's motive is, obviously, to keep IBM happy. Even as a candidate, Gov. Douglas prostrated himself before the altar of Big Blue. He went to the mat to get the Bush administration to steamroll the Environmental Protection Agency so the controversial Circumferential Highway, a.k.a. The IBM Driveway, could get on the "fast track." (Given that the state blew the bid process and has to do it again, and that there's a mega-lawsuit in U.S. District Court designed to stop the Circ, just how fast the "fast track" is remains to be seen.)In the last two years IBM has laid off about 2300 workers at its Essex Junction microelectronics campus. Prior to that, Big Blue attempted to rob its veteran workers of their pension benefits by introducing a so-called "cash balance" pension plan. Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders led the charge to stop it.It appears Jimmy D is determined to make sure IBM does not close, sell or move offshore on his watch. His latest scheme is to bow to Big Blue's gripes about the high cost of electricity in Vermont. He's come up with an ingenious plan that will lower IBM's electric bill by raising the bills of all other GMP customers.

Brilliant, right?Mr. Sanders doesn't think so."I am not enthusiastic about asking ordinary people, middle-class people, to have to pay more in their electric bills when it is quite as high as it is right now," said Ol' Bernardo this week. "That would not be a deal that I would have negotiated."But Bernie, if we don't kiss IBM's butt the mega corporation might say "Screw you, Vermont. We're leaving!" C'mon, we've got to help 'em out, right?"If we're going to give IBM something," said Sanders, "then IBM is going to have to tell us for sure what they're going to give us in return."There's nothing in the Douglas deal, he noted, that commits IBM to maintaining a certain number of employees for the foreseeable future."If I give you something, I want something in return," said Ol' Bernardo. "And that is strong guarantees that there'll be decent-paying jobs in IBM for the indefinite future."Sanders' comments and those of the business lobbyist were echoed Tuesday by Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle, declared candidate for governor in 2004.

Mayor Moonie just returned Monday from a week-long trip to Japan paid for by the Montpelier-based Institute for Sustainable Communities ( Clavelle told Seven Days he understood Vermont's system of regulating electric rates to be "cost-based." A few years ago an effort to lower electric bills for senior citizens or others living on fixed incomes fizzled, said Clavelle, because the state said it couldn't be done.

Now, if IBM can get a break on its electric bills, he asked, does that mean UVM should get one, too, to keep tuition low for Vermont students? Or what about lowering the electric rate at the Mary Fanny to keep health-care costs under control?"It's a very slippery slope," said Mayor Moonie. "Where do you draw the lines?"

If Mayor Clavelle were governor, he said he would not support a rate reduction for Big Blue. But he said he would work hard to keep IBM here. The best things Vermont can do, he said, are to provide a good, educated workforce and a high quality of life.

Democrat Peter Shumlin of Putney, former state senate leader, agrees wholeheartedly with Sanders and Clavelle.Shumlin called the Douglas administration's IBM rate-cut proposal "outrageous." Republicans and Democrats have agreed for generations, said Shumlin, that "You don't charge average citizens more for their power than anybody else." Putney Pete said Gov. Douglas has adopted George Bush-style economics.

By the way, Shumlin sure sounded like a candidate for governor. He told Seven Days he expects to make the formal announcement in January when the legislature returns. "I want to run for governor," said Shumlin. "This state is headed in the wrong direction."

Word is, the only thing that could prevent a Shumlin candidacy is the Shumlin family.

Stay tuned.Meanwhile, Gov. Jimbo's press secretary, Jason Gibbs, told Seven Days that "IBM represents about 25 percent of GMP's rate base. If IBM leaves Vermont, the obvious economic catastrophe notwithstanding, there are less jobs, less usage, and the cost of GMP's power would be spread across all rate payers, resulting in a dramatic increase in rates for ordinary Vermonters."Here's a solution: Why doesn't IBM hire Howard Dean's Internet fundraising whiz kids? They could launch a "Help Save IBM" Web site and solicit donations from Vermonters who, like the governor, believe keeping IBM happy is something worth paying for.

So much for the capitalist system, eh?

DeanWatch 2004 - New York Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove reported this week that in Ho-Ho's soon-to-be published book, Winning Back America, our favorite presidential hopeful "takes a confessional approach."Grove says that Dr. Dean wrote about "his youthful drunken behavior and his occasional adventures in petty theft."Cool. People often forget how big shoplifting was for Ho-Ho's generation."Once we were 18, we could indulge in lazy days of 'Baseball and Ballantine,'" Dean writes. "We'd buy some beer and put it in a garbage can of ice and play softball all day long. If you hit somebody's beer with a batted ball, it was an automatic out."After he got married, "I quit drinking," Dean writes. "When I drank, I would drink a lot and do outrageous things, and then I wouldn't drink again for a while. I realized that what was very funny when you're 18 is not very funny when you're 30. I had a terrible hangover after my bachelor party, which didn't help. So I quit. Drinking served no useful purpose in my life, and I just got tired of it. I haven't had a drink in over 22 years."

God bless him!

Media Notes - The November TV ratings sweeps began last Thursday, and the battle between the two TV news titans for viewers is in full gear.

WCAX in South Burlington sure hit the ground running. Marselis Parsons and Sera Congi opened Monday evening with a new Ch. 3 Vermont poll on Howard Dean's presidential quest. According to the results, 56 percent of Vermonters approve, while 41 percent do not.Interesting. That mirrors the 1998 governor's race when Ho-Ho defeated Ruthless Ruth Dwyer 56-41. And 41 percent was Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's winning total, too.

WCAX is also starting sweeps month with two special series: Anson Tebbetts on "The Dean Mystique" and Andy Potter on "The Democrats' Dilemma," i.e., the race for governor. Cool.Another change at Ch. 3 has been the addition of co-anchor Congi on the 11 o'clock news. She's now teamed up with Roger Garrity, who's been solo at 11 p.m. for years. The new boy-girl anchor arrangement matches that of the competition at WPTZ.Ms. Congi's presence next to Roger, said Marsillyiss, "makes our 11 more watchable."

Over at Ch. 5 the beginning of the ratings period was marked by a feature on news anchor Stephanie Gorin's two-month-old twins - Toby and Gracie. The daddy is Stephanie's husband, Plattsburgh Chief of Police Desmond Racicot.WPTZ also ran a special piece on one way to lose weight - have a gastric bypass. News Director Andy Wormser tells Seven Days the stomach-stapling procedure reduces a cantoulope-sized stomach to that of an egg.

Sounds like fun, huh?This week, says Mr. Wormser, there'll be more special reports. One by Thom Hallock will examine the dangers of backing out of the driveway. Bigger cars mean bigger blind spots.

Another by Graham Johnson will check the safety of those household chemicals you store under the sink. If they were safe, chances are there wouldn't be a story, right?

And Wormser says Stephanie the Mommy will be making a couple more appearances during the sweeps. A live double diaper change, however, is not in the cards.Ah, c'mon. Reality TV is where it's at.

Get Well, John! - One of U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy's key staffers was hospitalized at the Mary Fanny this week following a nasty car accident Sunday morning. John Goodrow of Essex was en route to pick up his oldest son at Sunday school when another vehicle ran a stop sign. John's got a busted hip. Surgery was scheduled for Tuesday.

We first met John in the 1980s when he was a radio news guy for WJOY. Old-timers will always remember his legendary piano-playing dad, Orville "Goody" Goodrow. Goody, who passed away in 2000, played piano with Artie Shaw's U.S. Navy Jazz Band during WWII. Later he performed on the Steamship Ticonderoga and was a fixture at the Holiday Inn for 30 years (1965-1995).Son John's been a valued be-hind-the-scenes guy on St. Pat-rick's Vermont staff since 1987.

Best wishes, John, for a full and speedy recovery!

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Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.


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