Healthcare, Doctors and the pilot shortage

Posted on 10. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Pilot shortage

What do they possibly have to do with each other? A lot more than you might think: both are Professions that take years of education and experience. Both are Professions that hold people’s lives in their hands. Both require an adequate level of intelligence. Both require a significant investment in time and money. Both will be facing shortages in the near future of “qualified” applicants and practicing Professionals because they have or will become the focal point of savings.

I am not entering into the political argument; it is not my area of expertise. Besides writing novels and flying airplanes, my area of expertise is Operations. I was formally educated in it and have practical experience from both the Navy and civilian sectors.

I can see an operational train wreck coming from a mile away.

Let’s make the assumption that more people are going to be insured, a good thing to be sure. Now let’s look at the operational impact and the unforeseen consequences. Doctors for fiscal reasons are maxed out; they have their productivity as high as possible in some cases. Everyone in the political process agrees money can be saved, cut, etc. Who will that impact the most? The provider.

The numbers can be argued but the fact remains; more people are going to be insured. It is the reason we are doing Health Care Reform, all else is noise. Another fact; Americans are getting older and will require more, not less, healthcare.

Can savings be wrung out of the system? Certainly, but that will also impact the pay of the Doctors on the provider end. So Medical Doctors will have to work more for less; starting to sound familiar now? Is it starting to sound like the demise of the pilot profession?

Captain Sullenberger testified in congress that the best and brightest will no longer come to the profession. Is that where the medical profession is headed too? The pilot shortage is a chambered round; when the new FAA regulations on crew rest and Congressional mandates on minimum flight time requirements kick in this January (as scheduled), that round will fire.

I had a long talk with one of my doctors a few years ago (before the current discussion). We were comparing notes; our concerns for our given professions were strikingly similar. At the end of the conversation we both came to the same conclusion: Neither profession was worth the investment in capital, time and family separation they required.

In the future, the best and the brightest are headed to Wall Street; because win, lose or draw they get compensated handsomely.

No Responses to “Healthcare, Doctors and the pilot shortage”

  1. Barbara Rubin 10 September 2009 at 11:34 #


    You are forgetting one aspect of ‘operations’. The profit motive by those corporations hiring the actual service providers are taking unwarranted and unprecedented profits at the expense of their employees – the guys and gals who make it all happen. It doesn’t make sense for a corporation to destroy itself through gutting its best asset which is a staff that provides what the public both needs and wants. Pay pilots less and don’t let them rest? You increase risk and reduce profits when planned runs become unavailable due to pilot shortages, mechanic shortages etc.

    When HMOs make doctors see a dozen more people per day than can be capably served, reduce salaries to overworked professionals with student loans and families, limit diagnostic services and then cut out patients as soon as people get sick, they are bringing about their own downfall – hence the call for a public option which has less overhead without a greedy board of directors.

    I’ve worked for non-profit companies in management before and know how it works. Operations serves the CEO and Board (with a golden parachute so failure is no loss there) and goes for quick, huge profits instead of sustainable and realistic profits. Businesses no longer try to compete – they figure the trough is big enough for all so have loose associations to ensure no one outshines the others with everyone offering poor goods.

    The real capitalist dream is of a long term investment in the self AND the consumer. Wall Street fell because the few can only take so much from the many in return for bad products and services.
    With the return of regulations, the upper echelons will be limited on how much they can rob the lower echelons and cripple their own companies in the process. Recall when a successful IBM began the process of reneging on employee benefits?

    The best and brightest are headed for independence from TPTB and will have to find each other to re-create the old spirit of capitalism and real competition.

    Thanks for your interesting posts and yes, all things wind up related in the end. I am a former health care worker and educator who became disabled at 45 because of the demise of honesty in industry and science.

  2. Chip 11 September 2009 at 14:00 #

    Trust me I agree, I’m living with what you wrote every day. I also have a unique vantage point. I have a Masters in Airline Management, I’m in a union and I have watched what happened at Sears. My Grandfather worked for Sears his entire life, 50 years, he retired a VP. The corporate culture used to be one of steady conservative growth based on providing quality products to customers, anything anywhere. They were leaders in new technology and innovation. Working at Sears whether a VP or shoe salesman was a career, everyone’s future and retirement, from CEO to custodian was tied to the long term success of the company.

    Enter the MBA bean counters: financial schemes, no focus on the core business and Sears became what it is today. Walmart adopted their business model (except for taking care of employees) and has taken a huge percent of their market share. Who paid the price; as always the employees and stock holders. Once executive retirements and compensation were uncoupled from company long term success the company’s health became an afterthought.

    Short term gain, pump and dump, is the new mantra of business schools. Get your millions and split, who cares what happens to the company, employees or the stock holders. Suckers! The easiest short term fix; cut costs, it artificially boosts the bottom line long enough for the “Executive Team” to make millions and exit. We are all living with the short sited strategy of that personal greed now. It has destroyed our economy along with the middle class. What my father could support on a single pay check, took two in the 80’s and 90’s. By the beginning of this decade it took more; so people borrowed. Housing prices went up and a lot of people got in the game. Some got rich until the bill showed up. Those of us who didn’t play are getting that bill, and it will be years before it is paid. Anyone who worked in finance and didn’t see the train wreck coming is an idiot!

    Three years ago I sat with the team for Yambuta Airlines at a conference table high over Wall Street; it probably cost more (the table) than all of us made in a year combined. We were pitching the start up airline (Congo) complete with new model, excel spread sheets, power point, etc. A PhD was hammering us with questions, Africa is a hard sell. After our pitch was over he said; “Great model and plan; but tell me why should I invest in Yambuta when I can get an automatic 20% in mortgage funds?”

    We were flabbergasted; later that night we had a good laugh over a beer. The consensus was; “man can’t he see the train wreck coming?” We also got the last laugh, his firm made the headlines in the meltdown.

  3. Chip 11 September 2009 at 14:24 #

    Another comment; I too am an educator. My under grad is in education. I substitute taught; but really my educational expertise was in teaching flying and tactics from the cockpit of fighters.

    I remember a funny story: one of our completed student’s father was a Harvard Professor in education. He sat in on an LSO brief. LSO’s (Landing signal Officers) teach and then evaluate new carrier pilots. We would sit on the side of the runway next to a painted carrier deck and teach “the kids” how to land on a boat.

    One of our LSOs Tom “Hammer” Ferriso ripped into them pretty hard. He came to the back of the room where I was standing with the Doctor of Education.

    “Too much?”

    “Nah; they needed it.”

    Dane “Drago” Dobbs laughed and then went on in a soothing, reassuring manner. About 80% of landing on a ship is psychological: we played good cop, bad cop. The Professor was shocked that we could motivate with such draconian tactics.

    He asked me; “How can you get college graduates to respond to that technique?”
    “We smash em’ down and then build them back up. Motivated people perform to the standards you hold them to Doc. If you let them fly shit, they will fly shit!”

    He thought about it for a while and then asked. “Can I video this tomorrow?”

    I still believe that people perform to the standards they are held too. I also believe that most people do the right thing, or will if they are taught or lead properly.

    It is the theme of my novels. I think, unfortunately, that the MBA programs are teaching greed. Pump and dump, as opposed to how to run a company.

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