Corporate greed is often a term associated with multinational corporations and other large enterprises focusing on profit at any cost. However, it’s not only there that you’ll find it. When a local doctor and an accountant discovered what was going on at a local non-profit hospital, they decided to act. Years later, the culmination of that action is the documentary film, Do No Harm.
The doings of a non-profit hospital in Southwest Georgia is usually not the stuff of documentaries. They tend to look at larger entities in larger communities. At first, Albany wasn’t the focus for Do No Harm’s director and producer, Rebecca Schanberg either. Schanberg had a close friend who worked for a firm that handled public relations for attorney Richard Scruggs in regard to his class action lawsuits regarding non-profit hospitals.
Schanberg was intrigued and investigated further. As she dug, she came across the story of Dr. John Bagnato and Charles Rehberg, two whistleblowers who had seemingly become the target for a powerful entity. Schanberg quickly pushed away all the rest of the lawsuits to focus on Albany. “What was going on with John [Bagnato] and Charles [Rehberg] was far more interesting, so we focused on that instead.”
Do No Harm was apparently not an easy film to make, either. First, despite Joel Wernick’s assertion that the only thing accurate in the film is the name of the hospital, Schanberg asserts that everything on film is from either local news outlets or from the accounts given by Rehberg and Bagnato. “This isn’t a piece of investigative filmmaking. We didn’t break any news stories,” Schanberg says. In fact, Schanberg claims that she asked for Joel Wernick to appear in the film, a request that she says was denied.
Without Wernick appearing in the film, it became vitally more important to use television interviews in an effort to get his side of the story. This, unfortunately, led to more difficulty. Schanberg attempted to legally obtain a license to use WALB-TV news footage, but was told they don’t license footage to non-news organizations. After consulting with legal experts, Schanberg was told that the use of the footage could fall under “fair use”, which is for thing in the public domain. So she did.
This ultimately led to a cease-and-desist letter from Raycom Media, the parent company for WALB. However, the Kindling Group (the production company behind Schanberg and Do No Harm) and Raycom were able to come to terms. Now, the show will go on with screenings in Atlanta and one this past Tuesday evening here in Albany.
That’s a lot of hassle for a film with a total budget that Schanberg estimates to be around $200,000. And that’s just the public hassle. Schanberg claims that there were a lot of people who were afraid to speak out against Phoebe, many who came for a first day of interviews, but then never showed up for the second.
Do No Harm isn’t a typical documentary, either. It’s been shown to members of Congress, people at the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as put in the hands of people within the president’s administration. This is on top of the usual film festivals. Do No Harm was nominated for Best Documentary at the Little Rock Film festival, after all.
Schanberg hopes that this film helps spur the health care reform debate. For her, the best case scenario is that this film helps advocates for health care reform. There is an effort to get this film on PBS, as well. Schanberg feels that this film will really be more help after a first round of health care reform is passed, since she feels current measures won’t do much to help costs, calling such efforts “doubtful”. However, she feels the problems can be fixed, and hopes Do No Harm can help with that effort.
Written by Tom Knighton. Read his blog at SWGA Politics.com. A lifelong political junkie, Tom started out his adult life as a journalism major at Darton College before leaving school to serve his nation as a U.S. Navy Corpsman. Through the years, he has watched government from outside and inside. A former Reagan supporter, then later a Democrat, Tom now finds himself quite comfortable as a card carrying Libertarian and all around smart-elec.