Bill Bronston and Friends: First Encounter and Collision
Produced by Dr. David Goode
Produced in 2005
Bill Bronston MD: When I first came there I was working in a building [Inaudible] and I kept insisting that they have adequate soap and clothing and towels and food. So the other doctors in the building didn't like that, so I was moved to a model building.
A "model building" called the Hospital Improvement Program, which was a $100,000, whatever it was, a $200,000 thing, that they were doing. And I had 135 or 145 preteens at that time, boys and girls. And I worked there for a year in that building and cleaned it up completely and there was no disease at the end of that time. And it got to the place where the building didn't have to be organized by age or severity of management problems, disease problems.
I wanted to regroup the building developmentally to try and get people out. I wanted to go to the dump and get furniture and, you know, make the place a living place, a home. So the nurses immediately were terrified, and they went to the chief of nurses and the administrator then removed me from the building and put me in charge of five women's buildings with over a thousand grown women to put me deeper into the pit and try and get rid of me.
And so I went to Gene at that point because, you know, I knew that they were, they wanted to get rid of any… challenge to them. And by that time, there was no longer any quarter. It was a no quarter situation. I mean, they spoke bluntly to me and I spoke bluntly to them. And so, anyway, Gene represented me. We put in a appeal through the civil services system, which I knew would never work.
The commissioner would never rescind the action of their administrator who was like [Inaudible]. He was the state, he was the senior state officer in the county and so that any state monies that came to the county he would sign off on, even though he wasn't in social service line or whatever. He was the senior, you know, official for the state in those days. And so Gene came in and then systematically laid case for the point that I was being transferred as a punitive measure in order to get rid of me. And that was our position, that it was a punitive transfer.
Gene Eisner: We drove up to Albany to meet with Commissioner Miller and we laid out our case before the commissioner. He also was the kind of guy who was putting on a good face, you know, he was being very reasonable with us. You know, he wanted to hear what we had to say.
Bill Bronston MD: Because the director of Willowbrook turned us down, of course. I mean he… denied the merits of our…
Gene Eisner: But in the meantime we built, we had built a case for the record, and we began to leak some of this stuff out about what was going on. So in the meantime, a young reporter who was previously a lawyer, a young guy named Jerry Rivera, who became Geraldo Rivera, decided to go in with his cameras because the word leaked out about Willowbrook. And Geraldo came in and Geraldo became famous overnight as a result of that program that he shot.
Bill Bronston MD: Our director was so shaken by the confrontation that he summarily fired another physician and comrade of ours that I brought in to work, Mike Wilkins, and his social worker.