"Maastricht professor of Psychiatry consciously slandered"

"Maastricht professor of Psychiatry consciously slandered"

Attack on trainer seen as an act of revenge

14-09-2022 · Background

Maastricht professor of Psychiatry and trainer Machteld Marcelis, who was recently discredited due to an 'unsafe learning climate', has become the victim of “a well-orchestrated revenge”. That is what former UM professor Jim van Os says.

In the newspapers, she was portrayed as a trainer who made the lives of many doctors in psychiatric training (aios) a living hell. In some publications, she was even explicitly put in the pillory. Doctors’ magazine Medisch Contact wrote: “Not just doctors in training, but also doctor-researchers and support staff have been subjected to intimidation by this person.” 

The subject is Machteld Marcelis, Maastricht professor of Psychiatry and chief trainer for GGzE, the Mental Health Authority (GGZ) in Eindhoven. She is under fire because (former) doctors in training submitted a complaint regarding an 'unsafe learning climate'. The Registration Committee for Medical Specialists, (Registratie Commissie Geneeskundig specialisten, RGS), is hearing all those involved. The UM ombudsman is also investigating the case, because there were also complaints here about Marcelis.

Major digression

What is going on exactly? Something completely different to what has come out so far, says Jim van Os. Van Os is professor of Psychiatry and chairman of the brains division at UMC Utrecht. He has worked as a professor, trainer and department chairman at the UM for twenty years, and has inquired of PhD candidates in training, trainers, psychiatrists and collaborating institutes. But also of RGS and Marcelis, who he once introduced as PhD candidate to MUMC.

So, Van Os is not neutral in this case, but according to him, everyone he has spoken to confirms that Marcelis “has been a fine trainer for the past ten years” and that she is the victim of a “major digression”. 

Or worse, of revenge, says Van Os.

Signature

It started with a conflict between trainer Marcelis and a doctor in training. Van Os: “Initially, there is a disagreement about the setup of the Maastricht-Eindhoven PhD research by the man, which became uncertain when both supervisors, including Marcelis, pulled out.” Moreover, the four trainers wondered, after consulting different psychiatrists, if the doctor was suitable for his profession. Van Os: “This latter focussed on the manipulative manner in which he deals with people.”

According to the professor from Utrecht, this was especially apparent in the “well-orchestrated” attack that the man set up shortly after leaving the training programme, earlier this year. “He recruited fourteen (former) GGzE employees to sign their names to a letter of complaint against Marcelis. Four of them, (doctors in training), were found to be unsuitable by Marcelis’s predecessor, who left his successor to do the dirty work. Others were found to be insufficiently fluent in Dutch or had to stop working because they preached conspiracy theories.”

Prejudiced

This “unsavoury” behaviour by the doctor is a form of stalking, says Van Os. “It is meant to destroy another person because of personal offence. This by itself already proves that there is more going on in this case. But nobody is talking about it, not even the RGS. It brings about an uneasy feeling, we would rather deny it.”

While this actually requires an in-depth investigation, says Van Os. “The RGS recently planned an emergency visitation to the GGZ institute in Eindhoven, which in itself was a good thing. But everyone present saw a board performing in a completely prejudiced manner and making hardly any attempt to discover what exactly had happened. The discussions were not so much about the training climate, but more about Marcelis. A board member also referred to a professor who had complained about Marcelis. It appeared to be a friend of the family of the doctor in training.”

In a reaction to Observant, the RGS states that they do not recognise themselves in the image portrayed. "The RGS uses fixed procedures to test whether doctors in training meet with the regulations of the Board of Medical Specialisms (College Geneeskundige Specialismen). These were also applied in this case," a communication advisor reports. 

Taking the blame

According to Van Os, the doctor in training also contacted the press. “Omroep Brabant published a message about complaints that were made to the UM. Nobody could have known that except for the doctor himself, says Van Os. "He first made the complaint and then went to the press."

Omroep Brabant contradicts that. “We have had no contact with the doctor,” says journalist Sanne Hoeks. "We tried to reach him, but we didn't succeed."

It is difficult, Van Os says, to prove such a calculating attack. “Add to that the fact that there has been a board crisis at the GGzE and the interim board wants to prevent at all cost that the training is cancelled and is listening to the RGS."

The RGS will pass judgement on Friday, 16 September, but Van Os suspects that this case will end like many of its kind. "The GGzE and the RGS will come up with a wonderful story about how they have solved one thing and another, while Marcelis can fall on her own sword."