Currently on tour with THE NEAL MORSE BAND, former DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy has sparked furious debate amongst his fan base this weekend by slamming the staff of Whittington Hospital in London on a public forum for allegedly refusing to see the star quickly enough when he was admitted for treatment prior to the group’s scheduled performance at the Islington Assembly Hall (07/03/2015).

Mike Portnoy
Mike Portnoy

In a post on his Facebook page, Portnoy wrote:

“A very special NO THANKS to the staff at the Whittington Hospital for NOT seeing me regardless of telling them that there is an audience waiting for our show to begin… I finally left withOUT seeing a doctor in order to make tonight’s show… I have no idea how the hell I’m going to make it through this show…I can’t even stand up or lift my arms… : (“

Portnoy had apologized previously for being unable to attend a meet and greet session prior to the show and explained: “I’m extremely sick and on my way to the hospital right now… Hopefully we can still pull off tonight’s show without a hitch.” However the latter comment has sparked fury among fans who interpreted an underlying tone of frustration in the message as one of prima donna level antics from the heralded drumming icon.

A fan responded to Portnoy’s Facebook post by saying, “Not to be rude, but if someone was dying, I’d hope they didn’t move you to the front of the line just to get you to a show. Very narcissistic thinking here.” Portnoy replied: “Keep ’em coming! Can’t wait for everyone to see what an idiot you are before I ban you.”

Another fan, who works at the Whittington Hospital, also responded to the post and wrote: ”I’m a doctor that works at the Whittington Hospital in London. I wasn’t working in the [Accident & Emergency] department tonight, however. I am sorry to hear of your plight.

“As much as I’d jump at the opportunity to help you if I actually was on call tonight, please try to understand. Us healthcare professionals don’t want anyone to wait or suffer at all. However, we encounter life-threatening conditions every hour, sometimes every minute, that stop us from seeing others that may be slightly less unwell, as quickly as we’d like.

“The NHS is under-financed, understaffed, overworked. We do have to economise our resources.

“With all the respect I have for you, it hurts when one of my idols insults an organisation I work very hard for.

“Waiting sucks, I know, but dying patients suck even more.

“I sincerely hope you feel better and that the show goes well tonight. Gutted to be missing out due to a prior engagement. Rock on, though. [I] love the new Neal Morse album.”

The situation was further exacerbated the following day in a follow-up post, in which it was perceived that the star had deflected responsibility from the message that his previous comment had seemed to portray. While many did comment their sympathy for their icon, these were in the minority as the man voted Modern Drummer‘s Best Progressive Rock Drummer between 1995-2006 was subject to a torrent of abuse in the fallout. As it transpired, Portnoy’s own wife Marlene attempted to defend him against the accusations that he had expected preferential treatment:

“Some of you people are just so HORRIBLE! He didn’t ask for special treatment because he is famous. His concern was the FANS that paid good money to see a concert that was about to get canceled! He had already spent most of the day just trying to get seen by a doctor, was looked at by the paramedics who told him to go to the hospital and on the way the ambulance actually ran out of gas — YES, RAN OUT OF GAS — leaving him stranded and having to try to get transportation to the hospital, only to sit and wait for an endless amount of time, missing the meet-and-greet, that, again, fans paid a lots of money for! So when he asked if anyone even a nurse could just look at him for 2 minutes or just prescribe him an antibiotic because there was a venue full of people that were waiting for a concert, and you all call him a crybaby, or accuse him of expecting special treatment.

“What is wrong with you people? How can you be so horrible and so mean?

“All he told me all day is how upset he was for the fans and how unfair it was for them to be stuck waiting. He was told he had to wait several more hours before anyone could look at him.

“Does this hospital only have one doctor?

“The concert would have been cancelled and at that point there is no possible way to call in a replacement so he left played a show with 102[-degree] fever to not let down the fans, spent a day of hell just trying to be seen by a doctor or anyone that could help him, while being in another country where he isn’t even from and this is your response!!!!

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH ALL OF YOU? You are just horrible, disgusting people who love to twist the truth so you can say mean and nasty thing about other people! This is a disgrace.”

In a seperate post, she added: “He didn’t say anything mean or nasty about any one person, he didn’t attach anyone’s character or name call. He just made a statement. He didn’t ask anyone to stop caring for other people that were sick. He just was asking for help after a long day and being sick. He was taking meds and nothing was helping. He was left stranded by an ambulance that ran out of gas.

“I’m sorry, but that service stinks!

“Maybe the person at triage was nasty.

“I’ve been to the emergency room here in the USA and have not always been met by these wonderful people you are all claiming to be. There were times they were super nice and times they were nasty. Well, successful musicians are people too, and they feel pain and they get sick just like anyone else.

“Did anyone listen to his lungs? NO. Did anyone do a quick check to see how sick he was? NO. Did anyone do anything at all for him? NO.

“I have no idea what is wrong with him. If someone would have taken a minute to check, maybe we would know.

“The way it works here when you get to the emergency room they take you and do a quick check to see what the problem is and how serious and then you wait to be seen or they take you in right away.

“Sorry, but the hospital had bad service. Hey, it happens. Not every hospital is great and this one, well, it wasn’t so good, and he is allowed to say it just like you would if you received bad service.”

She then added: “Mike didn’t ask nor did he want doctors to stop helping people in need so they could help him. That is just something all these people assumed and decided to create. He was just trying to get help. He had been trying to see a doctor or nurse practitioner ALL DAY!!!!! Not for 5 minutes, for hours and hours and hours, he didn’t just burst into the hospital and demand everyone stop what they are doing and help him. All these people made up that story. IT NEVER HAPPENED!!!!

“Do you have any idea the type of insurance plan I need to get my husband health care coverage in other countries!!! We pay a fortune as he travels all over the entire world. He doesn’t work for a big company that pays for part of his coverage. We pay for it for ourselves and then pay deductibles and such. Free treatment, give me a break!!!”

Marlene continued: “You all just assume the worst and and want to bash him. He did wait for HOURS!!!!! And finally left. He was told by the paramedics that they would bring him to the hospital. Oh, but wait, THEY RAN OUT OF GAS ON THE WAY THERE! What kind of ambulance doesn’t check their gas gauge what type of treatment is that!!! And then they don’t get someone to get him. They were like OH SORRY find a ride’

“I want to know how many of you people would be angry with the hospital or the nurses or paramedics or anyone associated with the hospital had you been in the exact situation. I’d bet my life if you had the same day long horrible experience Mike had trying to see a doctor you’d all be bithching way worse then him. Mind you all while being extremely sick! You all have such big mouths I’m SURE you be screaming from the roof tops!!”

Since the incident, the drummer has been forced to issue an apology statement:

“I’d just like to apologize to anybody I offended with [Saturday’s] post… It was not a personal attack or rage against England’s health care system in general (of which I know nothing about)… [On Saturday] I was the sickest I’ve EVER been in my life.

“The paramedics came to see me at the gig and then decided to take me to the emergency room, only for the ambulance to run out of gas and I was then driven to the hospital by a very kind fan who offered to help. Neal and I calmly waited in the A&E [Accident & Emergency] without any indication from any of the staff of when I would be seen. I did NOT expect any special treatment or wanted to be put ahead of anybody else in need (as I have been so wrongly accused)… We only wanted some (ANY!) answers as the clock was ticking until showtime…

“At 7:45, I had to make the decision to continue to wait and cancel the show… or leave without being seen in order to make the 8 p.m. show. I desperately did NOT want to disappoint the fans and made the decision to leave in order to make the show. I played the show in the worst physical condition of my life.

“I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating this experience was and I stupidly posted about it on my social media.

“I am shocked and appalled at some of the rude and downright nasty comments that have been posted in the wake of this… really, 10 [times] worse than my post. It’s sad to see such hatred… but whatever, I can suck it up and take it. I surely never meant for such attention and controversy.

“Thank you to everybody that cared and sent me well wishes and prayers… The positive vibes will help me on the road to recovery.

“In any case, I really need to crawl back in my bunk, get off the Internet to try and recuperate… but I wanted to address this issue and explain what happened and apologize to whomever I offended.”

Whittington Hospital is part of Whittington Health, which provides general hospital and community services to 500,000 people living in Islington and Haringey as well as other London boroughs, including Barnet, Enfield and Camden.

In an article from January 2015 discussing an American’s view on using the British NHS, Business Insider reported that “NHS just released its most recent stats on accident and emergency room waiting times. The headline number is that 84% of patients are seen within four hours. In the UK, this is regarded as a huge failure — the standard the NHS is supposed to meet is 95% of patients in four hours.”

Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER 30 years ago, abruptly quit the band in September 2010 while on tour with AVENGED SEVENFOLD and has since been replaced by Mike Mangini (STEVE VAI, ANNIHILATOR, EXTREME, JAMES LABRIE). Portnoy later revealed that he had tried to rejoin DREAM THEATER, but was rebuffed in his attempt to do so.

Words By Chris Brown