In a lawsuit filed Nov. 11, orthopedic surgeon Scott Duncan, MD, accused OrthoSC, a South Carolina-based orthopedic group, of intentionally sabotaging a pending residency program in order to preserve its monopoly.
Along with OrthoSC, Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand Regional Medical Center (GSRMC), HCA Physician Services and orthopedic surgeon Gene Massey, MD, were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, Duncan’s attorneys wrote that HCA recruited him in 2017 while he was working as chair of Boston University’s department of orthopedic surgery. During this hiring process, HCA specifically promised Duncan that he would be appointed Director of a Graduate Medical Education (GME) program at GSRMC for at least 5 years starting in the summer of 2017, in the part of his transition to Myrtle Beach, he alleged.
In recent years, HCA Healthcare has strived to create more GME programs across all specialties, saying in a March report that nearly 2,000 residents and fellows were offered positions in their training programs that year. .
Despite Duncan’s desire for Massey and other OrthoSC surgeons to join the program’s faculty, he felt they were not receptive to the idea. So, he began to interview other potential candidates, according to the lawsuit.
The CEO of GSRMC reportedly emailed Massey, giving him a deadline to communicate his final decision on whether or not he and OrthoSC surgeons would agree to be part of the residency program faculty.
After responding to that email with a request for an extension of time, Massey reportedly sent an “intimidating” and “coercive” email to Hugh Tappan, president of the South Atlantic division of HCA Healthcare and head of GSRMC. In it, he threatened to remove all OrthoSC surgery cases from the hospital and transfer them to competing hospitals if they continued with their plans for the GME program.
According to the complaint, this threat was reiterated again by Massey in a subsequent phone call with Tappan; During that appeal, the lawsuit claimed Massey told Tappan that OrthoSC surgeons “” did not want to coach their competitors “and that the GME program threatened defendant OrthoSC’s monopoly” in the orthopedic surgery market. of Myrtle Beach.
Duncan’s lawsuit further accused that OrthoSC had used its monopoly power to prevent other orthopedic surgeons from entering the market and providing services to the public – ultimately harming the general public by “eliminating the competition. [and] reduce the availability and number of orthopedic surgeons âin the region.
As a result of these alleged threats, the complaint stated that HCA “immediately canceled, terminated and repudiated the GME program despite its previous promises, statements and assurances of [Duncan] that they would hire the necessary faculty “in the event that OrthoSC refused to participate.
Duncan accused HCA of wrongly terminating his employment contract in April and revoking his hospital privileges without explanation as a direct result of Massey’s threats against GSRMC. He sues HCA for breach of contract; not having paid him the promised indemnity, including his annual base salary; and for violating the South Carolina law on the payment of wages. Duncan and his attorneys are seeking a jury trial, in addition to pecuniary damages, according to the lawsuit.
In a declaration to the local point of sale WBTW, a GSRMC representative said “he is aware of a former employee’s lawsuit and has no comment.”