Prisma Health says the doctors claiming “dangerous” conditions at Columbia’s Baptist Hospital are motivated more by “personal financial gain” — namely by trying to get out of their lease — than patient care.
That statement comes in response to an August court filing alleging “abysmal” care at Prisma’s Baptist Hospital, part of a dispute over the decision by the doctors’ SC OBGYN to break a 10-year lease at Prisma Baptist and move to Lexington Medical Center, a rival hospital.
“(T)he doctors not only benefited from the sale of their practice to Lexington Medical Center, but their current status as employees of Lexington Medical Center provides the doctors financial stability, less risk and few, if any, administrative tasks that accompany business ownership,” Prisma Health-Midlands claimed in a court filing Sept. 14.
“Only one issue stood in the doctor’s way — the lease commitment … and approximately $3 million remaining due,” the filing says.
Baptist Hospital is part of the Prisma Health network, which also includes Prisma Health Richland and Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge.
Prisma Health is suing the nine doctors in the gynecological practice — James Stands, M. Tucker Laffitte III, Mark Salley, David Holladay, Thomas Giudice, Robert Grumbach, Rebecca Ridenhour, Christopher Hutchinson and Courtney Brooks — for breaking the lease on their former Taylor Street offices, where the practice had ready access to Baptist Hospital to deliver their patients’ babies.
Prisma Health seeks $312,439.13 of back pay on the leases, as well as attorney’s fees.
But in their legal response to Prisma’s lawsuit, the doctors claimed that cost-cutting measures at the hospital led to “astonishing lapses in patient care, cleanliness, and unsafe hospital conditions.”
On several occasions, the doctors allege, Baptist Hospital turned away pregnant patients because the hospital didn’t have the staff to care for them. A patient needing emergency surgery for a high-risk ectopic pregnancy lost blood for more than an hour because no operating room nurses were available to assist doctors with the surgery, according to the filing.
But Prisma Health contends the doctors were always aware the hospital does not staff its operating rooms 24/7, and instead nurses and surgical technicians would be on call “within 30 minutes.”
Prisma Health notes that Baptist Hospital is the only Columbia hospital rated 4-star by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Another Prisma Health hospital, Parkridge Baptist Hospital, is rated 5 stars. Lexington Medical Center, the current home of SC OBGYN, is rated 2 stars, according the Prisma’s latest health filing.
“The SC OB-GYN doctors chose to relocate their practice form the preeminent labor and delivery hospital in the Midlands to the campus of a lower ranked competitor hospital for one simple reason – MONEY,” according to the court filing.
If doctors were dissatisfied with the staff at Baptist Hospital, many were involved in the hiring process for the hospital’s clinical staff, according to the lawsuit. Instead, the hospital claims it was the doctors who became “disgruntled and discontented” with Baptist’s plans to merge first with Richland Memorial Hospital to form Palmetto Health, and then with Greenville Health to form Prisma Health.
“For months these doctors threatened to ‘go public’ with their fabricated grievances if PRISMA-Baptist sued to hold the doctors responsible for the unpaid rent on the lease they signed and guaranteed,” the hospital’s filing reads. “PRISMA-Baptist, who has become all too familiar with these doctors’ tactics and complaints, simply refuses to be blackmailed.”
The hospital claims it was not informed of some of the complaints cited in the doctors’ complaint, and that some, like a claim a clogged HVAC drain line flooded a waiting room, are exaggerated.
“PRISMA denies that the waiting room ‘flooded,’ and further states that most of the water had been absorbed by a rug on the waiting room floor,” according to the filing.
Rick Detwiler, the attorney representing SC OBGYN, said the doctors’ decision to leave was motivated entirely by concern for their patients, not money.
“In fact, they will make less money as employees of Lexington Medical Center than they would on their own, affiliated with Prisma Baptist,” Detwiler said.
Detwiler also denied the claim that the doctors had not previously raised the concerns with Prisma Health, arguing they had alerted the hospital to the same issues raised in their filing as far back as 2016.
“They did not want to leave Baptist,” the attorney said. “They were forced to.”
The attorney also said Lexington Medical Center had offered to take over the space vacated by SC OBGYN. Prisma Health in its filing said the defendants had not provided them with any lease terms.