Erlanger CEO sued by physician claiming he ignored discrimination issues for 5 years

A longtime Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Erlanger Health System physician filed an amended complaint against President and CEO Kevin Spiegel May 14, claiming Mr. Spiegel and other administrators were aware of discrimination issues at the hospital but did not act, according to the Times Free Press.

Here are four things to know:

1. Thomas J. Brooks, MD, initially filed a lawsuit against Mr. Spiegel in January, alleging Mr. Spiegel had "full knowledge" of the racial discrimination complaints Dr. Brooks made, but that he and previous CEOs went "out of their way to ignore and not address" them, according to a previous Times Free Press report. While the lawsuit did not disclose the complaints, Dr. Brooks claimed he frequently emailed Mr. Spiegel about them.

2. In the May 14 amended filing, Dr. Brooks said he met with black professionals in Erlanger's diversity department and on the hospital's board of directors last year to discuss his concerns about possible racial discrimination at the institution. He said one individual appeared interested in investigating his claims, but later backed off, while another individual failed to properly investigate a claim Dr. Brooks made in 2015, according to the report.

3. Dr. Brooks claimed in the lawsuit the hospital retaliated against him after he made the complaints by suspending his privileges at the institution, where he had maintained privileges since 1978. Dr. Brooks retired from the institution in June 2017.

4. Mr. Spiegel, who was in charge at the time, had reportedly been aware of Dr. Brooks' concerns since 2013 and oversaw the discipline against him, according to the lawsuit.

"[Mr. Spiegel] assured Dr. Brooks that what African-American physicians had accomplished at [Erlanger facilities] was significant to the community and that it was 'only right' that Erlanger develop a positive relationship with the physicians," the lawsuit states. "Talk did not turn into action."

5. A spokesperson for Erlanger told Becker's Hospital Review June 8 the health system does not comment on pending litigation.

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