Georgia hospital CEO asks for buyout amid physician firings backlash

The CEO of Valdosta-based South Georgia Medical Center sent a letter to the hospital's governing body asking them to end his contract after just 15 months, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

SGMC CEO C. Ross Berry sent a letter to the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County, which governs the hospital. The letter, written by Mr. Berry's attorney and obtained by the Valdosta Daily Times from two different sources, states Mr. Berry's relationship with the hospital authority has become untenable and that he is no longer able to do his job effectively.

The letter asks the hospital authority to pay him three years' worth of his base salary and a lump sum bonus payout of $325,000 to end his contract. It also asks the authority to pay for Mr. Berry's attorney fees and include a nondisparagement agreement.

Mr. Berry's attorney states in the letter the hospital authority has until Aug. 17 to make a final decision on Mr. Berry's separation agreement.

Mr. Berry and the hospital faced backlash and protests after firing two of the hospital's leading cardiothoracic surgeons Joe Johnson, MD, and Randall Brown, MD, in July. The surgeons worked at the SGMC CardioVascular Institute.

While no reason behind the decision was issued at the time, Mr. Berry's letter to the hospital authority states, "After almost a year of attempting to enforce the contractual obligation of the CVI surgeons to abide by the physician by-laws and report to STS for quality monitoring as well as discovering non-FDA and IFU approved equipment and medical supplies in the operating room, the physicians were terminated without cause," the report states.

However, Mr. Berry and the hospital later rescinded the decision, allowing the surgeons to work out new contracts during a 90-day period — a move Mr. Berry was allegedly "coerced" into making, the letter states.

The hospital authority met Aug. 10 and appointed Bill Forbes, assistant administrator at SGMC, interim CEO of the hospital, according to a second report by the Valdosta Daily Times.

To access the full report, click here.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 10:15 a.m. Aug. 10 to include additional information.

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