Ex-medical director sues Sanford Health, says she was forced to resign

A former Sanford Health executive is suing the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based health system, alleging supervisors retaliated against her for raising concerns about security, according to the Argus Leader.

Jolene Mitchell, MD, was the medical director at Sanford Clinic in Sioux Falls until she resigned in April. The clinic, which specializes in treating and preventing workplace illnesses and injuries, provides services to a large number of convicted criminals who require mandatory drug screenings.

After she started in the summer of 2017, Dr. Mitchell reported several security threats at the clinic to her supervisors, according to the lawsuit. She was assaulted twice at the clinic. In one incident, she was punched in the abdomen shortly after learning she was pregnant, according to the Argus Leader.

Dr. Mitchell says her requests for more security went unheeded. She sent an email to her supervisors and other executives in July 2018 begging for more security at the clinic. One week later, her supervisor allegedly pressured her to step down from her position as medical director, citing pregnancy complications. Her supervisor also allegedly pressured her to enroll in a yearlong counseling service, according to the Argus Leader.

Dr. Mitchell went on medical leave Dec. 29, 2018, and returned to work April 1. After returning to work, she was accused of not following protocol for treating disruptive patients and discussing patient information in public. She resigned a few weeks later.

In her lawsuit, Dr. Mitchell claims she was discriminated against because of her sex and because she was pregnant.

In a statement to the Argus Leader, Paul Hanson, president of Sanford Sioux Falls, disputed Dr. Mitchell's claims.

"Sanford Health investigated and addressed Dr. Jolene Mitchell's concerns during her employment," he said. "After Dr. Mitchell's resignation, OSHA conducted an independent investigation of the conditions where Dr. Mitchell worked and found no workplace safety violation or citations."

Access the full Argus Leader article here.

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