Physician sues Mayo Clinic Health System for defamation, retaliation

A former family medicine physician with Mayo Clinic Health System in Lake City, Minn., is suing the Rochester-based system for retaliation and defamation after administrators allegedly took reprisals against him after he raised patient safety concerns in January 2016, according to the Red Wing Republican Eagle.

In the lawsuit, John Renelt, MD, alleges he was denied a promotion and threatened with termination after he raised safety concerns regarding service reductions at the Lake City clinic including plans to replace emergency room physicians with nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The threats of termination allegedly came during an exchange between Dr. Renelt, administrators and the local board of trustees on Jan. 18, 2016. Dr. Renelt said he resigned from the clinic in the summer of 2016 due to the changes at the facility. Mayo began reducing services at the clinic in 2014 for financial reasons, according to the lawsuit.

"[Administrators] basically said this is the Mayo way of doing it, and it's the only way it's going to be done," Dr. Renelt told the Republican Eagle during a phone interview on Thursday.

Dr. Renelt is seeking $50,000 for lost wages, damage to his professional reputation and emotional distress.

A spokeswoman from Mayo denied the allegations of substandard safety at Lake City in a statement, according to the Republican Eagle.

"While we cannot discuss the details of this pending litigation or respond to specific allegations, we want to assure our patients and the Lake City community that they have and continue to receive safe, high-quality care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Lake City," said the spokeswoman.

The lawsuit comes at a time of transition for Mayo's community health clinics as these facilities move to a team-based care model. The model is reportedly designed to leverage resources and providers across the system and at Mayo's main campus in Rochester, according to the Republican Eagle.

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