Physicians claim Mississippi children's hospital had 'pervasive mold and cockroaches'

More than 30 physicians have left Batson Children's Hospital, part of Jackson-based University of Mississippi Medical Center, in recent years, including several pediatricians who are now working for a new local competitor. This move has prompted litigation, which calls into question the physicians' motives for breaking away from the hospital, according to the Clarion Ledger.

Here are seven things to know:

1. At least five former UMMC pediatric physicians now practice at Mississippi Center for Advanced Medicine, which was founded by Spencer Sullivan, MD, who resigned as medical director of Batson Children's Hospital's Hemophilia Treatment Center in 2016.

2. UMMC filed a lawsuit last July against MCAM, Dr. Sullivan and a former pediatric rheumatologist, Nina Washington, MD, who joined the new clinic. The lawsuit alleges the two physicians violated their noncompete agreements with UMMC when they left to join the new practice. The hospital has been damaged by the physicians' "contract breaches, trade secret misappropriation, and tortious conduct," the lawsuit states, according to the report.

3. However, the physicians claim the hospital violated its contract before Dr. Sullivan resigned and started the new practice by failing to "provide facilities, equipment, supplies, and staff required for Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Washington to perform their respective duties," according to the physicians' counterclaim.

4. The physicians allege the staffing and facilities provided by UMMC were inadequate. "In addition to various sanitary issues at Batson, such as pervasive mold and cockroaches, Dr. Sullivan's hemophilia clinic space on the third floor was entirely unacceptable," according to the physicians. A UMMC executive allegedly told Dr. Sullivan the hemophilia clinic space "looked like something in the former Soviet Union."

5. Former UMMC geneticist Omar Abdul-Rahman, MD, told the Clarion Ledger it was normal to see cockroaches at Batson Children's Hospital and that the hospital staff even had designated cockroach killers — employees who were responsible for removing the bugs.

6. UMMC says the physicians' accusations are false. "Not surprisingly, Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Washington provide no facts to support their defamatory allegations," UMMC said in a filed response to the physicians' counterclaim. "And if the allegations had a shred of truth, defendants would have made them before UMMC sued them. In fact, neither Dr. Sullivan nor Dr. Washington expressed any patient safety concerns in their resignation letters."

7. UMMC alleges Dr. Sullivan used its resources and patient lists to develop his own practice in the months before he resigned, and that his decision to leave was motivated by the opportunity to personally enrich himself, not by poor conditions at the hospital, according to the report.

Read more here.

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