OB-GYN group claims hospital was routinely understaffed, nurses were ill-trained, and workplace conditions were unsafe.
South Carolina OB-GYN Associations, including nine obstetricians and gynecologists, recently responded to a lawsuit with counterclaims they were forced to relocate from Prisma Health to Lexington Medical Center in October of last year due to “persistent issues.” They alleged Prisma Health-Midlands did a subpar job of maintaining its Baptist facilities and onsite resources, hired inexperienced nurses and “suffered from a consistent shortage of qualified physicians and staff.” These conditions put both patients and staff in eminent danger.
The response was submitted by doctors James Stands, M. Tucker Laffitte III, Mark Salley, David Holladay, Thomas Giudice, Robert Grumbach, Rebecca Ridenhour, Christopher Hutchinson and Courtney Brooks as part of a lawsuit filed by Prisma Health Midlands against the doctors in July 2020 for breaking a ten-year lease agreement. The private practice operated from the health center’s Midlands campus and the physicians regularly used Baptist Hospital. Prisma Health is seeking $312,439.13 of back pay on the leases.
The medical group’s counterclaim alleged Prisma Health violated the terms of its own lease by not providing the group with a “reasonably adequate hospital in which to practice safely.” The response stats, “In recent years, the members of S.C. OB-GYN have, in horror, observed Baptist hospital recede into a third-tier facility plagued by astonishing lapses in patient care, cleanliness, and unsafe hospital conditions. Conditions caused, on information and belief, by Prisma Health’s drive to cut costs, increase profits and pay senior executive exorbitant compensation.”
The group said Prisma’s actions equated to “life-threatening medical negligence and incompetence,” which the suit contends “went unaddressed even after S.C. OB-GYN doctors raised concerns with top executives and hospital oversight committees.”
“Patient safety is central to the trust we share with our patients at Prisma Health, and our commitment to providing safe, compassionate and effective care to all of our patients is unwavering,” Michael Bundy, CEO of the system’s Baptist Hospital, said. “Our rigorous quality assurance programs are the foundation of our commitment. Prisma Health, like all hospitals, is subject to inspections by multiple federal, state and local regulatory agencies.”
Bundy added that the accrediting group, The Joint Commission, “conducted a survey of Prisma Health Baptist in early 2020 and found zero condition-level deficiencies.” He said, “Baptist Hospital is rated a 4-star hospital by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the only 4-star hospital in Columbia; second only to Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge Hospital, which is the only 5-star hospital in Columbia.”
However, the OB-GYNs argue the hospital was chronically understaffed, citing specific incidents in which “patients were turned away or left in a critical situation because of staffing issues.” They also said nurses “failed to check on patients for hours, communicate with doctors about patients’ conditions, or respond appropriately when medical problems arose. “
In one case, the suit notes, “nurses went 45 minutes without monitoring a patient’s abnormal fetal heart rate. When the monitor was restarted, the fetus had a severely slow heart rate, the patient needed an emergency C-section, and the baby had to be transferred to Richland Memorial Hospital for treatment. Doctors requested a formal review of the incident, but never received a response from hospital administration.”
These issues created “abysmal” work conditions and “astonishing lapses in patient care, cleanliness, and unsafe hospital conditions,” according to the filing. “Ultimately, the S.C. OB-GYN doctors concluded that Prisma Health-Baptist was not safe for patients to deliver their babies or receive out-patient or in-patient care. In short, practicing medicine at Prisma Health-Baptist was dangerous.”
Bundy said that’s simply not the case and the hospital’s staff is “completely dedicated to providing high quality, compassionate care delivered in a safe environment for not only our obstetrical patients but for all patients.”