Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., is being sued by a gastroenterologist who alleges that he was terminated in August 2020 after seeking mental healthcare and complaining about the hospital's COVID-19 protocols, the Argus Leader reports.
The lawsuit states that Steven Condron, MD, worked at the hospital beginning in 2008 and developed its Avera Digestive Disease Institute.
In 2018, he began experiencing severe depression while his marriage was ending, and his mother, who later died, had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease, according to the suit.
After taking a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act to seek mental healthcare, a psychologist created a work plan that called for Dr. Condron to work part time at the hospital for a while.
The complaint said he was stripped of a directorship during his leave and another gastroenterologist allegedly lied to administrators that Dr. Condron was on leave for substance abuse.
In the complaint, Dr. Condron said he later complained about how Avera was managing the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the hospital continued to allow elective cases on "elderly and high-risk patients" and that gastroenterology staff were only given masks and eye protection when treating symptomatic patients, according to the Argus Leader.
After notifying staff that he would no longer perform elective endoscopies, Dr. Condron's director allegedly threatened to assign him patients with reflux and constipation — low-reimbursed cases typically handled by nurses or physician assistants, according to the report.
On Aug. 31, Dr. Condron was fired and has been unable to find another position, according to the lawsuit, which seeks back pay, damages for emotional distress and for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Becker's has reached out to Avera for comment on the allegations.