Orthopedic surgeons countersue Adena in contract dispute

Three orthopedic surgeons have filed a countersuit against Adena Health System in Chillicothe, Ohio, alleging the system retaliated against them and breached their employment contracts, according to a May 23 report in Chillicothe Gazette.

The health system sued former employed surgeons Brian Cohen, MD, Aaron Roberts, MD, and James Thompson, DO, April 12, alleging they breached their contracts by urging other physicians to resign from the system. The three surgeons filed a motion May 13 to dismiss Adena's civil suit, arguing the health system doesn't have viable cause to support its allegations.

The surgeons also filed a countersuit May 11, alleging the health system breached employment contracts, retaliated against them, slandered them and violated antitrust laws. The surgeons made 14 claims, and nine include $25,000 or more in damages, according to the report.

Six details from the surgeons' countersuit:

1. The tensions between the surgeons and administration began in 2017 when Adena hired a new CEO and COO, Jeff Graham and Kathi Edrington. The health system then brought on locum tenen physicians, or temporary physicians, to treat patients in the bone and joint center despite concerns raised by physicians in the orthopedic and sports medicine division. The lawsuit alleges administrators "scolded and belittled physicians" for their concerns.

2. Dr. Cohen lost his position as medical director of the system's bone and joint center in June 2020 in what he said he believed was retaliation for complaints against the administration.

3. Dr. Thompson and Dr. Cohen urged Adena's management to take more physician input in decisions and reported lack of confidence in the administration. The countersuit alleges they were threatened with termination if they continued making complaints.

4. Adena claimed in its lawsuit that the three orthopedic surgeons tried to persuade other physicians to leave the system late last year. The countersuit claims the 18 providers who resigned from Adena in the last six months made their decisions independently..

5. Adena terminated the three orthopedic surgeons' April 12, and their countersuit alleges Adena directed employees to spread misinformation about them to their patients, which would hinder their ability to practice in the area after the noncompete clauses in their contracts expired.

6. The surgeons accuse Adena of antitrust violations in the countersuit, arguing the health system aims to monopolize the market.

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