Local cardiologist Dr. Roshan Mathew is suing Owensboro Health Regional Hospital along with two physicians — one currently at OH and one who formerly worked there. The civil suit alleges two physicians defamed Mathew with false allegations, resulting in his practice losing patients and staff.
Mathew is the owner of Advanced Cardiology of Owensboro. The suit names the defendants as Owensboro Health, Dr. George Dunham, and Dr. Kerry Paape as defendants. Dunham works for OH, while Paape now works in Covington, Louisiana. The lawsuit was filed last week by Louisville attorney Michael Merrick.
According to the suit, Mathew has practiced interventional cardiology in and around Owensboro for two decades. It says in that time he was given full privileges to practice at OHRH, and those privileges have never been limited or suspended.
The suit says that Mathew joined the medical staff at OH in 2004 as a private cardiologist working for the Green River Heart Institute. The complaint says that around 2010 OH bought Green River, making Mathew a hospital employee.
According to the suit, Mathew voluntarily resigned from the hospital in 2016 to begin his own practice.
“Certain administrators and hospital-employed cardiologists with this development, and they began to regard Dr. Mathew more as a competitor than as a colleague,” according to the complaint.
The suit states that for the first few years, Mathew’s private practice referred many surgery cases to Vanderbilt University Center in Nashville or Jewish Hospital in Louisville. It says “OHRH did not appear well-staffed to provide cardiothoracic surgery in that the hospital contracted with locum tenens providers,” and that Mathew was not always comfortable referring patients to them.
According to the complaint, the hospital hired Paape as a CT surgeon and Mathew began referring some cases to her, but he “continued referring complex cases elsewhere because he believed it in the best interest of his patients to do so.”
The suit says Dr. Andrew Poret was brought on as another CT surgeon and that Mathew began referring even more cases to OH, but still “certain types of cases” he referred to “health centers in larger cities.”
The suit alleges that Mathew’s number of referrals to Paape were “fewer by comparison” to Poret and that “Dr. Paape expressed frustration to both Dr. Poret and Dr. Mathew about Dr. Mathew’s relatively low volume of referrals to Dr. Paape.”
The complaint claims that shortly before Paape left OH in March of this year, she had been “looking at medical records of surgery patients not under her care … in order to submit complaints about Dr. Mathew to OHRH administration, and therefore get revenge on him for not referring enough cases to her.” The complaint further alleges Paape “stated directly to Dr. Poret that she would get ‘revenge’ on Dr. Mathew and that she had a cardiologist supporter on the Quality Committee who would ‘take care’ of Dr. Mathew.”
“Around the exact same time in early March, the Quality Committee informed Dr. Mathew that it was reviewing a handful of the cases that Dr. Mathew had referred to Dr. Poret for surgery, because of alleged quality concerns that had been raised regarding Dr. Mathew’s medical judgment to refer these cases for surgery,” according to the suit.
The complaint alleges Paape had referred the cases to the Quality Committee and that her statements about Mathew “were knowingly false and communicated with malice in order to seek revenge” against Mathew.
The complaint alleges that the process for review was “tainted” because it says one of the members of the Quality Committee was Dr. Michael Kelley. The suit says because Kelley is a hospital-employed cardiologist, there is a conflict of interest. (Note: Kelley is not named as a defendant in the suit.)
The suit says that the Quality Committee and Medical Executive Committee have not informed Mathew “that they have taken any adverse action” against his privileges, but that “they have already decided to take adverse action against him, before even purporting to follow the process under the bylaws.”
According to the suit, Dunham is a member of the Quality Committee and Medical Executive Committee. It says Dunham “informed certain of Mathew’s employees that they should look for new employment because Dr. Mathew will lose his medical practice in Owensboro as a result of the allegations before the medical staff.”
“Because no formal action had been taken against Dr. Mathew at the time Dr. Dunahm made these statements, the statements were knowingly false. As a result of these highly inflammatory and damaging statements, multiple of Dr. Mathew’s employees have resigned from his practice,” according to the complaint.
The suit claims the alleged statements by both Paape and Dunham “have now been repeated and disseminated numerous times to the medical staff of OHRH, the cath lab staff, other hospital employees, the Owensboro community, and Dr. Mathew’s patient base.” It says the damage to his patient base has caused financial harm.
Mathew is suing the defendants for defamation per se, defamation per quod, interference with business relations, and denial of due process under the medical staff by-laws. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages; a declaration from OHRH hospital that it violated Mathew’s rights under the by-laws; an injunction prohibiting OHRH from taking any action against Mathew’s medical privileges arising out of allegations submitted by Paape to the Quality Committee; attorney’s fees and costs; and trial by jury.
Owensboro Health Director of Marketing Brian Hamby said the hospital is following its policy of not commenting on pending litigation.