Doctor sues Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

by Alex Fredman | 10/31/17 2:10am

Obstetrician-gynecologist and former Geisel School of Medicine professor Misty Blanchette Porter Med ’89 is suing Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, claiming she was fired from her position because of her disability and whistleblowing actions alleging poor practices at the hospital. Blanchette Porter lost her job in June after DHMC’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility program closed, though she alleges that she could have worked elsewhere at DHMC. Blanchette Porter filed a complaint on Oct. 11 against her former employer of over 20 years in the U.S. District Court of Vermont.

The complaint seeks damages for wrongful discharge, violation of the New Hampshire Whistleblowers’ Protection Act and disability discrimination and retaliation.

First hired by DHMC in 1996, Blanchette Porter worked in the REI, of which the lawsuit claims she was an integral member. On May 4 of this year, DHMC announced it was closing that division and would terminate Blanchette Porter’s employment on June 3, according to the complaint.

In the complaint, Blanchette Porter claims that she was fired in part due to disability leave she took after an injury in November 2015. By January 2017, Blanchette Porter began working 20 hours a week, but the REI director asked her to resume a full work schedule, according to the complaint.

“After Dr. Blanchette Porter’s employment was terminated, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock administration told members of the staff that the decision to terminate her employment was motivated by the fact that she had been out of work for an extended period and was only able to work part-time,” the complaint alleges.

In addition, the lawsuit details several instances over the past few years in which Blanchette Porter informed hospital management officials of what she considered “questionable medical practices,” including worker incompetence, irregularities and fraud in medical billing. The complaint claims that DHMC “harassed, abused, intimidated, discharged, threatened, and otherwise discriminated against” Blanchette Porter for her actions, which it alleges is a violation of the New Hampshire Whistleblowers’ Protection Act.

In an email statement, DHMC spokesman Rick Adams declined to discuss the pending litigation in detail but wrote that the hospital closed the REI program due to insufficient resources.

“The decision was not made lightly, because D-H is deeply committed to women’s health, and we appreciate the impact of this decision on our patients and their caregivers,” Adams wrote. “However, delivering the highest quality health care to our patients is paramount, whether here at DHMC or elsewhere, and our inability to support the specialized clinical resources required for such a program led to the conclusion that continuation of the program was not in our patients’ best interests.”

Attorney Donald Schroeder, who is serving as lead counsel for DHMC and its affiliates in this litigation, also declined to comment both on the specifics of the case and whether attempts would be made to reach a settlement.

Blanchette Porter’s attorney, Geoffrey Vitt of Norwich, could not be reached for comment.

Blanchette Porter is seeking reinstatement as a DHMC employee with no loss in seniority or benefits and monetary damages “in an amount to be determined at trial.”

Blanchette Porter’s complaint against DHMC comes roughly one year after another lawsuit involving a former employee. Last October, former director of the Norris Cancer Center Mark Israel sued the hospital, claiming that hospital officials had wrongly diverted $6 million raised for cancer research to operating costs and pressured him to resign. That case, in which Israel was also represented by Vitt, was dismissed by a Grafton County Superior Court judge in May.

Blanchette Porter is currently listed as an reproductive endocrinologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, as well as an adjunct professor for the UVM College of Medicine. A spokesman for the UVM Medical Center declined to comment for this article.