Southern Illinois Anesthesiologists (SIA) of Belleville Ltd. and its physicians are suing St. Elizabeth's Hospital and its administrators for terminating an exclusive provider contract in February, claiming ethnic discrimination.

According to a lawsuit filed May 3 in St. Clair County Circuit Court, the hospital wrongfully terminated SIA without cause and without adequate notice.

Represented by attorneys from two Belleville firms, Kumar Ravi, M.D., Rajeswari Chintapalli, M.D., Rajasheek Lakkadi, M.D., Haroon Rasheed, M.D. and SIA claim they were notified Feb. 22 that their exclusive anesthesiology contract with St. Elizabeth's would end at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 28.

"In its termination letter from St. Elizabeth's Hospital to Southern Illinois Anesthesiologists, St. Elizabeth's Hospital attached an email from Drs. Massucci and Odasso dated April 4, 2005," the complaint states. "The termination letter cites this email as the deficiencies that formed the for cause termination of SIA."

It is not clear from the lawsuit what is the professional relationship between Drs. Massucci and Odasso and the hospital.

The anesthesiology group entered into a contract with the hospital in May 2004. Each physician employed by SIA was to receive an annual salary of $435,441, according to the complaint.

Defendants also include Timothy Brady, the hospital's executive vice president and William Casperson, M.D., the hospital's medical director.

"In said Massucci and Odasso email, Massucci and Odasso cite as a deficiency the '…ethnic make up of the department…'," the complaint states.

"(St. Elizabeth's) violated Illinois public policy against discrimination based upon ethnic origin by terminating SIA due to the ethnic background of its shareholders and employees," the complaint states.

The 21-count lawsuit was filed by attorneys from Becker, Paulson, Hoerner & Thompson, P.C. and Cook, Ysursa, Brauer, Bartholomew & Shevlin, Ltd. The plaintiffs are seeking damages for breach of contract, acting in concert and tortuous interference with a contractual relationship.

The complaint states that the contract between the hospital and SIA stipulated that either party could terminate their agreement without cause with 180 days written notice.

If SIA breached its contract, St. Elizabeth's could immediately terminate the contract for cause, "but only after (St. Elizabeth's) provides SIA a 10 day written notice of the defect and SIA has failed to cure the defect," according to the complaint.

Plaintiffs also claim St. Elizabeth's breached contract when the hospital entered into a letter of intent with AmSol and DM of Illinois to provide anesthesiology services.

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