Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, January 20, 2020

Fired chief of staff accuses health group of contract breach, discrimination, wrongful termination


By John Breslin | Oct 28, 2019


EDWARDSVILLE - A former hospital chief of staff has accused an Alton health group provider of breach of contract, disability discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. 

Dr. John Lindsay, formerly chief of the medical staff at OSF St. Anthony's Health Care Center in Alton, filed suit Oct. 11 in Madison County Circuit Court against the operators of the facility, OSF HealthCare.

Lindsay, who worked at the center starting in 2008, was escorted out of the facility by a security guard after which he was told his medical privileges were revoked, effectively ending his employment.

The doctor accuses the not-for-profit health care group of failing to abide by any of the steps that were supposed to happen under its own by-laws, discriminating against him because of his diagnosed social anxiety, and retaliating after he repeatedly asked for more and better trained staff.

OSF HealthCare in Peoria, which operates facilities across the state, did not respond to a request for comment from the Record.

In his complaint, Lindsay, who was appointed chief of staff in 2017 and oversaw acute care as well as other inpatient, and outpatient services, linked his disability to the tensions that emerged with management. He noted that his social anxiety is a disability recognized under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA).

The physician attempted to manage his social anxiety by identifying problems at work that were contributing to his health issues. These were, according to the complaint, an overstretched staff, inadequate training and his own "overburdened work load."

Lindsay alleges he repeatedly asked for additional staff, the hiring of certified medical assistants and to be involved in the interview process. The hospital, and the group, did not move on any of his requests, he alleges, adding that his employer failed to accommodate his disability in violation of the IHRA.

On July 20, 2018, the doctor said he was called to a meeting with a hospital vice president and the director of employee relations. They raised concerns over three alleged incidents, one that happened 10 years prior, and two others from recent days, the suit states.

Few details of the alleged incidents are revealed in the complaint but, according to Lindsay, one of them, on July 17, 2018, was an overheard conversation between friends, none of whom thought was threatening, harassing, offensive, or discriminatory.

He also said he expressed surprise that the hospital was bringing up an incident that happened 10 years prior, after which he signed contracts with his employer and was appointed chief of staff. He denied any knowledge of the third.

Lindsay alleges he suffered an anxiety attack following the "surprise confrontation." He also went looking for legal counsel.

The doctor states he was called to an early morning meeting with the vice president on Aug. 6, 2018, but was surprised to see the employee relations director also present. According to his account, he told them he would not be talking without his attorney.

A short time later, after he returned to his office, Lindsay alleges he was confronted by five individuals, including the vice president and a security guard.

According to Lindsay, after stating again he wanted legal counsel, he was instead told to leave the building and was escorted out by the guard. His work e-mail was almost immediately discontinued and he was not informed that his medical privileges were revoked for two days.

Lindsay states in his claim that prior to his removal there was no reason to believe he was under any disciplinary investigation and there were complaints about his performance. The only apparent blemish he could find was a remark he made to colleagues on July 17, 2018.

The hospital and its staff did not go through any process, including warnings, prior to his removal, the plaintiff aleges.

Lindsay seeks costs of court, attorney fees and any other just and proper relief. He is represented by attorney Bryan J. Schrempf of Schrempf, Kelly & Napp in Alton.

Madison County Circuit Court Case number 2019-L-1447.

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