Jacksonville doctor sues St. Vincent's Medical Center for $100M

Physician had hospital privileges revoked last year

Author: Tarik Minor, Anchor-reporter, tminor@wjxt.com
Christopher Yazbec, News editor, News4Jax.com, cyazbec@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 17 2013 04:14:41 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 18 2013 04:25:09 PM EST
Dr. Chide Uche

A Jacksonville physician who used to work at St. Vincent's Medical Center has filed a $100 million lawsuit alleging the hospital is putting its revenues over patient care.

Dr. Chide Uche had his privileges revoked at St. Vincent's last year. St. Vincent's is now responding with allegations of its own. The hospital says there were more than 100 complaints per year against Uche.

Uche opened up his new office in Arlington last year, shortly after leaving St. Vincent's on bad terms. He said administrators targeted him, and he claims all he wanted to do was provide patients with the best care possible.

"They were more geared to getting patients in as soon as possible, billing insurance and getting patients out," Uche said. "My style was, don't get patients out until they are ready and fully healed."

Uche said administrators at St. Vincent's wrongly revoked his privileges as an in-patient physician. He said he was brought before a review committee, where he alleges they trumped up charges for not responding to administrators fast enough and not consulting with physicians in the hospital's network.

"If you didn't consult with a certain group of physicians, you were black-marked," Uche said. "If you didn't set patients to position in their network, you were black-marked. If you weren't in their circle or club, you were black-marked. I felt like it was an open market."

Uche said he was vocal about what he calls a "culture of money over patient care." He said the situation escalated when a patient was misdiagnosed in the emergency room by another physician. Uche said he brought the physician's mistake to administrators' attention and was ultimately let go.

Uche's lawyers have filed a $100 million lawsuit for damages.

"Really $100 million can't compensate me for what they've done to my reputation," Uche said. "All a man has is his reputation and his integrity, so $100 million is peanuts to what they've done to me and my practice at that hospital."

A spokesperson for St. Vincent's issued a statement Tuesday, saying, "St. Vincent's HealthCare strongly refutes Dr. Uche's claims. Between 2008 and 2011 more than 350 complaints were filed against him, including complaints from St. Vincent's Southside nurses, patients, families and medical staff members. Some of the complaints involved serious patient safety issues. Despite the enormous volume of complaints against Dr. Uche, he was given ample opportunity to correct the issues and defend his position before his peers."

Uche vehemently denies that he has had 350 complaints and says the issues the hospital is referring to involve routine administrative matters, which all physicians have.

Uche said he wants the public to know that with the changes in health care, there is a squeeze on hospitals to make money.

"They are putting funds first instead of patients," Uche said.

He said this case is now headed to federal court, and he expects it to go to trial in July.