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Fired OB/GYN files D-H suit, claiming she was laid off for disability, whistleblowing

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader

October 15. 2017 12:20AM
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon 

LEBANON - A longtime expert, associate professor and surgeon in the field of women's reproductive services is suing the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center system, charging that her sudden layoff was due to her disability and for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing at the giant Lebanon health care provider.

Lawyers for Dr. Misty Blanchette Porter brought the federal civil rights suit in Vermont because she resides in Windsor County in that state.

The lengthy claim charges DHMC administration with wrongful discharge, violating the federal Whistleblowers Protection Act and discrimination and retaliation for an unspecified medical disability.

"Dartmouth-Hitchcock's decision to terminate Dr. Blanchette Porter was motivated, in part, out of retaliation for blowing the whistle on Dartmouth-Hitchcock's wrongdoing and refusing to go along with or remain quiet about questionable medical practices," wrote Geoffrey Vitt, Blanchette Porter's Norwich, Vt., lawyer.

She was employed with DHMC from 1996 until last June 3, when administrators decided to close the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility program where she had been a fixture for many years.

As recently as 2016, Blanchette Porter was appointed head of gynecologic ultrasound for the Women's Health Service Line of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Health Alliance.

The lawsuit maintains she was the only surgeon capable of performing uterine procedures for advanced endometriosis and even after her firing, medical colleagues were calling or emailing her for help on their cases.

"Dr. Blanchette Porter's job performance was impeccable, up to and including the date that Dartmouth-Hitchcock decided to fire her without reasonable notice or cause," the suit said.

Rick Adams, DHMC senior director of external relations, communications & marketing, defended the decision to close the program where Blanchette Porter had worked.

"Dartmouth-Hitchcock is aware of the allegations arising out of the closure of its Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility program this past May. As we said then, 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 said in a statement.

"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."

But her lawyer said there was plenty of work for her to do after the program was shut down because she had a national and international reputation in the area of pelvic ultrasound.

The lawsuit maintains Blanchette Porter was sacked for reporting to DHMC higher-ups these allegations:

. Tolerance of medical care by staff who were performing below the standard of care;

. Fraudulent billing practices;

. Performing on patients without consent;

. Impregnating a patient through assisted reproduction where transmission of Zika virus to conception was a known risk and,

. Failing to retain appropriate staff to fulfill validation and reporting obligations.

Meanwhile, Blanchette Porter became disabled from an injury in November 2015, took a leave of absence the following month and returned on a part-time basis to her job in mid-June 2016.

The lawsuit states Blanchette Porter had surgery at the Mayo Clinic in September 2016.

She had been gradually increasing her load to working 20 hours a week for six months prior to her dismissal.

"Administration told staff her termination was motivated by only being able to work part time and had been out of work for an extended period," the lawsuit alleges.

DHMC spokesman Adams declined to address specifics of Blanchette Porter's termination.

"D-H does not publicly discuss any personnel information or pending litigation involving former employees," Adams said.

"We look forward to responding to the allegations in the appropriate judicial forum."

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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