OrthoSC intentionally sabotaged residency program to protect monopoly, lawsuit says

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — OrthoSC is accused of intentionally sabotaging a residency program to protect a monopoly in the region, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 11 by Dr. Scott F. Duncan, lists OrthoSC, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, Dr. Gene Massey, HCA Physician Services and Grand Strand Surgical Specialists as defendants.

The lawsuit claims that Duncan was recruited by HCA in 2017 while he was working in Boston and was hired to be program director of a graduate medical education (GME) orthopedic surgery residency program at GSRMC.

Duncan was allegedly promised the role for five years beginning in the summer of 2017, according to the lawsuit. There was also an expectation that the contract would be renewed if the program was successful.

The lawsuit claims that before and after Duncan was hired, HCA promised that if OrthoSC denied providing faculty for the program that HCA would hire its own faculty.

Based on the promises, Duncan signed a written contract on May 1, 2017, according to the lawsuit. He began working on the program in July 2017.

In 2018, Duncan began interviewing and recruiting faculty for the program after OrthoSC showed that it wasn’t on board with the plan to use their faculty. The lawsuit claims Duncan sent an email to Massey on Nov. 7 to express interest in having Massey and two other doctors be part of the program with a deadline to respond of Nov. 14.

The lawsuit claims that Massey responded Nov. 12 stating that they needed time to discuss and asked for a new deadline of Nov. 21. After Nov. 12, Massey is accused of sending an email to the president of HCA’s Southeast Atlantic Division — who was also in charge of Grand Strand Regional Medical Center’s faculty — stating that OrthoSC would pull all of their surgical cases from GSRMC and move them to different hospitals that compete with HCA if they continued with the GME program.

The lawsuit also accuses Massey of making a phone call to the HCA Southeast Atlantic Division President and repeating the threats from the email, stating “OrthoSC and its member doctors ‘did not want to be training their competition’ and that the GME program threatened Defendant OrthoSC’s monopoly in the relevant market in Myrtle Beach, Conway, and Murrells Inlet,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that due to Massey’s threats, the program was canceled, despite previous promises. It claims that in April 2021, Duncan’s contract was canceled without cause and his Grand Strand Regional Medical Center hospital privileges were revoked without explanation.

The lawsuit accuses Massey and OrthoSC of conspiracy and intentionally interfering with the contract. The lawsuit accuses the two of harming the general public by threatening to move medical procedures to other facilities.

Massey and OrthoSC are also accused of violating the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Duncan is also suing HCA for breach of contract for ending the contract and not paying him the base salary that was promised. HCA is also accused of violating the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act.

Duncan is seeking unspecified monetary damages and is requesting a jury trial.

In a statement to News13, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center said it is aware of the lawsuit from a former employee and has no comment. OrthoSC and HCA have not yet responded to a request for comment.

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