Singing River Health System has its hands full after abruptly taking over and working to manage the multiple sclerosis patients and others Dr. Terry Millette was treating at his clinic in Pascagoula.
The hospital sent a letter to Millette’s MS patients earlier this week that contained a patient hotline, and has asked the Sun Herald to publish the number:
Call center: 228-809-2000, staffed seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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Hospital officials also reiterated Neurology Associates, the clinic in which Millette had an office in the Healthplex next to Singing River Hospital, is still open and staffed with SRHS employees to field questions from Millette’s patients.
“We have talked to hundreds of patients already and are working with them to transition their care,” hospital system spokesman Richard Lucas said.
Singing River Health System this week closed Millette’s office and ended his contract with little warning.
The hospital system is dealing with people who are afraid their treatments will be stopped and they’ll no longer have access to their doctor. Some of Millettes have been going to him for more than a decade.
Melanie Polk Ellifritt wrote the Sun Herald: “I take a once a month infusion .... Monday, I will be 5 days late with no recourse I can see. I NEED this medication and nobody seems to care.
“If I have another relapse due to this I could easily lose eyesight, the ability to walk, loss of bladder & bowel control to name a few. I have a few days before the effects from my last infusion wear off.”
She said she feels as if “we patients have been royally screwed with no explanation and no urgency from SRHS.”
MS is a complex neurological disease that is difficult to diagnose and treat. Millette’s patients are concerned the upheaval will keep them from getting medical infusions that keep their disease from advancing.
Millette was an employee of the hospital system in recent years, but in his 30-year career in Jackson County, he was mostly in private practice and is estimated to have treated tens of thousands of people for neurological problems. The probe into his work that has triggered SRHS’ decision to end his contract with them appears to be centered on his treatment of more than 200 multiple sclerosis patients.
We are in the process of communicating with Dr. Millette’s patients and working with them .... This is a significant undertaking.
Dr. Randy Roth, Chief Medical Officer at Singing River Health Systems
Michelle Deaton, whose husband was a coach at Ocean Springs Middle School before he contracted MS, said SRHS CEO Kevin Holland has failed to contact her after she has tried to reach him. Her husband is due for a treatment that has kept him stable since 2010. She wants to speak with Holland or Chief Medical Officer Dr. Randy Roth, because, she said, they are the two who signed the letter.
Lucas said Friday that Roth “has been solely focused on managing the transition of care for Dr. Millette’s patients.”
“We want to be a willing partner in helping to tell this story,” Lucas told the Sun Herald. “However, right now, our focus is 100 percent on the care for these patients.”
Roth said in a statement: “Now more than ever, our primary focus is on our patients’ health and well being.
“We are in the process of communicating with Dr. Millette’s patients and working with them to ensure a smooth transition of care based on their needs and preferences.
“This is a significant undertaking by many members of the dedicated Singing River Health System team, and one which will continue until all patients are transitioned. At the same time, we are continuing to provide the high quality care that patients deserve and our community needs.”
CEO Kenneth Holland sent a statement late Saturday night, which said, in part:
“Today, and in the days ahead, our primary focus is ensuring continued care for our Neurology Associates clinic patients. For the multiple sclerosis patients specifically, we are:
- Working to have them seen as quickly as possible, if they choose, by other neurology practices in the region
- Securing appointment spots with area board-certified neurologists
- Arranging transportation as needed
We are also consulting with a number of national and regional MS experts, many of whom have offered their assistance to SRHS. We are deeply grateful for the additional expertise and are taking advantage of it as much as possible.”