The Singing River Health System Board of Trustees took a break at its regular meeting Wednesday afternoon to let hospital administrators talk with patients of Dr. Terry Millette, who had filled the board room at Singing River Hospital.
Millette is the neurologist whose office the county-owned hospital system abruptly closed in November, laying off half his staff and taking over Millette’s patient list.
Since then, SRHS has struggled to deal with hundreds of patients, many of them distraught at no longer having access to a doctor they trust who has handled their care for years — and in some cases — decades.
SRHS has issued statements that say it is giving patient-care transition utmost consideration; it has handled 4,000 issues for Millette patients since the breakup; it has set up a patient-care line to handle appointments and prescriptions; and it will pay for patient reevaluations, which it is requiring. SRHS is also offering to arrange transportation to new doctors.
CEO Kevin Holland, his administrators, some board members and a team set up to deal with Millette’s patients were available during the 30-minute break, when they went into the audience and talked with patients.
Jackson County Supervisor Randy Bosarge was at the meeting as an observer. He said administrators knew the patients would be there and were “out there trying to soften the situation as much as they could. I don’t know how many people were satisfied. I know some were, but some still have doubts. Most of the people were just distraught.”
Melanie Polk Ellifritt, a longtime Millette patient, was at the meeting. She said she was angry.
“I told them they could sit right back down in their seats and listen to us. ‘These are sick people — you sit down and listen,’ ” she told the Sun Herald.
“We still don’t know why Dr. Millette was let go or why they did it the way they did, which was completely wrong,” she said. “They left 1,000 patients hanging in the wind with no recourse. These are people with multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases.”
She said the biggest problem is Millette’s patients are fragile and can’t travel. They are being sent to doctors in Birmingham, Hattiesburg, Jackson and New Orleans.
What she got out of Wednesday’s meeting with SRHS was “there are finally people up there that are trying to help, but it took them four weeks and there are still people who haven’t received their notification.
“If they were going to do this — close his office — and they knew ahead of time, why wouldn’t they have a couple of neurologists at the hospital for four to six months taking care of us there as needed in Pascagoula rather than sending us to doctors that are a two- to six-hour drive away?”