A former patient of neurologist Dr. Terry Millette said it was a news article, not Singing River Health System, that informed her she wouldn’t be able to keep her appointment with a key nurse practitioner in what had been Millette’s office.
That was just months after the hospital abruptly severed ties with Millette leading to a transition many patients said was mismanaged.
Barbara Gray, 59, has a progressive neurological disease and was counting on her Feb. 28 appointment with Millette’s nurse practitioner Kennedy Smith, she said.
For three years, Millette had been treating Gray for a chronic nerve condition called CIDP, until SRHS severed its contract with the long-time neurologist and took over his patient list. SRHS has come under fire for abruptly ending its contract with Millette without a transition that satisfied patients, many of them fragile with crippling multiple sclerosis.
However, the hospital system kept Smith in place, seeing patients in the wake of the breakup.
When Gray and wife Celeste Swaim-Gray called Neurology Associates, now run by SRHS, this week to check on Gray’s appointment, they said they were told by a woman answering the phone: “I cannot answer any of your questions. I have no information for you. We will have someone call to reschedule your appointment.”
Swaim-Gray said she Googled the hospital and Millette and found an article from the Sun Herald that explained the hospital system had used Smith for an interim period, after Millette’s departure, and then let her go Feb. 1.
“I had to find out something from the newspaper and Google?” Swaim-Gray said. “No phone calls, nothing? Come to find out, they let her go Feb. 1. You would have thought, within that time, we could have gotten a phone call or something from the hospital.”
On Monday, Jackson County supervisors, who are continuing to hear complaints, offered to advocate for patients with the county hospital system.
I had to find out something from the newspaper and Google?
Georgia Storey, SRHS spokeswoman, said it is standard procedure with a change like this to contact the patient about a week ahead of a scheduled appointment.
“We are in that process now for any of Kennedy’s scheduled appointments,” Storey said. “While it is common practice to send a letter to patients for physician changes, as a rule we do not send letters for changes in extenders like nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, or others in our clinics.”
Storey added, “We have been making and continue to make personal phone calls to our patients ahead of their appointments in a timely manner. Any patients with pending appointments can expect a call from our office or are free to contact us if they would like more information.
Swaim-Gray said she called SRHS in Ocean Springs and got the hospital operator, who gave her the name of the manager of the SRHS Neuroscience Center and “said they would get a message to her, and I haven’t heard back. That was (Wednesday) morning.”
Wednesday afternoon, Swaim-Gray tweeted: “So I find out our NP was fired, after our Neuro was fired, not from @mySingingRiver but Google and a @sunherald story. Not patient friendly.”
She also tweeted: “There are many of us with upcoming appointments.”
Swaim-Gray said she knew of two others who have appointments with the nurse practitioner and are just learning Smith was dismissed.
She said they were pleased with Millette’s care and had been encouraged by Millette to seek a second opinion before settling with him.
She said Gray has prescriptions to refill and the pharmacist has no one to call for authorization.
“Now we’re in limbo, with no follow-up appointment,” Swaim-Gray said. “My wife’s treatment has to be directed by a physician. With no one to refer back to, we don’t know where to go.
“I even tweeted Singing River and asked them ‘What are you going to do?’”