Jackson County

Coast hospital abruptly closes office of longtime neurologist

Singing River Health System
Singing River Health System jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Singing River Health System closed the office of neurologist Dr. Terry Millette on Monday and ended his contract with little warning.

The hospital system issued a statement in a letter to patients and to the media that said, “Recently, some questions were raised about how Dr. Millette diagnoses and treats patients with multiple sclerosis. As a result, we immediately began a review of Dr. Millette’s medical activity. During the course of this ongoing review, the decision was made that Dr. Millette would no longer base his practice at Singing River Hospital.”

SRHS said it has begun immediately to move his patients to other neurologists in the hospital system. The statement continues, “We clearly recognize the concern this situation may cause for Dr. Millette’s patients and their families, and we are working to ensure the best possible transition of their medical care.

It wasn’t anything he did wrong. He had an outstanding career in Jackson County. It was just a business decision, basically.

Jackson County Supervisor Randy Bosarge

“We are working closely with regional and national experts in neurology and our clinic staff, who are in the process of contacting Dr. Millette’s patients directly to assist them with their care.”

Millette has practiced medicine in Jackson County for more than 30 years and had an office on the second floor of the Healthplex next to Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula called Neurology Associates.

The Sun Herald could not reach him for comment on Thursday. But a longtime patient of his said part of his staff was fired.

“They told us they would be bringing in another doctor,” the patient said.

Last week, Jackson County supervisors spent most of a work day listening to the recommendations of a turn-around firm they hired to suggest ways the county hospital could move forward after crippling financial problems that emerged a little more than two years ago. The firm makes recommendations on what the hospitals could do to save money and become a more profitable entity. Hospital leaders say it is now in the black after undergoing painful cutbacks and realignments.

Supervisor Randy Bosarge said, “Closing the office (of Millette) has nothing to do with the turn-around firm’s recommendations. It was a doctor-hospital thing.”

He said he was notified of the closing Thursday.

“It wasn’t anything he did wrong. He had an outstanding career in Jackson County,” Bosarge said. “It was just a business decision basically, that had to be made ... a business decision that had to do with patient care. And it was a mutual parting of the ways.”

Ashley Verrett said she was called in on Sunday night and told not to report to work with Dr. Terry Millette's office on Monday.

Millette had many elderly patients that he has been treating for years. One former staffer estimated that he has seen tens of thousands of patients over the years. A current patient said there was usually a two- to three-month wait to see him.

In the press release, SRHS said what the hospital system did was “consistent with best medical practices, we have internal processes in place to review the quality of care our patients receive.”

The hospital system established a patient hotline at 228-809-2000, staffed seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Patients can also call the clinic at 769-0276.

“We understand this is a difficult situation,” SRHS said, “and we are fully committed to the processes we have in place to ensure the provision of safe, high quality care for all of the patients in our community.”