Patients are calling their county supervisors over Singing River Health System’s abrupt closure of the office of neurologist Dr. Terry Millette.
The president of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors said the board plans to take up the issue when it meets with hospital officials Monday.
“It’s not on the agenda, but I’m sure we’ll deal with it,” Board President Melton Harris said Friday. “I have had some calls; one patient was concerned, asking, ‘Where is all of this going to lead?’
“We don’t know right now. It most definitely will be discussed,” Harris said.
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Officials with the county-owned hospital system already were scheduled to meet with supervisors. Harris said that is no guarantee they will show up, however. SRHS did not return calls from the Sun Herald on Friday morning.
Millette’s attorney, Stephen Burrow, issued this statement: “At this time, Terry is evaluating all his options for continuing his medical practice. Terry is humbled by and appreciates the kind words and support he has received from the community.”
Millette, who was with Neurology Associates, has worked in Jackson County for more than 30 years, most recently as a doctor under contract to the hospital system.
SRHS abruptly closed Millette’s office within Neurology Associates’ suite Monday and sent letters to Millette’s more than 200 multiple sclerosis patients, urging them to contact the hospital system for a new doctor. Multiple sclerosis, called MS for short, is a complex neurological disease that is difficult to diagnose and treat.
Burrow said the simple answer for why Millette didn’t contact his patients himself “is the patients charts and contact information are in the possession of, and belong to, SRHS.”
Internal medicine specialist Dr. Todd Coulter called the Sun Herald on Friday to say he has known Dr. Millette and his work for 22 years. Coulter is in a position to review Millette’s work for the state and said Millette’s diagnoses and treatment have been affirmed again and again.
Coulter, who works out of Ocean Springs, said he reviews disability cases for the state as a consultative examiner.
“I personally review his records for multiple sclerosis,” Coulter said, “and his diagnoses are consistent with the current understanding of MS and the ever-expanding and evolving inclusion criteria of MS.
“He’s outstanding. I’ve reviewed a large number of his patients, more than any other primary care physician on the Coast.”
Singing River CEO Kevin Holland and Chief Medical Officer Randy Roth signed the letters sent to Millette’s patients with MS, saying they had questions raised about Millette’s diagnoses and the way he treats patients with MS.
“As a result, we immediately began a review of Dr. Millette’s medical activity,” the letter said.
“During the course of this ongoing review, the decision was made that Dr. Millette would no longer base his practice at Singing River. We recognize that competent medical professionals often have differing opinions, especially when it involves complex neurological conditions.”
Then the letter tells Millette’s patients SRHS would like to work with them to have their diagnosis and treatment evaluated by another doctor. It says hospital officials are working closely with regional and national experts in neurology to assist.
One Ocean Springs patient of Millette’s said she was disturbed when she received the letter. She said she has called SRHS but has gotten no explanation for what happened. After years of having her husband treated by Dr. Millette, she was leery of going to a new doctor, who hasn’t even been named, to take his place.
County Supervisor Randy Bosarge said Millette still has his license.
“As far as I can tell, he can go somewhere else and practice,” Bosarge said.
Bosarge said he was told Singing River had two outside neurologists look over Millette cases about which they had received complaints, and that those doctors came to the same conclusion.
“Dr. Millette worked for the hospital and this is what they decided they needed to do,” Bosarge said. “They had their experts check it out and they concluded, and I have to go along with it right now.”