Michelle Deaton received a letter Singing River Health System sent this week to patients of Dr. Terry Millette and described it as “horrible.”
The letter was from the county-owned hospital CEO and chief medical officer.
Deaton, of Ocean Springs, is the caregiver for her husband, William Deaton, who has multiple sclerosis and has been under Millette’s care for more than 14 years.
She said Millette has been open to guidance and the opinions of other experts on MS and has maintained her husband’s care consistently. She told the Sun Herald she’s not sure what she and her husband will do. The letter suggests she bring her husband it to see one of SRHS’ doctors, she said, but doesn’t name a doctor.
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She has taken her husband to some of the best doctors in the country specializing in MS. She’s not interested in turning him over to just anyone, especially not until she’s had a chance to investigate their credentials.
Deaton said when her husband was diagnosed, she began immediately looking for the best experts in the field. When she told her local doctor she wanted to take her husband to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, he got angry.
I want to know why they think he needs to be evaluated by someone else when I’ve taken him all over the country, and he’s seen the best.
Michelle Deaton, wife of an MS patient under Dr. Terry Millette’s care
They went anyway. And when they returned, they began going to Millette, who came recommended.
During the 14 years of his illness, she has taken her husband to the National Institutes of Health, Memorial Hermann Medical Group in Houston and to Ochsner Medical Center’s neurological specialists in New Orleans.
“It’s been a journey,” she said. “I always kept up on things, and anything new I talked with Dr. Millette (about). I went to NIH and they had the top doctor for MS evaluate him with 20 others.
“We sat at a table with 20 doctors from NIH, and they discussed him. They tested him for two weeks,” she said, and the conclusion and treatment options given were the same as Millette’s.
“There was still no different treatment other than what Dr. Millette is giving him,” she said.
SRHS closed Millette’s practice abruptly Monday. Millette has been practicing neurology in Jackson County for more than 30 years.
The letter she and several hundred other of Millette’s patients received Thursday from SRHS CEO Kevin Holland and Chief Medical Officer Randy Roth said questions were raised about Millette’s diagnoses and the way he treats patients with multiple sclerosis.
It said they reviewed Millette’s medical activity and decided he would no longer practice at Singing River Hospital. Millette was employed by the hospital until Monday. Though they closed his clinic, he still has his license to practice. His attorney Stephen Burrow, told the Sun Herald 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.”
Holland and Roth also noted in the letter “competent medical professionals often have differing opinions, especially when it involves complex neurological conditions” such as MS. It then offers to have Millette’s MS patients evaluated and treated by another doctor. It gives a hotline for patients to call.
It’s been a long journey
Deaton knows firsthand how complicated MS can be. She has watched her husband become frail and need extra attention when any other medical problems arise. Even a simple infection in his legs can be complicated.
The disease often takes a long time to diagnose. William Deaton said that it’s his immune system, attacking the nerve protections in his body. His legs are the most affected. At one point, he was having trouble with his hands, but a change in medicine corrected that. Now the former Ocean Springs Middle School coach is stable. He has been stable since 2010. And Millette has been there to confer with and watch for side effects.
Michelle Deaton said it has been important to have a good relationship with a neurologist she can trust. And it was great that Millette was so close, working in Pascagoula.
“There is nobody better here, and I’ve tried,” she said. “I realized how fortunate I was to have him 15 miles away and now they’re not going to let him work there anymore?”
“When I got the letter, I thought, ‘What is going on with Singing River Health System?’” she said. “I can’t imagine how many patients are going to be impacted by this. That’s not a private hospital, it’s a county hospital. Our tax dollars go to help support it.
“I’ve done research and been an advocate for my husband. We are willing and able to go anywhere. But we’ve been able to stay in Jackson County because of Dr. Millette.”
She said Millette was available for calls. She had his cell, home and office numbers.
She said he was OK with second, third and fourth opinions and was able to work with other specialists who made recommendations to keep her husband stable.
“We’ve tried the best,” she said. “Nobody has given him any better care.”
She has asked to speak with Holland, who signed the letter she received, but she was told they couldn’t promise a response.
She said she wants to know how they are going to find a doctor better than those who have already evaluated her husband.
“I want to know why they think he needs to be evaluated by someone else when I’ve taken him all over the country, and he’s seen the best.”