County leaders took phone numbers from patients of former Singing River Health System neurologist Dr. Terry Millette and promised to talk with them about the treatment they have received by the county hospital system.
SRHS broke with Millette in November, and his patients have complained of chronic neglect by the hospital system and the administration’s failure to have a transition plan in place, knowing it was planning a break with Millette.
Millette is a long-time neurologist who has had his own practice in the county, but more recently worked for SRHS.
Fewer patients came before the Board of Supervisors on Monday. They are getting sicker, a representative said. It has been almost three months.
Jeannene Foster, walked slowly to the front of the board room with a cane and shaking hands. A county deputy helped her to the podium.
She told the board she suffers from a broken neck and needs botox injections by a neurologist so her body will function properly. She told the board she is not getting what she needs and doesn’t know where to turn. She’s losing her ability to drive, something that had returned with treatment under Millette.
She is going downhill, she said. She told the board she is alone and doesn’t know what to do.
Supervisor Ken Taylor took her number.
“I’m very frustrated over all of this,” Taylor said. “I will become your advocate. I’ll meet with you and we’ll meet with the people at the hospital.”
Kennedy Smith, a nurse practitioner, told the Board of Supervisors that she had been handling Millette’s patients at the SRHS office since mid-November. Some patients said they felt as if she was their last opportunity for treatment, their last connection with Millette.
County supervisors said they learned she was taken off the job Feb. 1. She told them she did not quit.
When asked how she had been working without Millette to supervise, she told the board that she had been working in conjunction with two internal medicine doctors at SRHS.
Supervisors Randy Bosarge took her number and asked to meet with her, then told the SRHS representative, Georgia Storey, who attended Monday’s supervisors board meeting, “I want these people treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. They didn’t ask for this.”
Bosarge said, “Those people need to be healed.”
About Smith being removed, Storey told the Sun Herald, “She was generous to stay and help with the patients, but it can’t be long-term without a collaboration with a neurologist.”
“A nurse practitioner is an extender,” Storey said. “We want them to first have a relationship with a physician, in this case a neurologist. But she was a tremendous help to us during this transition.”
Storey said the hospital system has three neurologists in Ocean Springs and is working on getting one for Pascagoula, where Millette practiced.
She said, “We want to do everything we can to help these patients transition to another provider if that is what they want.”
In a prepared statement, SRHS Administrator Laurin St. Pé said he understands patients wanting a familiar face in the doctor they see.
“We are actively recruiting for additional neurological support, but in the meantime, our clinical and support staff have worked tirelessly to ensure that every patient has the most appropriate care, including transitions to new providers both inside and outside our system.”