OrthoSC torpedoed residency program to maintain Myrtle Beach monopoly, lawsuit alleges

·2 min read

A potentially prosperous orthopedic surgery residency program was shut down due to threats by a group of Myrtle Beach-area doctors who “did not want to be training their competition,” according to the former director of that program.

Dr. Scott Duncan, a longtime orthopedic surgeon who was tasked with starting the graduate medical education program at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, filed a lawsuit last week against his now-former employer and OrthoSC alleging illegal interference and civil conspiracy, among other claims.

HCA Healthcare, the parent company of Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, recruited Duncan in 2017 from Boston, Massachusetts, where he was serving as chairman of the orthopedic surgery department for Boston Medical Center, to start and serve as director of a new residency program, the suit states.

They promised Duncan could serve as director at least five years with an extension likely if the program was successfully implemented, and the two sides agreed to work together to persuade OrthoSC to provide doctors to serve as staff for the program, according to the complaint.

Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.
Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.

OrthoSC represents a contingent of at least 30 doctors in the Myrtle Beach, Conway and Murrells Inlet markets that specialize in orthopedic surgeries and treatment, and its members have surgical affiliations with Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, according to its website.

When Duncan felt that conversations with representatives from OrthoSC indicated they weren’t interested in 2018, he began interviewing other candidates, as HCA had agreed to hire its own staff for the program if OrthoSC wasn’t interested, the suit states.

But after OrthoSC was given a deadline to decide, one of its executive board members, Dr. Gene Massey, sent an email to the president of HCA’s Southeast Atlantic division threatening to pull all of their surgical cases from Grand Strand Regional Medical Center to one of their competitor’s hospitals if the residency program continued, Duncan alleges.

“Massey also stated and represented to (the HCA division president) words to the effect that Defendant OrthoSC and its member doctors ‘did not want to be training their competition’ and that the GME program threatened Defendant OrthoSC’s monopoly in the relevant market in Myrtle Beach, Conway, and Murrells Inlet,” the complaint reads.

As a result of those threats, HCA canceled the residency program and terminated Duncan without cause in April, prior to conclusion of the five years promised in his employment agreement, according to the suit.

Duncan, who did not respond to an interview request, is seeking unspecified financial damages. Massey and OrthoSC could not be reached prior to publication.

Katie Maclay, a spokeswoman for Grand Strand Health, responded that they are aware of the lawsuit but declined to comment on the allegations.

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