Chief Medical Officer sues Kona Community Hospital

The chief medical officer at Kona Community Hospital is suing the hospital, Kona Outpatient Surgery Center and three people over a personal dispute.

The case revolves around an attempt by hospital officials to force his client to leave, Hilo attorney Ted Hong, representing Elizabeth Ann Groshong, said.

“Someone made illegal secret recordings. They were trying to use snippets and modified versions against my client, ”Hong said Thursday. “They defamed her; they tried to ruin her reputation… to get rid of her.

Groshong alleges that the Kona Community Hospital invaded his privacy, was negligent in his supervision and violated his due process rights.

In the 55-page lawsuit, she accused KCH CEO James Lee and risk manager and compliance officer Sean McCormick of interfering with contract law and Lee, McCormick and Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center of international interference with a potential business advantage.

In addition, Groshong indicted Lee, McCormick and Joseph Levingston, a medical instrument washer at KCH, with libel and invasion of privacy and willful and gratuitous misconduct. All of the defendants were charged with negligently and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

Involved in the charges, secret audio recordings made in private areas of the hospital captured Groshong’s voice when she was unaware it was being recorded. The tapes were then heavily edited, according to the lawsuit, and used to force Groshong’s resignation or dismissal.

A spokeswoman for the head office of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, which operates the hospital, said HHSC is aware of the lawsuit, although it has not yet received a copy of the complaint. “In general, there is no comment on personnel disputes,” she said.

A phone message left with a receptionist at the Kona Outpatient Surgery Center was not returned at press time.

Charges and an understanding of relationships between health care providers complicate the lawsuit. Lee, for example, was a member of the Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center limited partnership. The lawsuit alleges that he took confidential documents from the hospital to the outpatient surgery center in an attempt to defame Groshong.

Groshong was Assistant Medical Director at the Outpatient Surgery Center and was also an independent contractor through MedStream Anesthesia Hawaii LLC to provide medical services including clinical anesthesia practices.

Groshong alleges that she was forced to resign as the hospital’s chief medical officer, which resignation was later rescinded after being cleared by three review boards.

“The bottom line is accountability, especially in a place like Kona Community Hospital,” Hong said.

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