- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

An emergency-room physician who worked under contract for nine years at Greater Southeast Community Hospital has filed a federal complaint, saying she recently saw patients waiting as long as 14 hours to receive treatment there.

The lawsuit filed by Dr. Annette Patterson in U.S. District Court seeks $5 million from National Emergency Services District of Columbia Inc., a New York company that supplies doctors to Greater Southeast and other health care facilities.

Dr. Patterson expressed to hospital officials in September her concerns about patient care, including long waiting periods, according to a copy of the lawsuit. Her complaints prompted National Emergency Services to fire her, the lawsuit reads.

Neither National Emergency Services nor the hospital returned phone calls seeking comment last week.

Dr. Patterson’s attorney, Jimmy A. Bell, of Upper Marlboro, said his client was wrongly fired. “Every side has a story to tell, and we can’t wait to tell ours to a D.C. jury,” Mr. Bell said.

The termination occurred less than a week after Dr. Patterson reported seeing dozens of patients waiting up to 14 hours for treatment during her shift at the hospital on Sept. 13, according to the complaint.

On Sept. 18, Dr. Patterson received a letter from National Emergency Services saying her employment was terminated, according to the lawsuit.

Dr. Patterson said no one from the hospital nor her employer ever complained about her job performance. She stated in the lawsuit that the hospital’s medical staff recently contacted her about becoming a hospital employee rather than working as a contract doctor, but she declined.

Dr. Patterson, who is licensed to practice medicine in the District and Maryland, has not been the subject of any disciplinary actions during her 12-year career, according to a search of government records.

Overcrowding and staffing concerns repeatedly plagued Greater Southeast last year. Greater Southeast is the city’s only hospital east of the Anacostia River and the primary health care facility for the area’s low-income residents.

The hospital nearly was closed by city health inspectors last year at the same time that a health care quality organization removed its accreditation. The hospital’s parent company, Doctors Community Healthcare Corp., which is based in Arizona, declared bankruptcy in 2002.

Since then, the hospital has made a turnaround.

Doctors Community Healthcare emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year.

It also appointed a new board of directors and administrator, Joan Phillips, who has helped the hospital retain its operating license, restore its full accreditation and regain business with private health-insurance plans.

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