Chief medical officer sues Kona Community Hospital

  • Kona Community Hospital. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

The chief medical officer of Kona Community Hospital is suing the hospital, Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center and three individuals in a personnel dispute.

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

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

Groshong alleges Kona Community Hospital invaded her privacy, was negligent in its supervision and violated her due process rights.

In the 55-page lawsuit, she charged KCH CEO James Lee and Risk Manager and Compliance Officer Sean McCormick with interfering with a contractual right and Lee, McCormick and Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center with international interference with a prospective business advantage.

In addition, Groshong charged Lee, McCormick and Joseph Levingston, a medical instrument washer at KCH, with defamation and invasion of privacy and willful and wanton misconduct. All defendants were charged with negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

At issue in those charges are secret audio recordings made in private areas of the hospital that captured Groshong’s voice while she was unaware she was being recorded. The recordings were then heavily edited, the lawsuit alleges, and used to force Groshong’s resignation or termination.

A spokeswoman in the corporate office of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, which runs the hospital, said HHSC is aware of the lawsuit, although it hasn’t yet received copies of the complaint. “In general, there is no comment on litigation on personnel matters,” she said.

A telephone message left with a receptionist at Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center was not returned by press time.

Complicating the lawsuit are accusations and an arrangement of relationships between the health-care providers. Lee, for example, was a member of the limited partnership Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center. The lawsuit alleges he took confidential materials from the hospital to the ambulatory surgery center to try to defame Groshong.

Groshong was assistant medical director at the ambulatory surgery center and was also an independent contractor through MedStream Anesthesia Hawaii LLC to provide medical services, including clinical anesthesia practices.

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Groshong alleges she was coerced into resigning as chief medical officer at the hospital, a resignation that was later rescinded after she was cleared by three review committees.

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

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