A Newport physician has filed a lawsuit, seeking almost $20 million, that alleges Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital management discriminated against him because of his status as a transgender man and his promotion of transgender health services at the Newport medical facility, forcing him to resign.
The Lund Report first reported Tuesday on the lawsuit by Dr. Gavin Shumate, an obstetrician-gynecologist currently in private practice who formerly worked in the hospital’s Women’s Health Clinic, against the hospital and its parent Samaritan Health Services.
The 29-page complaint filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court — one of four counties in which Samaritan Health Services operates — alleges that Shumate was forced out of his position of eight years in 2019 through a contrived investigation. The suit seeks up to $9.7 million in economic and not less than $10 million in non-economic damages.
“Defendants’ summary suspension and ultimate recommendation to revoke permanently all of plaintiff’s hospital privileges was due in significant part to his transgender status and/or his advocacy for the rights of trans persons to utilize SPCH as provider for trans health care,” the complaint reads.
Contacted regarding the lawsuit, Samaritan officials said in a statement, “Although we will not comment specifically on this pending litigation, Samaritan Health Services does value the equity and inclusion of all persons, and is committed to treating everyone with respect and dignity, with the core goal of improving community health.”
According to the complaint, after Shumate met in 2015 with former hospital CEO Dr. David Bigelow regarding a “malicious transphobic email” written by another physician’s wife, he felt he had the support of hospital leadership and would be protected from discrimination.
The complaint alleges conflicts with administration began in 2018 under new CEO Dr. Lesley Ogden, who took the reins at the hospital after Bigelow’s retirement in 2017.
Shumate began to advocate that the hospital open a trans health clinic and was repeatedly rebuffed by management, according to the suit, and he was pressured to give up vacation time scheduled for him to undergo additional gender transition surgery, compelling him to file for medical leave instead.
Two months after he submitted an August 2018 request to attend a training course the following February to learn to perform gender transition surgery, Shumate was called into the chief operations officer’s office and told his call responsibilities were being removed, according to the lawsuit.
In February 2019, Shumate attended a high-risk delivery in which an infant who suffered a cardiac arrest was left permanently disabled. The complaint says the doctor’s care decisions “in the face of two simultaneous medical emergencies, mother and baby, were defensible.”
Nine days later, Shumate was summoned to Ogden’s office and given a letter that said his hospital privileges were being suspended “due to being a ‘threat’ to ‘the life or well-being’ of patients,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit calls the hospital investigation that followed a “sham” that denied due process to and defamed Shumate, as did the hospital’s reporting of his suspension to a national practitioner database. In August 2019, the internal review body submitted investigation reports to the hospital board of directors with the recommendation that Shumate’s privileges be permanently revoked.
A parallel investigation by the Oregon Medical Board was closed with no adverse consequences for Shumate, and its review of the February 2019 birth found the doctor’s decisions met the standard of care, according to the lawsuit.
Shumate resigned from the hospital in January 2020 following consultation with legal counsel, in “lieu of facing a sham hearing before biased SHS-employed physicians” that would result in another adverse action reported to the national practitioner database.
“From time to time, competent SHS physicians throughout its hospital system suffer very poor and sometimes catastrophic patient outcomes,” the complaint reads. “Some of these SHS physicians have been sued in the Oregon courts in connection with very poor and sometimes catastrophic patient outcomes … (T)hese cisgender physicians were not, like plaintiff, summarily suspended from all hospital privileges, subjected to investigation by a hired outside physician investigator, and subjected to a malicious peer review process resulting in a recommendation for a total and permanent revocation of all hospital privileges.”
The complaint says the hospital’s actions effectively ended Shumate’s career by “making it largely impossible for plaintiff to obtain future employment with a hospital system and gain admitting privileges,” costing him an estimated $9.7 million in future income.
As of Thursday morning, no hearing in the lawsuit had been scheduled and Samaritan had not officially been served the suit.