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Doctor is suing Enumclaw hospital

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

An Enumclaw doctor is suing Enumclaw Community Hospital and two of its employees, claiming actions by the pair have ruined one business opportunity and continue to harm her medical practice.

Dr. Mary Ballard has filed the suit in King County Superior Court. Named as defendants are the non-profit hospital, administrator Dennis Popp and Nancy Caldwell, the hospital's medical staff/quality management coordinator. Also named are Popp's and Caldwell's spouses.

Ballard operates a private practice in Enumclaw, specializing in internal medicine and women's health.

The lawsuit notes that, in mid-2002, Ballard began a joint project with Bellevue Cardiology, a division of the Swedish Heart Institute and the Swedish Medical Center of Seattle. The suit contends Ballard and Bellevue Cardiology planned to build a medical office building in Enumclaw and, further, that Ballard had obtained loans and a line of credit to fund the project.

The suit alleges that Popp "negligently and/or intentionally provided false and disparaging information about Dr. Ballard to executives at the Swedish Medical Center in an apparent effort to stop the project and damage Dr. Ballard's medical practice."

As a result, the suit contends, Swedish Medical Center withdrew from the project and plans were scrapped.

With regard to Caldwell, the suit alleges she "provided false and disparaging information...to persons calling ECH's Physician's Referral Service." Also, it is claimed that Caldwell "continues to negligently and/or purposely direct patients away from Dr. Ballard's medical practice."

As a result, it is claimed, Ballard's "patient base has decreased dramatically."

Finally, the suit alleges that Popp provided "false and disparaging" information to the Medical Quality Assurance Commission in 2002, regarding a complaint the MQAC was investigating. Because of that action, Ballard alleges, she was "required to enter into an unfavorable 'agreed order' with MQAC that has affected her ability to obtain malpractice insurance."

Ballard's lawsuit makes no mention of dollars; rather, it states she will seek "an award of damages in an amount to be proven at trial."

Ballard was hesitant to speak about the issue, but provided a copy of the court documents. Popp said he could make no statement without first speaking to hospital attorneys.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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