A neurosurgeon who worked at the Mountain View Regional Hospital has not been able to access her patients' records after the Wyoming Medical Center bought it earlier this year, according to her lawsuit filed in June.

On Friday and Monday, attorneys for Dr. Anje Kim asked the Natrona County District Court to grant her a temporary restraining order demanding both hospitals stop withholding access to her records so she can treat them and comply with her ethical and legal obligations.

"This is about access to records, not ownership of records," Kim's attorney Christopher Taravella said in his opening statement Friday before Judge Catherine Wilking.

The access/ownership issue is among the complicated and intertwined matters about this case and the relationships among the local health care companies and doctors.

So Taravella -- an attorney with the Denver-based Montgomery Little & Soran, P.C. -- outlined the corporate relationships among the hospitals:

  • The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center, Inc., has a wholly owned subsidiary named the Wyoming Health Medical Group, LLC.
  • In 2012, Kim was recruited by Central Wyoming Neurosurgery, LLC.
  • In 2015 the Casper Medical Center, LLC, doing business as Mountain View Regional Hospital, bought the assets of Central Wyoming Neurosurgery. Kim gave her consent to assign the terms of her employment to the MVRH. (The MVRH was formed about a dozen years ago by a group of neurosurgeons who broke away from the WMC and built the hospital at 6550 E. Second St.)
  • On June 1, 2018, the Wyoming Medical Center formally announced the purchase of the Mountain View Regional Hospital. On that day, the Wyoming Health Medical Group's President and CEO wrote to Kim saying the WMC bought the assets and operations of the Mountain View Regional Hospital, which assigned Kim's previous agreement to the WHMG. (The MVRH is now the WMC's East Campus.)

In the court records asking for the restraining order, Kim said she didn't consent to such an assignment, which in turn affected her patients. "On or about June 1, 2018, WMC usurped the physician/patient relationship between Dr. Kim and her patients without Dr. Kim's or her patients' consent."

Besides the inability to access her patients' records, the action violated her obligations required by the Wyoming Medical Practice Act, the Wyoming Board of Medicine Rules and Regulations, Medicare and Medicaid, according to her lawsuit.

Friday, Wyoming Medical Center's attorney Scott Ortiz rejected Kim's request for the restraining order, saying she signed a voluntary agreement that is now part of the WMC.

Ortiz added that agreement included the assets of the Mountain View Regional Hospital, and the most important asset is the patient base now owned by the WMC.

Kim was late in getting some required paperwork to the Wyoming Medical Center, violated the non-compete agreement with the hospital, and violated a non-solicitation portion of her previous agreement by taking out ads announcing her new practice, Ortiz said. "Dr. Kim does not come to this court with clean hands."

However, Kim said in court records the structure of the non-compete agreement prohibits her from practicing any kind of medicine in most of Wyoming because of the clinics now owned and operated by the Wyoming Medical Center across the state.

The first witness Friday was neurosurgeon Dr. Lee Warren, who is a member of the Wyoming Medical Center board of directors.

Warren said part of the dispute with Kim was that the Wyoming Medical Center needed a more structured surgery schedule than the Mountain View Regional Hospital, and she didn't seem interested in having early surgery hours.

During the time leading to the lawsuit, Taravella said the Wyoming Medical Society on an overhead projector sent a letter to WMC President Michele Chulick urging the hospital to release the records.

However, Warren said he never saw that letter.

While the patient and physician define their relationship, he said it's not always 50-50 because an employer such as a hospital can intervene, he said.

Under cross-examination by Ortiz, Warren said Kim resisted the requests for a structured surgery schedule, adding that she responded to an email from him wondering if he was treating her and other neurosurgeons from MVRH "'like lackeys.'"

Warren said the Wyoming Medical Center had to add extra clinic days and help from physician assistants and nurse practitioners to meet the demand from the patients who had been served by the Mountain View Regional Hospital.

When asked if the catching-up time this summer deprived any patients of care, he replied, "absolutely not."