Former Martinsville doctor cleared by state sues Sovah Health for wrongful termination

Original complaint filed against doctor questioned prescribing practices

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – A former Martinsville doctor is now suing his former employer for wrongful termination after a complaint filed against him has been cleared.

The complaint was originally filed against James Isernia, M.D., by his former employer, Sovah Health — but the complaint has now been cleared. On Monday, Isernia filed a suit in U.S. District Court and he is now demanding a trial by jury. He’s seeking an undetermined amount of money and punitive damages against Sovah Health and its subsidiaries.

Sovah Health opened an internal audit against Isernia in Dec. 2020 questioning his prescribing practices, claiming he failed to comply with best practices for chronic opioid management per CDC, state and practice standards and regulations.

The audit claimed that Isernia prescribed controlled substances 420 times in May 2020 and that he did not properly catalog them, saying “he “failed to use the electronic prescriptions for controlled substance functionality (”EPCS”) when doing so.”

In the suit, Isernia’s lawyers argue that he has a “voluminous practice,” including patients he sees in several nursing homes and home visits, those battling methamphetamine addiction, and a large number of patients who struggle with asbestosis, lung cancer, silicosis, black lung, severe arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis — all of which, they argued, necessitate his prescribing practices.

Sovah also claimed that as a result of the audit, improvements were not evident from earlier recommendations given to him.

In a letter to Isernia in March, Jennifer Deschenes, deputy executive director for the Virginia Board of Medicine, notified him that the Board decided to end its inquiry.

“However, this report will be retained and should additional information on this matter be received, or should additional similar complaints be received in the future, the Board may again review the information in this case for evidence that pertains to a violation of the law or regulations to the healing arts,” Deschenes wrote.

Click here to read the full letter from the Virginia Board of Medicine.

On Dec. 21, Isernia was placed on administrative leave. Records show he was then terminated on Jan. 4 by Sovah Health.

According to the lawsuit, some of Isernia’s former patients claim they are now receiving more opioids than they were under his care.

The lawsuit is seeking damages, including an injunction against Sovah to keep them from repeating the action taken against Isernia, reinstatement to the same position or an equivalent, as well as compensation for lost wages and benefits in addition to interest, attorney costs and fees, back pay, front pay and any other damages the court sees fit.

10 News has reached out to Sovah Health for a statement and has yet to hear back.

To read the full lawsuit, click here.

About the Author:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a content producer in July 2018.