A north Iowa Dr. terminated in the middle of a pandemic has filed a lawsuit; former employer says claims are 'without merit'

Haganman has filed a lawsuit with 10 claims, including wrongful termination, against Mitchell County Regional Health Center and MercyOne North Iowa.

Posted: Mar 10, 2021 8:57 AM
Updated: Mar 10, 2021 6:50 PM

MITCHELL COUNTY, Iowa - What would cause a doctor who spent nearly three decades serving a small northern Iowa community to abruptly be terminated during a pandemic?

In court documents filed this week, Mark Haganman, formally employed by MercyOne and working in Mitchell County, said as the COVID-19 pandemic triggered shutdowns and dozens of deaths in Mitchell County, healthcare leaders conspired against him about how to handle the pandemic before he was terminated.

Haganman has filed a lawsuit with 10 claims, including wrongful termination, against Mitchell County Regional Health Center and MercyOne North Iowa.

Mitchell County Regional Health Center issued the following statement:

"The claims in this lawsuit are without merit, and we look forward to defending against them in court."

MercyOne North Iowa, when reached for comment, said it is “not able to provide comment on an active case.” Mitchell County Regional Health Center is an affiliate of MercyOne North Iowa.

In the 40-page document, Haganman claims a board member made jokes online about mask-wearing and a vote regarding how to deal with the pandemic turned private just days before he was fired.

“After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Dr. Haganman led an effort to make safe respiratory evaluation and testing available to the citizens of Mitchell County through a comprehensive initiative developed through the collaboration of key community stakeholders and largely paid for through the philanthropy of Dr. Haganman (the “Provider Plan”),” court documents state.

Haganman claims that Mitchell County Regional Health Center CEO Shelly Russell and physician Benson Hargens “resisted the Provider Plan; and instead, implemented a plan that would benefit Dr. Hargens financially, while violating numerous state laws and public health directives.”

Haganman said that his termination was in retaliation for raising concern that the Russell Plan was in violation of law and not in the public interest. He is being represented by Hartung Schroeder Law Firm out of Des Moines.

Haganman’s attorney, Charlie Wittmack, spoke to KIMT and said his client would like to “go back to work tomorrow. The people have asked for that.”

A petition was started after Haganman’s dismissal to get him back to work. More than 1,000 people signed it.

Wittmack said the lawsuit focuses on “two scandals.”

He said one involved a plan to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Wittmack said the plan Mitchell County Regional Health Center submitted to the state fire marshal and to the public health department was not the plan that was implemented.

“He called them out and they canned him,” Wittmack said.

Wittmack said Haganman offered to use his off-site location, which Wittmack said Haganman funded himself, to aid in the COVID-19 response. Instead, a plan was implemented to use a location at the hospital.

Haganman's off-site location was eventually used as a TestIowa site.

The other main issue revolves around how Hagaman was terminated, Wittmack said.

“If Mitchell County has a problem with the physician who is on the staff, a formal process has to be followed,” he said.

In November, Mitchell County Regional Health Center released the following statement about Haganman’s dismissal:

“We are fortunate to have a long-standing relationship with MercyOne North Iowa to recruit and provide health care professionals for MCRHC. Dr. Haganman has been an important part of this relationship for many years. We appreciate his years of service and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

Wittmack said the simplest way to sum up the case is this:

"There is this group of folks that are focused on the science," Wittmack said. "Then there is this other group that is just in denial. It's heartbreaking to look at the numbers."

The lawsuit claims that Mitchell County's COVID-19 infection rate and death rate skyrocketed in the weeks after Haganman's termination.

Infection and death rates throughout northern Iowa did jump late in 2020, not just in Mitchell County.

You can see a graph below of deaths and positive cases in the state related to the virus.

Iowa COVID death numbers

Iowa COVID cases

"The outcome he wants is for science to win," Wittmack said. "He has spent his whole life dedicated to serving the people of Mitchell County."

You can see the entire lawsuit below:

 

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 926931

Reported Deaths: 9740
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1809132056
Ramsey749811054
Dakota68505591
Anoka64961589
Washington41119367
Stearns34021287
St. Louis29939416
Scott26281188
Wright26260226
Olmsted22677131
Sherburne19206130
Carver1687671
Clay12219108
Blue Earth1162171
Rice11578139
Crow Wing11318124
Chisago1005281
Kandiyohi9913108
Otter Tail9908130
Benton9174128
Beltrami8249100
Goodhue822699
Douglas7967101
Itasca779999
Mower740049
McLeod723384
Winona715158
Isanti711085
Steele695034
Morrison678681
Becker631675
Polk608987
Freeborn569947
Carlton552577
Mille Lacs539479
Lyon532961
Nicollet528561
Nobles527954
Pine521143
Cass505255
Todd496443
Brown473661
Le Sueur464736
Meeker437960
Martin391344
Waseca381433
Wabasha380110
Dodge366412
Hubbard357649
Roseau320532
Fillmore310115
Wadena306040
Redwood283845
Houston275317
Renville271651
Faribault261835
Sibley256017
Pennington254830
Kanabec254437
Cottonwood232933
Aitkin225052
Chippewa222043
Pope209910
Watonwan201121
Yellow Medicine189925
Koochiching179225
Rock178429
Swift174124
Stevens170211
Jackson162016
Clearwater159421
Marshall154822
Murray152911
Pipestone150929
Lake134124
Lac qui Parle124425
Wilkin122016
Mahnomen108314
Norman10579
Grant102410
Big Stone9585
Lincoln8915
Kittson74623
Red Lake71810
Traverse6086
Unassigned563124
Lake of the Woods5285
Cook3141

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 532160

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Unassigned64520
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
Ringgold78429
Audubon77617
Adams5869
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