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: 537828

Reported Deaths: 7010
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1120831667
Ramsey46402845
Dakota40949413
Anoka37022412
Washington24118273
Stearns20436213
St. Louis16304294
Scott15379115
Wright14242124
Olmsted1254095
Sherburne1011078
Carver938642
Clay763489
Rice7373100
Blue Earth674440
Kandiyohi617079
Crow Wing586986
Chisago533848
Otter Tail529373
Benton515896
Mower445032
Winona434149
Douglas430270
Goodhue428271
Nobles395747
Morrison380358
McLeod378354
Beltrami364257
Polk358566
Isanti356859
Itasca356051
Steele344614
Becker341548
Lyon341048
Carlton321052
Freeborn318529
Pine304621
Nicollet297342
Brown288439
Mille Lacs268147
Todd264030
Le Sueur263722
Cass240326
Meeker226037
Waseca225320
Martin208429
Wabasha19793
Roseau192418
Dodge16774
Hubbard166841
Renville166743
Redwood162735
Houston161814
Cottonwood151320
Fillmore15009
Pennington148419
Chippewa143436
Faribault141019
Wadena139120
Sibley131210
Aitkin125836
Watonwan12419
Kanabec124021
Rock120618
Jackson112310
Yellow Medicine108018
Pipestone106925
Murray10119
Pope9816
Swift96918
Marshall83417
Stevens78910
Lake77719
Wilkin75212
Clearwater75014
Koochiching73611
Lac qui Parle72922
Big Stone5544
Lincoln5502
Grant5378
Norman5109
Mahnomen4888
Unassigned48278
Kittson43622
Red Lake3796
Traverse3585
Lake of the Woods2912
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 354126

Reported Deaths: 5789
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55359596
Linn20099328
Scott18614234
Black Hawk15431306
Woodbury14733219
Johnson1379980
Dubuque12985202
Dallas1080196
Pottawattamie10574158
Story1021947
Warren546586
Clinton529789
Cerro Gordo517586
Webster506091
Sioux502173
Marshall476074
Muscatine452996
Des Moines438064
Wapello4237120
Buena Vista420740
Jasper406070
Plymouth393379
Lee366355
Marion353475
Jones291655
Henry285337
Bremer278060
Carroll277550
Crawford261539
Boone255731
Benton248755
Washington247849
Dickinson237443
Mahaska222449
Jackson216842
Kossuth211161
Clay207525
Tama206170
Delaware200239
Winneshiek191833
Page188720
Buchanan186631
Fayette182541
Cedar182223
Wright178335
Hardin178142
Hamilton176649
Harrison174473
Clayton165255
Butler161834
Mills156920
Cherokee156238
Floyd154242
Lyon153141
Poweshiek152033
Madison151719
Allamakee148951
Iowa144624
Hancock142234
Winnebago135131
Grundy134632
Cass133654
Calhoun133011
Jefferson130435
Emmet127040
Shelby126237
Appanoose125947
Louisa125848
Sac125619
Mitchell125241
Union123732
Chickasaw121815
Humboldt117826
Guthrie116528
Franklin112321
Palo Alto109322
Howard102522
Unassigned10010
Montgomery99437
Clarke97923
Keokuk94230
Monroe92728
Ida88233
Adair83932
Pocahontas83021
Monona80430
Davis79824
Greene76210
Lucas74822
Osceola73316
Worth6958
Taylor64812
Fremont60310
Decatur5889
Van Buren55318
Ringgold53322
Wayne51723
Audubon4909
Adams3264
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