This story below and the report in the video player above discuss instances of sexual violence and may be upsetting for some readers or viewers.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, there are resources available.
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673
- SARNCO 24-hour sexual assault helpline: 614-267-7020
- SARNCO aftercare advocacy: 614-788-4739
- Ohio Domestic Violence Network: 614-781-9651
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (WCMH) — Patients and some former employees of a central Ohio health system have come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against providers — and claiming hospital administrators allowed the behavior to continue.
Two former employees and a patient of Chillicothe-based Adena Health System spoke to NBC4 Investigates independently of one another about their experiences, each with a different healthcare provider.
The accusers are unaware of the other’s identities and spoke on the condition of anonymity. NBC4 is not publishing the names of the accused, as none of them have been charged with a crime.
One former employee said she thought her first abnormal encounter with a doctor in 2021 was an accident, when she said he touched her buttock as he walked past her. Then it happened a second time, she said.
“(He) walks across, puts his hand on my shoulder, went down my back and grabbed my butt,” the former employee said. “I knew it wasn’t an accident.”
Another former employee said she also tried to dismiss some unusual conduct from a different doctor in 2022. She provided screenshots of texts allegedly exchanged with that doctor.
“I texted him asking what position he wanted a patient in for his on-call surgery,” she said.
A screenshot shows the doctor allegedly replying, “General, supine or doggy style your choice,” with a “HAHA” reaction icon on the message.
“I just kind of played it off like, ‘Ah, OK — maybe—whatever. I’ve heard worse,’” the former employee said of that text message.
But then, she said, the suggestive comments continued.
“Let’s make out,” another screenshot shows the doctor texting.
Then one day, the former employee said, “He blocked me with his shoulder on my shoulder, and got really close to my face. Like, I could feel him breathing on me. And he said, ‘I would do dirty things to you.’”
She described how on another occasion, he grabbed her leg and tried pulling her onto his chair.
Both former employees said they reported the issues to their supervisors and human resources, but neither of them felt the problems were resolved adequately.
The first former employee said her manager told her the doctor’s conduct was her own fault because female employees in the department would frequently compliment each other.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘What did I do?’ You know? ‘What did I say?’ I try to cover myself up as much as possible. I don’t do anything to encourage this,” she said. “I would cry, throw up. Didn’t want to go to work.”
She said it took her three days to reach human resources. When she visited with a representative, she said she was asked whether the doctor had previously rejected sexual advances from her.
“I’m like, ‘No! Why would I – why are you accusing me?’” the former employee said. “[The human resources representative] said, ‘Well, these are just questions I have to ask. I just need you to put it in an email.’”
The former employee shared an email exchange between herself and human resources showing the employee reporting multiple incidents over the course of several days in 2021.
Two days after her first emailed report, Adena’s Vice President of Human Resources responded, in part, “We want all of our employees to work in a safe and comfortable environment. We will look into this concern.”
Six days after that, the employee wrote, “I am following up to see if anything has been done about the situation with [the doctor]. [He] was placed beside me today and I was very uncomfortable with having to work within a close proximity with him.”
The next day, a reply from human resources says, “We obtained statements from co-workers and [the doctor] was spoken to.”
The employee eventually quit, as did the other worker who complained about a doctor she worked with.
“To have somebody that you look up to and work for — to make you feel so disgusted with yourself –” the second employee said. “I just didn’t feel comfortable and feel safe being around him.”
The patient who spoke with NBC4 Investigates described a blindsiding experience during a 2020 physical exam by a nurse practitioner. It started like any other exam, the patient said — the practitioner checked vitals, and asked questions.
“Right at the end, the provider had told me, ‘Hey, you’re of the age now for a prostate exam,’” the patient recalled.
The American Cancer Society recommends men with no risk factors start getting prostate exams at age 50. This patient is under 50 and has no risk factors.
The patient said he declined the prostate examination more than once.
“(The nurse practitioner) is like, ‘Don’t be so weird about it. Sorry I didn’t get to take you out to dinner last night–’ just more sexual innuendo-type comments related to it,” the patient said. “Things like, ‘Well, I’ll turn down the lights, we’ll put on some music, you take off your pants, I’ll take off my pants.’”
The patient said he ultimately decided to trust his healthcare provider and agreed to the prostate exam. He said the lights, and the nurse’s pants, stayed on.
“It becomes very creepy, and you start to question trusting your healthcare provider,” the patient said. “And then over the course of those weeks to months, I started hearing about other patients that went to the same provider with the same experience — the same inappropriate sexual comments.”
He said he called a number provided by Adena Health for the hospital’s patient advocate group, and received a letter in the mail several weeks later.
“Adena regretted that I hadn’t had a good patient experience, or something to that effect,” the patient said, telling NBC4 he no longer had a copy of the letter.
A spokesperson for Adena Health said in a statement that the health system is “steadfast” in its “obligation to safeguard both our patients and caregivers.”
“Although we will not disclose details of personnel matters, nor of any matter related to an active investigation by law enforcement officials, Adena exhaustively investigates and appropriately acts upon reports of misconduct in the workplace and, as warranted, does so in collaboration with the appropriate regulatory and governing authorities,” the statement read.
The three accusers reported their allegations to the Ross County Sheriff’s Office prior to speaking with NBC4 Investigates. On one report, a deputy wrote that he was closing the case because “no erogenous zone was ever touched” by the doctor and “I advised [the former employee] that this case was more of a civil issue and no criminal offense was committed.”