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Former medical director raises more allegations against Cumberland Hospital for Children

Posted at 5:07 PM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 19:01:13-04

NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. -- A former medical director at a New Kent County children's hospital under a Virginia State Police criminal investigation has raised more serious allegations in a lawsuit he filed a year after he claimed he was wrongfully fired.

Dr. Brett Sharp was hired in April 2020, two months after a CBS 6 Problem Solvers investigation uncovered allegations of child abuse and neglect which led to the departure of Cumberland Hospital’s long-time medical director, Dr. Daniel Davidow.

Sharp, who replaced Davidow, was seeking more than $1.4 million for what he claimed was a wrongful termination. The lawsuit named both Cumberland and its parent company, Universal Health Services (UHS). A nonsuit notice was filed on Sharp's behalf on August 24. The case will then head to arbitration.

In a certified letter dated October 6, 2020, Dr. Sharp was notified that his employment with the Cumberland Children’s hospital would be terminated “without cause” effective November 7, 2020, just seven months after being hired.

According to the complaint, Dr. Sharp accepted the offer of the Medical Director “with the hope that he could lead Cumberland forward toward systemic change.” He was hired following multiple departures of staff that the complaint says, “occurred under a cloud of allegations of sexual abuse of Cumberland patients.”

In February 2020, former Cumberland psychotherapist Hershel Mickey Harden was charged with sex crimes against a former patient. He died by suicide on February 22, when his attorney said he was going to plead guilty to a sex charge. In July, a former Behavior Tech was criminally indicted for intentionally burning a disabled patient.

The complaint alleged, “Dr. Sharp found that antiquated, aversive, and coercive treatment techniques instilled at Cumberland by Dr. Davidow continued to be in place and were still practiced by the clinicians and patient care staff resulting in treatment detrimental to the rights and well-being of the patients.”

According to the complaint, Dr. Sharp routinely observed and sought to remediate treatment practices that violated patients’ rights. It stated he took issue with the overuse of “precaution” protocols which in turn led to patients missing school.

He also “observed” according to the complaint, corporate maximizing the number of patients while he claims CEO Garrett Hamilton, who it stated does not have a medical degree, was "discouraging or outright preventing the discharge of patients against Dr. Sharp’s recommendation” to keep patient numbers up.

Dr. Sharp also alleged in the complaint that he accurately documented patients’ conditions in treatment team notes which were then re-written to justify “medically unnecessary protocols and treatment Cumberland was inflicting upon its patients.”

The complaint stated he was purportedly let go due to an incident on October 6, 2020, when Sharp briefly shut his eyes, opened them, and responded appropriately when a question was directed at him in a staff meeting. It also stated Sharp worked through the evening the night prior because the hospital was short-staffed.

The complaint pointed out that Cumberland failed to pay Dr. Sharp his wages due for the pay periods between the notice of termination and the effective date of the termination November 7, 2020. It stated it wasn’t until the hospital received notice from counsel in January 2021 that they paid Dr. Sharp the unpaid wages in March 2021.

In response to an inquiry from CBS 6 regarding the complaint, Dr. Sharp provided a written statement that read in part, “My goal, from the day I started employment at Cumberland and since my termination, has been to advocate for those patients in need of help. I remain committed to that goal, and I hope at some point in the future I can share more as I continue my goal of advocating for patients.”

CBS 6 reached out to Cumberland and UHS for comment. Cumberland Hospital CEO Garrett Hamilton said, "The lawsuit was withdrawn. Since this was an employment matter and in the interest of privacy for the individual referenced, we have no further comment to offer."