Portsmouth Regional Hospital. Credit: File | Seacoast Online

A “highly trained surgeon,” with a 34-year surgical career in York and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Peter Carter filed a 10-count lawsuit against entities affiliated with Portsmouth Regional Hospital alleging he was forced out of his job due to age discrimination, then was defamed by a letter to providers saying he retired.

Carter, 68, of York filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire against Appledore Medical Group, Hospital Corporation of America, HCA Health Services of New Hampshire, Portsmouth Regional Hospital (PRH), Appledore Medical Group and two PRH executives. Represented by Portsmouth attorney Kenneth Murphy, Carter’s federal civil suit alleges breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, two counts of age discrimination, defamation, invasion of privacy and loss of consortium.

He seeks enhanced compensatory damages through his attorney, who declined to comment beyond what is alleged in the 17-page lawsuit.

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Representing the PRH parties is attorney Peter Callaghan from the Preti Flaherty law firm in Concord. Callaghan’s office reported he is not available for comment this week. The medical entities’ lawyer previously petitioned to have the case moved from the Rockingham County Superior Court, to the federal court, where it remains.

Carter alleges his surgical career began at York Hospital in the 1990s when he was the first to perform several surgical procedures, while also teaching medical students at the University of New England. His suit claims he worked as an Appledore surgeon from November 2010 until March 3, 2017, and had an “unparalleled” reputation and “excellent” work performance evaluations. He claims he “became very proficient in handling breast cancer cases” and in January 2017, noticed a decline in referrals, about the same time he was informed, “there was a preference in making referrals to female surgeons over male surgeons.”

Carter alleges a hospital executive informed him, during a discussion about referrals, “it is generational” and “younger doctors were able to get more referrals.” The following month, he alleges, he was told his position was being eliminated “due to a lack of referral base” and he could say he was retiring at the end of 2017, or accept 90 days notice for his job to end.

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“To the extent [Carter’s] referral base was reduced it was directly caused by the decision by defendant PRH to refer such cases to younger or female doctors,” his lawsuit claims.

Carter alleges he began to suffer physically and was briefly hospitalized. He claims Appledore later sent a letter to providers, purporting to be from him, though he never wrote or consented to it.

“The purpose of the letter was to tell all providers that [Carter] had retired,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff had not and did not retire.”

His suit claims he made about $350,000 a year as a surgeon and now makes $50,000. Carter claims he planned to work an additional three years before retiring, but was forced out due to his age. Carter’s suit reports he previously filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunity Commission, which issued him “a notice of right to sue.”

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