Children’s Hospital & Medical Center denied in an official court filing Wednesday the accusations made against it in a lawsuit by two Omaha surgeons.

The document says the surgeons “have callously and intentionally used the tragic death” of a child to help make their case.

The hospital says in the document that the surgeons who have filed the suit, Drs. Jason Miller and Mark Puccioni, are trying to protect their business interests by making false accusations against Children’s; Dr. Richard Azizkhan, Children’s CEO; and Dr. Adam Conley. Conley, a pediatric neurosurgeon, has been accused by the two surgeons of incompetence leading to the death of a 7-month-old child.

Miller and Puccioni filed their suit early this month.

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Miller, a plastic surgeon, and Puccioni, a pediatric neurosurgeon, contend in their lawsuit that Children’s intentionally drove them away from practicing at the hospital. They charge that Azizkhan and Conley tried to “destroy the practices and reputations” of the surgeons.

Among other things, the surgeons say the hospital wants to “own and control” doctors by employing them and gaining “a more profitable and predictable stream of revenue.” The two surgeons say they have built their practices by having privileges at multiple hospitals.

Miller and Puccioni contend that hospital representatives tried to “mislead their patients into thinking that they had retired or moved away” in an effort to win over their patients.

The hospital says the two surgeons objected to the hiring of competitors by Children’s. Miller, the hospital says, last fall began refusing to see patients registered to the hospital and rescheduled those patients at other hospitals.

By refusing to see patients at Children’s, the hospital contends, Miller created health and safety risks for patients. Miller also allegedly refused to “take call” for patients at Children’s.

The hospital suspended Miller’s privileges. While the Children’s medical staff executive committee recommended lifting the suspension, the final decision would have been the hospital board’s, Children’s said. Miller ultimately resigned late last year.

[Read more: More docs choosing hospital employment over private practice; Children's lawsuit highlights 'own and control' issue]

Similarly, the hospital says, Puccioni’s practice was threatened by Conley’s presence. Conley had worked for Puccioni previously. When Puccioni learned Conley might go to work for the hospital, the counterclaim says, Puccioni tried to undermine and smear Conley.

Children’s contends that this led to the surgeons’ accusation that Conley had killed a child with incompetent care, even though they weren’t in the operating room and haven’t reviewed the child’s medical records, according to the hospital.

In filing its counterclaim, Children’s said Wednesday, “We appreciate the patience and support shown by our patients, their families, the community and especially our employees as we developed our responses to these allegations.”

Miller said Wednesday night in a statement that he appreciated the support he has received from the community.

Puccioni said late Wednesday night that he and Miller are “excited for the opportunity for truth to be told. Our only desire is to take care of the children of Nebraska in the safe and secure manner.”

Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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