... is for good men to do nothing.
Retaliation Against Physicians - Medical Staff of Ventura Community Initial CMA Participation: August 2003 Memorial Hospital
Medical Staff of Ventura Community
Issue: This case involves issues of medical staff self-governance and the appropriate relationship between medical staffs and hospital administration. Weighing in on behalf of physicians, in August 2003, AMA and CMA filed an amicus brief backing the medical staff of Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura in its legal fight with the hospital administration. The brief urges the court to recognize a medical staff’s legal right to operate as an organized and self-governing entity in the hospital, citing the need to ensure quality of care for patients.
The medical staff is suing the hospital administration for violating state laws requiring medical staff selfgovernance. The suit alleges that the administration usurped the medical staff’s credentialing, standard setting, disciplinary, and quality assurance functions; refuses to recognize duly elected medical staff officers; unilaterally amended the medical staff bylaws; improperly interfered with the medical staff’s efforts to review and update its bylaws; and illegally seized the medical staff dues fund totaling $250,000. The hospital is arguing that the medical staff is not a separate entity under the law. The organized medical staff, it says, is just another department within the hospital, and as such lacks standing to sue the hospital.
CMA’s brief, filed with the Superior Court in Ventura, discusses the many state and federal legal precedents that establish and reinforce a medical staff’s position as a separate legal entity, and how that status permits it to best assure high-quality patient care. Under California law, medical staffs are responsible for setting patient-care standards, establishing and enforcing medical staff membership standards, and ensuring that patients obtain quality care through continuous peer review and evaluation. The brief argues that “there is no question that, under California law, a hospital medical staff has standing to enforce its legal rights. Outcome: The trial court has r
uled that a hospital medical staff has standing to enforce its legal rights. In October 2003, the board of Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura asked for and accepted the resignation of the hospital’s executive director. In September, 2004, a settlement was reached between the medical staff and the hospital, resulting in dismissal of the lawsuit.. The settlement was very favorable to the medical staff, and included the following points:
Arising from this case, CMA was also successful in passing SB 1325 (Kuehl, Stats. 2004, Ch. 669). This legislation codified six basic elements of medical staff self governance and provided the right of the medical staff to obtain a court order to stop any hospital interference with the self governance rights of the medical staff if other reasonable efforts to resolve the dispute have failed. The six minimum self governance rights include: