Physicians’ Organizations Help Underwrite Lawsuit Against Ventura Hospital
The California Medical Association and the American Medical Association have donated more than $100,000 to physicians at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura to underwrite a lawsuit against the facility, the Los Angeles Times reports (Kelley, Los Angeles Times, 7/30). Physicians at the hospital filed a lawsuit on April 24, alleging that hospital administrators tried to influence a staff election in November, adopted an 18-page code of conduct intended to silence opposition, implemented a conflict of interest policy to disqualify certain physicians from leadership positions and illegally allowed physicians to practice at the hospital without first being reviewed by the staff (California Healthline, 7/1). Jack Lewin, CEO of the California Medical Association, said, "We're going to spend whatever it takes until the integrity of the medical staff has been reestablished. A medical staff operates under a distinct set of defining principles, and every [principle] has been violated in Ventura." Lewin said the state medical association is supporting the Ventura physicians "so strongly" because Community Memorial has "taken a radical position" in refusing to recognize the self-governing body of the hospital and respect its advocacy role on behalf of patients, the Times reports. "If this were to become some sort of legal precedent, it could cause a cataclysmic interruption of what are typically healthy and constructive relationships between physicians and hospitals," he said. However, Lowell Brown, an attorney representing the hospital, said the medical associations are interested in the suit because it is "in their interest to stoke controversy," according to the Times. Attorneys for Community Memorial argue that the hospital's medical staff has no legal standing or authority beyond that granted by the facility's board of trustees and serves only as an advisory group. The hospital was scheduled to argue its case for dismissal without trial on Wednesday before county Superior Court Judge Henry Walsh (Los Angeles Times, 7/30).
The current "legal battle" that physicians at Community Memorial "are waging is a power struggle in which they are trying to exert their own control over the hospital," Dr. Robert Ryan, who served as chief of staff at Community Memorial from Jan. 1 until March 2003, writes in a Ventura County Star opinion piece. According to Ryan, the hospital's physicians "are trying to tell the board that they -- not the board -- make the decisions" and the doctors "will not acknowledge that the board has the final say in the authority process." Ryan concludes, "This dispute is not about patients' rights. It is a power struggle brought by doctors who do not want to follow the hospital's administrative process" (Ryan, Ventura County Star, 7/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.