Ventura-Based Community Memorial Hospital Relaxes Sections of Code of Conduct Policy
The board of Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura last week voted to change some the "most controversial elements" of its code of conduct and conflict of interest policy, but a lawsuit filed by the medical staff about the code of conduct and other hospital actions will continue, the Ventura County Star reports (Wilson, Ventura County Star, 9/4). Physicians at the hospital filed the lawsuit on April 24 over allegations 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 a review by the staff. Their case has received support from the California Medical Association and the American Medical Association, which have donated more than $100,000 to underwrite the lawsuit (California Healthline, 8/8). Among the changes approved by the board:
- Doctors will no longer be disciplined for making statements critical of the hospital, its board or its administration, unless the statements meet the legal definition of defamation;
- Doctors with interests in competing medical facilities will be able to vote as staff members and serve on every medical staff committee except the medical staff executive committee, a credentials committee that reviews doctors' applications to practice at the hospital and a panel that recommends which doctors will serve on the board of trustees; and
- Doctors will be able to appeal conflict-of-interest exclusions from the board of trustees.
The board instituted the changes, which are now in effect, after considering advice from doctors and studying other hospitals' policies, Peter Goldenring, an attorney for Community Memorial, said.
"This policy is in the best interest of the community," hospital administrator Michael Bakst said, adding, "We understand that some doctors want to increase their income by competing with the hospital for some services. As a not-for-profit community hospital we just don't see the wisdom of letting doctors who are competing with us being involved in our business decisions." Dr. Robert Garrison, a member of the medical staff's executive committee, called the amendments to the conflict of interest policy "a step in the right direction," but he said that the definitions used in the policy remain arbitrary because the policy permits physicians to operate some competing hospital services but not others. Garrison added that the changes to the code of conduct do not make it acceptable to physicians, the Star reports (Ventura County Star, 9/4).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.