A nephrologist in California, Mark Fahlen, MD, reported several problems with his hospital’s nursing staff to nursing supervisors and the center’s administration between 2004 and 2008. This American Medical News article summarizes the story but he claimed:
nurses were failing to follow his directions, thus endangering patients’ lives. In one instance, nurses refused to follow the doctor’s order to shock a patient with defibrillator paddles, he said. In another instance, medical staff allegedly ignored his order to transfer a patient to intensive care.
What happened after that? Well, the nurses attacked back and complained about Dr. Fahlen’s behavior.
Subsequently, the physician was fired, and the hospital refused to renew his staff privileges. A peer committee consisting of six physicians reviewed the decision and found no professional incompetence by Dr. Fahlen, according to court records. The panel reversed the hospital’s decision, but the center’s board overturned the reversal.
Wow. Sounds like a mess and it is. Dr. Fahlen did not go after them through a judicial review of the decision to revoke his privileges, instead opting to sue the hospital and assert a whistle-blower retaliation claim. Basically, instead of waiting years to get his day in court the case is expedited. This can be abused, obviously, but the fact that it trumps the “disruptive physician” card used by hospital administrators is intriguing. I love how Jana DuBois, vice president and legal counsel for the California Hospital Association claims, “The ruling weakens the peer review hearing process and compromises hospitals’ ability to make appropriate patient care decisions”. Really? The doctor went through a peer review and won it yet the hospital board overturned it!
My advice to those doctors working for hospitals is to learn more about this case. Hospital administrators are all about the bottom line…money. If their cuts put patients at risk and you complain too much then they will start a paper trail to get you fired. You need to start your own paper trail and document everything. You need to fight back and here is a nice case as precedent.