This Doctor Got Screwed Over and So Could You

I was recently alerted about a terrible situation that Dr. Diana Blum is going through.  From a recent article it would seem that things went her way:

Diana Blum, a neurologist who now practices in Menlo Park, sued the medical group, PAMF and Sutter Health in 2015 over a contractual dispute that led to her leaving in 2013.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Drew Takaichi took four of Blum’s six claims of action away from the jury, including wrongful construction termination, negligent interference, retaliation for physicians who advocate for medically appropriate healthcare and unfair competition.

The jury didn’t see the claims against Sutter Health or Palo Alto Medical Foundation, where the medical group operates.

Last month, the jury ruled to award Blum $28,415 in damages for one of the three remaining claims against the medical group.

Blum originally sought $10 million in her 2015 complaint, an amount that was updated to between $444,000 and $957,000 by the time of trial.

It sure seemed that, though she didn’t win the amount she wanted, she still had the jury on her side.  Nope. The attorneys for her former group went after her for $1.4 million in legal fees…..and the judge basically gave it all to them!

Dr. Blum allowed me to pass along her side of the story.  Here you go:

Dear Fellow physicians,

Many of you have asked for a summary of my case so I will try to give as much detail as I can below but unfortunately am somewhat limited given I am planning on appealing and this is still an active matter.

I am a neurologist who was employed by the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group. I began in 2009 and became a shareholder in 2012. I began going to shareholder meetings and felt that the discussions were focused on implementing policies that put profits over patient care. I naively spoke up against some of these policies voicing my concerns how they would negatively impact patient care. Shortly thereafter, I was labeled a “non-team player” and placed on a PIP (performance improvement plan). There were never any incidence reported to justify a Pip and I actually had the highest patient satisfaction scores of all my Neurology colleagues. The basis for the PIP was “making inappropriate comments” and being a “non-team player”. I was ultimately given 3 options: 1. stay and be fired. 2. resign and go in peace with letters of recommendation so I can find another job or 3. sue or go to the media and I will never work in the bay area again.

I felt no choice but to have to resign so I did and started my own practice at the end of 2013. In the course of the year that followed several things happened. Many of my former chronically ill patients were not given my new contact information despite requesting it because they wanted to continue seeing me. I also had several doctors reach out to me reporting that they were experiencing similar pressures and the impact that this had on their ability to deliver appropriate patient care. Most disturbing for me, was consulting on patients that I felt were unnecessarily harmed by the same policies that drove me out in the first place.

All of this culminated in me feeling like something has to be done so I filed a lawsuit in early 2015 for wrongful termination arguing that the medical group violated statute 2056 where doctors can’t be retaliated against for advocating for patient care. The jury trial began on January 8th 2018 but unfortunately the judge limited what I could discuss at trial (claiming that these things would “bias” the jury). I couldn’t discuss patient harm or anything pertaining to the other doctors with similar stories, among other things that I can’t get into as I do plan to appeal.

The judge wouldn’t allow our expert witness to testify and ultimately only allowed the jury to deliberate on causes of action which didn’t have much monetary value associated with them. I was therefore awarded only ~28K on a 12:0 verdict for intentional interference with my current practice. I was planning on appealing the rest of the causes of action that were in my opinion inappropriately dismissed, however, before I could even focus my attention on the appeal, I found out that the medical group was going after me for their legal fees. I have now spent ~$400K trying to fight this liability (on top of my costs leading to trial) and this past Friday found out that the judge ruled against me for ~$1.27 million dollars (which I now owe to the medical group).

The doctors who originally wanted to speak up and tell their own stories are understandably fearful now. This is clearly sending a message to all other physicians who may be thinking about speaking up against the negative impact the business of medicine is having on patient outcomes.

I can’t thank you enough for all your encouragement and support to date. The gloves have to come off now and we as physicians need to unite in support of the sanctity of our profession and the well-being of our patients. What happened to me during my former employment is happening to doctors all across this country and resulting in our “physician burnout” epidemic. The bottom line is when doctors have to choose between the Hippocratic oath and their job, the patients are the ones to suffer: http://med.stanford.edu/…/medical-errors-may-stem-more-from…

Many thanks for getting the word out and your generous donations which are helping me continue this fight. Please pass along my fundraising site to anyone you know that believes in the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and wishes to contribute to the cause. https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/83tmyJ7bGj

Eternally grateful! Diana Blum

Please share this on every platform you can.  We are alone out there and our only choice is to stick together.

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