CMA files brief in important peer review case

February 16, 2018
Area(s) of Interest: Amicus Briefs Licensing & Regulatory Issues 

The California Medical Association (CMA) has filed an amicus brief in support of two neonatologists who lost their privileges at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. The physicians initially prevailed after a protracted peer reviewing hearing that spanned 38-months, before a peer review panel of seven specialists. The medical staff’s Medical Executive Committee, which originally initiated the proceeding, accepted the peer review panel findings and conclusions and decided not to further pursue discipline. The hospital board, however, unilaterally reversed the peer review decision.

CMA intervened because the hospital claims it has power to independently substitute its own judgment for the panel of physicians who painstakingly reviewed the case. CMA believes that the hospital violated not only its medical staff bylaws but also California laws governing peer review. CMA’s brief explains the carefully balanced statutory relationship between a hospital governing body and its medical staff.

The primary purpose of the peer review process is to protect the health and welfare of the people of California. Another important purpose is to protect competent practitioners from being barred from practice for arbitrary or discriminatory reasons. The California Supreme Court has repeatedly acknowledged and warned against the potential for peer review to be manipulated to exclude physicians for improper ends having nothing to do with quality of care.

Under state and federal laws, the professionals on the medical staff have primary responsibility for all of the functions necessary to ensure patient safety and the competence of practitioners at a hospital. These functions, which include peer review, fall within the medical staff’s right to self-governance and independence. Hospital governing bodies have oversight authority, but cannot unnecessarily interfere with the medical staff’s self-governance functions, including peer review.

CMA has a long history of fighting for legislation and regulations that establish medical staff independence and self-governance. CMA is concerned that the hospital’s actions will create a dangerous precedent if left to stand. The hospital’s arguments in this case, if accepted, would offend a host of carefully crafted laws and legislative policies governing how hospitals are structured and governed, as well as the independence and self-governance rights of medical staffs and physicians.

Click here to read the brief.


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