April 03, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Medical Staff Self Governance Hospitals and Health Facilities
Court proceedings in the lawsuit against Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) for violating the self-governance rights of its medical staff start today, Monday, April 3, in Tulare County Superior Court.
In 2016, TRMC terminated its medical staff and created new medical staff bylaws in secret without input from physicians at the hospital. TRMC dictated leadership and standards of medical care, seized control of the disciplinary process without legal or factual justifications, and prohibited the terminated medical staff from voting on medical staff matters or holding leadership positions.
The California Medical Association (CMA) has a long history of fighting for legislation and regulations that establish the right of self-governance for medical staffs.
“We’re dedicated to protecting the ability of doctors, individually and through their medical staffs, to care for patients,” said CMA President Ruth E. Haskins, M.D. “Not only are doctors professionally educated and trained to provide proper medical care, they have the ethical and legal duties to put the wellbeing of patients first.”
Under state law, hospital administrators are not allowed to influence how a medical staff is run, including control over its leaders or any of its particular functions.
Hospitals are strictly prohibited from controlling or improperly influencing the way doctors treat patients, and they are required by law to have an independent medical staff, which has primary responsibility to oversee medical care and patient safety. Medical staff responsibilities include:
- Determining which doctors can practice at the hospital based on their objective qualifications and training
- Disciplining or terminating problematic doctors
- Establishing standards and protocols for patient care
“The Tulare Regional Medical Center isn’t meeting requirements for medical staff independence and self-governance – putting patient care and the viability of the entire hospital in jeopardy. This convenient power grab is based on hospital administrators’ failed attempt to resolve differences with the original medical staff and lacks legal or factual justification,” said Dr. Haskins.
CMA believes medical decision makers should be insulated from influence by hospital administrative staff, whose primary concern is the administrative needs of the hospital and its profitability. In March 2016, CMA filed an amicus brief in support of the Tulare medical staff in this case.