April 04, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Licensing & Regulatory Issues
The California Medical Association’s (CMA) legal counsel presented oral arguments before the California Supreme Court in the case of El-Attar v. Hollywood Presbyterian Med. Ctr. today in Los Angeles.
In this case, the hospital board ignored and overrode the medical staff executive committee's (MEC) recommendation to reappoint a physician on staff. When the physician invoked his right to a joint review committee hearing to challenge the hospital’s termination of his privileges, the hospital unilaterally appointed the hearing officer and members of the review committee. Under the medical staff bylaws, however, only the MEC has authority to determine the joint review process, including the appointment of the hearing officer and joint review committee members.
CMA, represented by CMA legal counsel and director of litigation Long Do, argued that that the medical staff bylaws in this case must be strictly enforced in order to uphold the systemic safeguards of a fair and just peer review system.
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.