New Mexico Supreme Court Holds that Accusation Is Proof, Doctor Writes

TUCSON, Ariz., March 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In establishing their dominance over independent physicians, corporations that own hospitals frequently use a technique called "sham peer review." This is made to look like a patient-protection process called peer review, but the purpose is not to improve quality but rather to rid the hospital of an inconvenient physician, states the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

Seven years after his hospital privileges were summarily suspended—that is, without a chance to defend himself—William K. Summers, M.D., of Albuquerque finally got a decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court in Summers v. Ardent Health Services and Lovelace Health System.

Summers, who practices both internal medicine and psychiatry, writes that the apparent trigger for the sham peer review was conflict with the corporation's caseworkers. They routinely referred his patients to the corporation's preferred physicians upon discharge from the hospital. His article appears in the spring 2012 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, http://www.jpands.org/vol17no1/summers.pdf.

At the hospital's "fair hearing," a full year later, all four of the physicians sitting as judges were financially dependent on the HMO. Six medical cases were presented. "Each accusation was shown to be inaccurate, incomplete, and/or based on misrepresented information," he writes.

After Summers filed suit in December 2006, the corporation filed a motion for summary judgment. Its motion was denied in the trial court and the appellate court, and it appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The long-delayed ruling http://www.nmcompcomm.us/nmcases/NMSC/2011/11sc-017.pdf signals that it is "open season" on New Mexico physicians, Summers writes. Citing the so-called Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA), the Court decision changes the rules concerning summary judgment to "permit mere accusations by a hospital to be deemed facts regardless of their origin or truthfulness." It thus "eliminates the process of discovery and depositions in which hidden facts become known."

In its Kafkaesque opinion, the Court ruled that "the physician must show that the fact-finding process is unreasonable in its totality," but without discovery this is impossible.

Courts' misinterpretation of HCQIA immunity allows sham peer review to proliferate, potentially destroying the best and brightest physicians. "Where possible, the wise physician should withdraw from hospital practice," Summers advises.

The Journal www.jpands.org has previously published many articles describing tactics used by the hospital bar against physicians. It is the official publication of AAPS, a national organization representing physicians in all specialties (www.aapsonline.org), which was founded in 1943 to defend the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.

 

SOURCE Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)



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