Docs sue Kaiser, Sutter over peer review process

Two California physicians on Monday filed suit against Sutter Central Valley Hospitals, which manages Memorial Medical Center, and Kaiser Permanente, challenging the peer review process, reported The Modesto Bee this week. The physicians' attorneys say the hospitals violated federal due process when Sutter terminated Dr. Mark Fahlen's privileges at Memorial Medical Center and when Kaiser did not allow Dr. Hamid Safari to work at its facilities, both without cause.

The article points to a long history of tensions between Fahlen and the nurses at the hospital. Fahlen from 2003 to 2008 complained to Memorial administration that the nurses were insubordinate, committed errors, and disobeyed or changed patient orders. The nurses also complained to administrators that Fahlen was confrontational with the staff. In August 2008, the hospital executive committee recommended Fahlen's privileges be terminated, but the hospital judicial review panel recommended he maintain privileges. Sutter nevertheless terminated his privileges in January.

A year earlier in 2007, the California Medical Board accused Safari of gross negligence in the deaths of two newborns. Although a state judge in 2009 found that Safari was not at fault and complied with care standards, Kaiser did not permit Safari to practice at its facilities, according to the lawsuit.

The physicians argue that the peer review process violated their civil rights, denying them due process.

"California's peer review system for physicians is the only legal system in the United States where a powerful corporation is permitted to target an individual's career and then pick the judge and jury who decide the matter," the physicians' attorney, Stephen Schear, said in a press release.

For more information:
- read The Modesto Bee article
- read the California Healthline article

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