Radiologist collects $4M settlement from hospital

Radiologist Dr. Jesse Cole won a $4 million settlement from St. James Healthcare, a 100-bed Catholic hospital in Butte, Mont. The hospital confirmed the amount, the Billings Gazette reports.

According to Cole's press release, the settlement was over a lawsuit he filed in 2007, claiming breach of contract. He alleged that St. James illegally took away his privilege to work at the hospital. The lawsuit also claimed that the hospital interfered with his business and damaged his reputation.  At one point, the hospital filed a restraining order against Cole, according to his press release.

The settlement marks a "not-perfect, but acceptable resolution" to his long-running battle to keep his medical privileges at St. James, restore his reputation and protect the hospital medical staff's right to be self-governing and free from the undue influence of business interests.

The problems started in 2006. After years of being in good standing at St. James, three radiologists, including Dr. Cole, were given three hours to clear out of their hospital offices. The hospital had entered into an exclusive provider agreement for radiology services and was bringing in radiologists from Boston as hired members of the medical staff. The hospital described the action as a business decision, not a medical decision, according to Cole.

Cole's take runs counter to many physicians, who are fleeing to the relative security of hospital jobs. The problem, he said in his press release, is that "when you start working for the hospital, the hospital can tell the doctors how to practice medicine. Then it becomes corporate medicine. The AMA realized years ago that you can't work for the hospital as well as for the patient--you can't serve two masters."

Neither St. James management nor Cole has admitted fault, according to the Billings Gazette. According to a St. James press release cited by Montana Standard, the mediated agreement the hospital and Cole signed "completely resolved" the personnel dispute.

Cole continues to practice radiology at Big Sky Diagnostic Imaging in Butte and Community Hospital of Anaconda.

To learn more:
- read the radiologist's press release
- here's a copy of the release in the Montana Standard, including language from St. James' release
- read the Billings Gazette article
- here's the Associated Press blurb

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