Physician sues Arkansas hospital, CEO over suspension

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A Harrison-based North Arkansas Regional Medical Center physician filed a lawsuit against the hospital and its CEO July 11, claiming the institution retaliated against him for contracting with a different hospital, according to the Harrison Daily Times.

Here are seven things to know:

1. Robert Causey, MD, was subject to a peer review in August 2017 involving a patient case referred to as the "sentinel case" in the lawsuit obtained by the Harrison Daily Times. The review process concluded no corrective action was needed. A second review by the hospital's credentials committee completed in October 2017 similarly concluded Dr. Causey was fit to practice medicine.

2. However, Dr. Causey was notified in December 2017 he was to go before the credentials committee for a second time. His privileges at NARMC were suspended for 14 days, pending the outcome of the review.

3. According to the lawsuit, three of the four cases included in the credentialing committee's second review were previously investigated and dismissed or found not to present patient safety risks. Instead, Dr. Causey claimed in the lawsuit he was stripped of his privileges at the hospital because he chose in 2012 to contract with a nearby hospital instead of NARMC.

4. In January, Dr. Causey requested a hearing with the hospital's medical executive committee involving his suspension, during which the committee recommended his privileges be reinstated under a one-year probationary period. The decision was subject to approval of the hospital board under organizational bylaws.

5. The lawsuit claims the board imposed additional restrictions during the probationary period that were so stringent Dr. Causey was unable to complete them and resigned his privileges at NARMC.

6. The lawsuit also claims that during a civic club presentation following the credential committee's actions on Dr. Causey's case, hospital CEO Vince Leist defamed Dr. Causey by stating the credential committee had decided Dr. Causey was unfit to be a doctor, according to the report.

7. NARMC previously told Becker's Hospital Review in February: "The board of North Arkansas Regional Medical Center and its administration stand firmly behind the integrity of the peer review process. In the case of Dr. Causey, the process has been followed as prescribed by law and the by-laws of NARMC medical staff. Moreover, the peer review process is not yet complete since Dr. Causey has requested a hearing of the credentials committee action and recommendation. For this reason, it is inappropriate for Dr. Causey, or anyone within NARMC, to discuss the peer review process. In fact, NARMC has filed a counterclaim due to the breach of the confidentiality agreement signed by Dr. Causey pertaining to all details connected to the peer review process.

"As stated in the NARMC answer and counterclaim, the peer review process has nothing to do with Dr. Causey's employment status; rather, it focuses on patient care issues. Any argument to the contrary by Dr. Causey or his supporters is a distraction from the true issue in this matter — patient care. It is entirely inappropriate and unlawful for Dr. Causey or his proxies to be making public statements about details of the peer review, particularly during the pendency of the process. The bottom line for NARMC is that the peer review process is aimed at one goal — to do what is in the best interest of providing safe and quality care to our patients."

To access the full report, click here.

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