QUESTION: In regard to leaves of absence, our Medical Staff Credentials Policy says that practitioners’ clinical privileges will expire at the end of their natural term. Is that right? Can’t a practitioner be reappointed during the LOA? I couldn’t find anything specifically addressing that anywhere, but we have a loyal and long-standing member of the Medical Staff who is out on leave and who is up for reappointment. Are we supposed to kick him off of the staff and make him apply as an initial applicant after his medical leave is resolved?
ANSWER: It is our advice that hospitals not reappoint members of the Medical Staff, or renew clinical privileges for a practitioner, while they are out on leave. The reason is that when they are on leave, there is something about their situation that prevents them from practicing or fulfilling the duties of Medical Staff appointment and, in turn, hospital and Medical Staff leaders would need to learn about that situation and resolve any concerns (for example, the health status of the individual) prior to making any decision about their appointment and privileges. For this reason, it makes sense not to process any reappointments while the individual is away.
We recommend that your Bylaws or Credentials Policy language regarding leaves of absence state that if membership or privileges expire while an individual is on leave, the individual may later submit an application for “renewal,” rather than being required to apply as an initial applicant at the time of reinstatement:
If a practitioner’s current membership and/or clinical privileges are due to expire during the leave, they will expire at the end of their natural term. The practitioner will be required to submit an application for reappointment and/or renewal of clinical privileges as part of the reinstatement process.
Note that individuals whose membership and/or privileges expire while on leave are uniquely able to apply for renewal, rather than apply as initial applicants, despite having a lapse in appointment/privileges. The distinction can, in some situations, be important (for example, for practitioners who have been grandfathered from meeting current board certification requirements, instead having to satisfy only those requirements in place at the time of their initial appointment).
As part of the renewal application (which would be processed at the time the practitioner applies for reinstatement), the individual should be asked to explain any outstanding concerns that arose in conjunction with the leave (e.g., health status, lapse of currency).