QUESTION: As we are preparing for a medical staff hearing, a member of our Medical Executive Committee asked why our Medical Staff Bylaws state that the Chief Executive Officer appoints the hearing panel and not the Chief of Staff since it’s the Chief of Staff who knows most of the members of the medical staff. We are trying to figure out whether this was a typo or not. Should the Chief of Staff appoint the panel?
ANSWER: No – that’s not a typo! While we do still sometimes see bylaws which assign the Chief of Staff the responsibility to appoint the hearing panel (and worse yet, occasionally it’s the whole Medical Executive Committee that does so), it’s long been our recommendation that the CEO or the CMO fulfill that responsibility – in consultation with the Chief of Staff.
This is because, generally speaking, the Chief of Staff, both in his/her role as a Medical Staff officer as well as a member of the MEC (the body that will most often be making the adverse recommendation that triggers a hearing) tends to be someone who is very intimately involved in the underlying matter that led to the hearing. The Chief of Staff will frequently be the individual who engaged in collegial intervention and other progressive steps with the affected physician, who was involved in the development of any conditions or restrictions and, ultimately, is involved in the adverse recommendation made by the MEC as the chair of that committee. When an involved Chief of Staff is then responsible for appointing the hearing panel and presiding officer, we have seen the argument made that the selections were biased in favor of the MEC and are not neutral – which can lead to objections and legal challenges (both before and after the hearing) to the appointment of the panel.
While we know that these claims are largely groundless, it is very important to manage the appearance of fairness at all steps of the hearing process. The goal is to isolate the volunteer physician leaders – like the Chief of Staff – from these types of claims and allegations as much as possible, which is why the CEO or CMO should appoint the panel after consulting with the Chief of Staff.