QUESTION: A current staff member wants to bring in another physician to his practice, in a specialty we really need. However, this candidate was terminated from the medical staff of another hospital and is suing that hospital. His attorney assures him that he will win. We have asked for more information, but that hospital won’t provide any documents in light of the litigation. What can we do?
ANSWER: This application should be held incomplete until you have full information. The candidate has the burden of providing all information needed for an evaluation of qualifications. A hospital must exercise reasonable care in assessing the qualifications of all applicants. The candidate and his counsel can provide you with all documents they have, so at least you can assess the basis for the termination. Dire need is not the only consideration! And, the physician’s attorney’s assessment of the likelihood of prevailing is not something that you can rely on to satisfy your organization’s responsibility. This application should remain incomplete until you have sufficient information to determine whether this applicant should be appointed with conditions, or not appointed. If you don’t get everything you need, keep the application incomplete! At the very least, you can obtain the Complaint, Answer and any motions and briefs pending in court.
To help deal with such situations in the future, consider adding to your threshold eligibility criteria a requirement that applicants have no history of adverse actions at another hospital. Granting an occasional waiver to such a criterion when an applicant can show exceptional circumstances and equivalent qualifications is a better option than spending valuable time and energy assessing the circumstances that led another organization to terminate. A termination is rare and is a major red flag.