Question of the Week

A physician recently resigned employment with a group that’s affiliated with the hospital.  Is there anything we should consider with respect to the physician’s Medical Staff appointment and privileges?

Yes, you’ll want to evaluate whether the physician is still eligible for continued appointment and privileges under the Medical Staff Credentials Policy (or Bylaws).

Malpractice insurance is often provided through employers, so physicians who resign their employment often lose their malpractice coverage.  Most Medical Staff Credentials Policies state that such insurance is a threshold eligibility criterion for appointment and privileges and that physicians will “automatically relinquish” their privileges if they lose their insurance.  (If your Credentials Policy doesn’t say this, it should!)  So, one step is to determine if the physician has acquired new malpractice insurance.

Similarly, Credentials Policies often require physicians to have acceptable coverage arrangements to be eligible for appointment and privileges.  Resignation from a group may mean that those coverage arrangements are no longer in place, so the existence of appropriate coverage should be confirmed with the physician.

Finally, all the other eligibility criteria in the Credentials Policy should be reviewed to determine if the physician’s resignation from employment will cause the physician to be ineligible.  For example, some Credentials Policies require the physician to maintain an office within the hospital’s service area as a condition of being granted appointment and privileges.

On the employment side, a physician’s employment contract may contain an “incident and coterminous” provision saying that the physician’s privileges will automatically be resigned upon termination of the contract.  Similarly, the contract may include a restrictive covenant prohibiting the physician from practicing in a defined geographic area for a certain amount of time after the contract ends.  However, the employer (not the Medical Staff) is responsible for enforcing such contractual provisions.