QUESTION: In the Tayefeh v. Kern Medical Center case summarized in this week’s Health Law Express, there was confusion about whether the physician was entitled to a Medical Staff hearing because of his failure to disclose certain unfavorable information and the resulting “termination” of his clinical privileges. Is there any way that we can make it clear in our Medical Staff Bylaws or Credentials Policy that such an event does not give rise to a hearing?
ANSWER: Yes. While it is always important to consult requirements under state law, which may address situations when a hearing is required (we saw the California Business and Professions Code come into play in the Tayefeh case), your Medical Staff Bylaws or Credentials Policy (“Bylaws”) should clearly define the consequences for certain events and the circumstances that give rise to a hearing. In Tayefeh, the physician failed to disclose an “accusation” filed against him by the Medical Board of California. The Bylaws should spell out the results of failing to disclose information requested on the application and instruct that any misstatement in, or omission from, the application is grounds to stop processing the application. A decision not to process an application for these reasons does not entitle the applicant to a hearing or appeal.
With that in mind, it also makes sense to review your application forms to confirm that the application questions are seeking information that you need to make an informed decision about someone’s qualifications. For example, the hospital’s application in the Tayefeh case not only sought information on past actions by licensing boards, it also asked for information on pending actions. Confirm that the questions on the application form are consistent with provisions in the Bylaws with respect to the threshold eligibility criteria that someone must satisfy for eligibility for appointment. If one of your threshold eligibility criterion requires an applicant to “have a current, unrestricted license to practice that has never been subject to any restrictions, conditions, or probationary terms and have never had a license to practice in any jurisdiction denied, revoked, restricted or suspended by a state licensing agency,” then there should be a corresponding question on the application seeking this information.
Finally, your Bylaws should place an obligation on members to notify the Medical Staff Office of any change in information provided as a part of the application and state that a failure to do so may result in administrative relinquishment of appointment and clinical privileges. This permits the Medical Staff and Hospital to evaluate any changes in an individual’s qualifications, weigh those changes against eligibility criteria, and assess the appropriateness of any applicable consequences under the Bylaws. Unless state law requires it, an administrative relinquishment of appointment and clinical privileges because of failure to continuously satisfy threshold eligibility criteria does not give rise to a Medical Staff hearing.