News of the Day ... In Perspective1/04/2007
Community “peer reviews” hospital; COO resigns
In an unprecedented action, citizens of Beeville, TX, decided to investigate why their Christus Spohn System hospital has retained only three of eight physicians it has recruited in recent years. Two hometown surgeons, one with more than 20 years of service at the hospital, recently resigned privileges, leaving the hospital with no general surgical coverage.
One surgeon, Dr. Rodney Schorlemmer, openly said he left because he feared being labeled a “disruptive physician” for raising quality-of-care issues. He said that his colleagues feared to speak out because a sham peer review and resulting National Practitioner Data Bank entry could ruin their careers.
At a town hall meeting that featured AAPS Director Lawrence Huntoon, who chairs the AAPS Sham Peer Review Committee, advisory board member Anna Marie Silvas said, “Sham peer review is needed in circumstances,” according to an article in the Bee-Picayune. “I can see where it can be abused but it also has a lot of benefits.”
Another attendee at the meeting said Silvas meant to say “peer review.” But reporter Scott Reese Willey wrote, “It is unclear whether Silvas simply misspoke and meant to say peer reviews are useful, or whether she was unclear of the concept.”
The corporation that may have helped to drive away two long-established surgeons got taxpayers to pay half the $275,000 cost of finding a replacement. The tax-exempt corporation’s form 990 showed that at least nine hospital executives, one in this rural community, were making more than $200,000 per year, and one was being paid $600,000.
Under scrutiny for the administration’s treatment of physicians, David Wagner, vice president and chief operating officer at Christus Spohn-Beeville, resigned. He will not, Dr. Huntoon notes, get reported to a national data bank nor have his career ruined.
The incident shows the importance of bringing public scrutiny to bear on a situation that affects the public but that hospitals try to keep hidden, Dr. Huntoon states.
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