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11/13/87 Frank Rodriguez-Erdman, v. Ravenswood Hospital

November 13, 1987

FRANK RODRIGUEZ-ERDMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

RAVENSWOOD HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

FOLLOWING A HEARING, THE TRIAL COURT GRANTED DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS ON THE BASIS OF SECTION 10.2 OF THE ILLINOIS HOSPITAL LICENSING ACT (ILL. RE

v.

STAT. 1985, CH. 111 1/2, PAR. 151.2), WHICH BARS ACTIONS FOR CIVIL DAMAGES, AND THIS APPEAL FOLLOWED. OPINION



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIFTH DIVISION

516 N.E.2d 731, 163 Ill. App. 3d 464, 114 Ill. Dec. 576 1987.IL.1680

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Myron Gomberg, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE SULLIVAN delivered the opinion of the court. McNAMARA, P.J., and PINCHAM, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SULLIVAN

Plaintiff, Frank Rodriguez-Erdman, M.D., appeals from the dismissal of his complaint against Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center, Ravenswood Health Care Corporation, Thomas E. McGough, David M. Murdoch, Henry J. Kutsch, Steven Czarnecki, M.D., Robert Griffin, M.D., and James Gallai, M.D. (defendants), which he filed following the termination of his privileges on the medical staff of the defendant hospital.

The four-count complaint, filed on September 6, 1985, sought compensatory and punitive damages on theories of retaliatory discharge, breach of an employment contract, intentional interference with prospective business advantage and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff, a physician and board-certified specialist in internal medicine, was appointed to the provisional medical staff of Ravenswood Hospital on October 1, 1982. Provisional staff appointments at Ravenswood are probationary positions which terminate automatically after two years if the physician is not advanced to another category of staff membership. Beginning sometime in 1983, plaintiff expressed criticisms, at first orally and later in written form, to various hospital personnel, including the chairman of the department of medicine, who was also the head of the internal medicine residency program, concerning the quality of care rendered to his patients by certain residents in the residency program. In November 1983, a review committee was established to investigate the charges made by plaintiff and certain other physicians in the department of internal medicine as well as various countercharges made by the residents against plaintiff. In June 1984, the review committee issued a report in which it found that some of plaintiff's criticisms were substantiated by a review of the charts of the patients involved. The report noted, however, that responsibility for the management of cases rested with plaintiff as the attending physician rather than with the residents. Also included in the report were findings by the committee that by voicing his concerns "outside of the acceptable peer review and quality assurance process," rather than through appropriate channels, plaintiff did not abide by the acceptable levels of professional conduct set forth in the medical staff bylaws and the rules and regulations of the hospital as he had agreed to do by accepting privileges on the medical staff; that he had contributed to a "certain degree of low morale among the residents"; that his style of patient management "[was] not conducive to either the advancement of their education or effective assistance in the provision of quality medical care"; that "his long years as an academic . . . contributed to a lack of interaction with patients in a bedside capacity [which] led at least in part to the unacceptable degree of friction . . . between [him] and the residents . . ."; and that "the behavior and attitude exhibited [by him] toward the residents . . . [was] questionable, disruptive and demeaning." The committee recommended, inter alia, that the department classification and advisory committee consider the need for disciplinary action both as to the residents and to plaintiff because of his extraordinary method of communicating criticism about the medical care provided by them. Plaintiff alleged that in retaliation for his criticisms his privileges were terminated, without a hearing, on November 30, 1984, but, following his protest, were temporarily reinstated on December 14, 1984. The matter was then directed to the classification and advisory committee of the department of medicine for reconsideration. According to plaintiff, the committee conducted a meeting on the matter at which he was allowed to have counsel present, but only in the capacity of an observer. On April 30, 1985, the board of directors notified plaintiff that it had concurred in the recommendation of the department of medicine and the medical board not to appoint him to the courtesy staff and that his membership and privileges on the medical staff were therefore terminated, effective that date.

Plaintiff first contends that section 10.2 applies only to remedial actions taken by committees reviewing situations relating to quality control in patient care and to professional incompetence. He argues that because the termination of his staff privileges had no relation to his mental or physical competence or his treatment of patients, but, rather, was in retaliation for his criticisms of the residency program, section 10.2 is inapplicable to his action.

We disagree. Section 10.2 governing the liability of individuals and hospitals became effective on August 16, 1985, and provides:

"No hospital and no individual who is a member, agent, or employee of a hospital, hospital medical staff, hospital administrative staff, or hospital governing board shall be liable for civil damages as a result of the acts, omissions, decisions, or any other conduct of a medical utilization committee, medical review committee, patient care audit committee, medical care evaluation committee, quality review committee, credential committee, peer review committee, or any other committee whose purpose, directly or indirectly, is internal quality control or medical study to reduce morbidity or mortality, or for improving patient care within a hospital, or the improving or benefiting of patient care and treatment, whether within a hospital or not, or for the purpose of professional discipline. Nothing in this Section shall relieve any individual or hospital from liability arising from treatment of a patient." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 111 1/2, par. 151.2.

Contrary to his interpretation, we think it is clear from the use of disjunctive phrases which refer generally to "improving and benefiting patient care and treatment" and "for the purpose of professional discipline" that the immunity provided in section 10.2 is not limited only to decisions concerning impaired or medically incompetent physicians and that plaintiff's action for monetary damages, arising from defendants' decision not to advance him to nonprobationary staff membership for reasons which, he asserts, are unrelated to his ability as a physician, is also barred by the statute.

Plaintiff further contends that section 10.2 constitutes "special legislation" in that it confers a special benefit and exclusive privilege on hospitals because it allows them to revoke a physician's staff privileges with impunity and to thereby "destroy the income and reputations of doctors" without liability. He maintains that no other class of tortfeasors has such a privilege.

"Special legislation" has been defined by our supreme court as that which "'confers a special benefit or exclusive privilege on a person or a group of persons to the exclusion of others similarly situated. [Citation.] It arbitrarily, and without a sound, reasonable basis, discriminates in favor of a select group.'" (Emphasis in original.) Jenkins v. Wu (1984), 102 Ill. 2d 468, 478, 468 N.E.2d 1162, 1167, quoting Illinois Polygraph Society v. Pellicano (1980), 83 Ill. 2d 130, 414 N.E.2d 458.

In Jenkins, the plaintiff in a medical malpractice action challenged, as "special legislation," section 8 -- 2101 of the Code ...


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