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12/15/89 Urduja B. Pulido, v. St. Joseph Memorial

December 15, 1989





547 N.E.2d 1383, 191 Ill. App. 3d 694, 138 Ill. Dec. 762 1989.IL.1965

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County; the Hon. Richard E. Richman, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE WELCH delivered the opinion of the court. CHAPMAN and HOWERTON, JJ., concur.


This action was brought by appellant, Dr. Urduja B. Pulido, M.D. (hereinafter doctor), against appellee, St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Murphysboro, Illinois (hereinafter hospital), after hospital summarily suspended doctor's privileges to practice at hospital. In her complaint, filed March 21, 1988, doctor alleges that hospital breached the contract of employment between the parties when it summarily suspended doctor's privileges without complying with the medical staff bylaws of the hospital, which were incorporated into the contract of employment. Doctor's complaint seeks reinstatement of her hospital privileges, money damages for lost income and "any other appropriate relief."

On May 20, 1988, hospital filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, a motion to strike doctor's prayer for monetary relief and doctor's jury demand. In its supporting memorandum of law, hospital argues that it is immune from money damages pursuant to section 10.2 of the Hospital Licensing Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 111 1/2, par. 151.2), that doctor's action lies in equity rather than law and therefore she is not entitled to trial by jury, and that hospital complied with its bylaws in summarily suspending doctor's privileges.

By order dated July 5, 1988, the circuit court of Jackson County granted hospital's motion for summary judgment, finding that it had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties, that no genuine issue as to any material fact exists, that hospital is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and that hospital complied with its bylaws in summarily suspending doctor from its medical staff. Doctor appeals. We affirm.

The facts do not appear to be in dispute. The medical staff bylaws provide for two different methods of suspending a doctor's privileges. The first, a non-summary procedure, provides that whenever the activity or conduct of a doctor is considered to be deficient, corrective action may be requested by certain designated representatives of the hospital or its medical staff. When such a request for corrective action is received, the chief of staff must immediately appoint an ad hoc committee to investigate the matter. The ad hoc committee reports to the executive committee on the results of its investigation. As part of its investigation, the ad hoc committee must allow the doctor under investigation to appear before the committee to refute or explain the charges.

After receiving the report of the ad hoc committee, the executive committee must act on the request for corrective action. Again, before any action is taken, the doctor must be allowed to appear before the executive committee. Any recommendation by the executive committee for suspension of privileges entitles the doctor to the procedural rights provided in article VIII of the bylaws.

With respect to a summary suspension, the bylaws provide that certain representatives of the hospital or its medical staff may, whenever such action must be taken immediately in the best interest of patient care in the hospital, summarily suspend the privileges of a doctor. Such a doctor may request the executive committee to hold a hearing on the matter in accordance with article VIII of the bylaws. The executive committee may recommend modification, continuance or termination of the summary suspension. If an adverse recommendation is made, the doctor is entitled to request appellate review by the governing body in accordance with article VIII.

Article VIII provides that when any doctor receives notice of a recommendation of the executive committee which, if ratified by the board of trustees, will adversely affect his status on the medical staff, that doctor is entitled to a hearing before an ad hoc committee of the medical staff. If, after that hearing, the recommendation of the executive committee is still adverse, the doctor is entitled to an appellate review before the board of trustees.

Article VIII also provides certain other procedural rules. It provides that within seven days after receipt of a request for hearing from a doctor, the executive committee must serve the doctor with a notice of hearing which states in concise language the acts or omissions with which the doctor is charged, a list of specific or representative charts being questioned, and/or any other reason or subject matter that was considered in making the adverse recommendation or decision. Article VIII also provides that where a hearing is held before an ad hoc

The procedures followed in the instant case are as follows. On February 25, 1986, a special meeting of the executive committee of the hospital medical staff was held to discuss specific disciplinary action and the process of addressing problems associated with a suspected impaired physician. The committee agreed to temporarily suspend the suspected doctor's privileges with offer of a treatment plan, and, if the treatment plan was refused, impose a permanent suspension.

At the regular meeting of the executive committee, held March 11, 1986, it was decided that the doctor in question would be contacted by letter and phone to set up a meeting with a consultant expert on substance abuse and physician impairment. The doctor's privileges would be temporarily suspended and a treatment plan offered. If ...

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