RAS IRs Sue Sutter Over Lost Privileges

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Six interventional radiologists (IRs) associated with Radiological Associates of Sacramento have filed a civil action against Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region for barring them from the operating suites at three Sacramento-area hospitals.

RAS lost its decades-long contract to provide radiology services to five hospitals in the health system on March 31, 2010, when Sutter replaced the 76-radiologist practice with radiologists employed by Sutter Medical Group.

The actions filed charge that in barring the IRs from performing procedures on patients currently done by cardiologists and vascular surgeons just because they are radiologists, Sutter is engaging in unlawful discrimination against the radiologists.

“RAS interventional radiologists have a well-deserved reputation for excellence and are the interventional radiologists of choice among physicians and patients,” Mark Leibenhaut, MD, president of RAS, states in a press release. “Patients at Sutter General Hospital, Sutter Memorial Hospital, and Sutter Roseville Medical Center deserve access to the highest quality of care, and these interventional radiologists are truly the best in the Greater Sacramento area.”

The six radiologists are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions against Sutter Health that would enable the physicians to perform interventional procedures at the three hospitals.

The complaint notes that Sutter Medical Center Sacramento, as a licensed general acute care hospital, has a medical staff consisting primarily of licensed physicians who are independent of the hospital and organized in a medical staff that is subject to by-laws. Because the plaintiffs are members of the medical staff with full privileges, the suit maintains that the IRs have the right to perform interventional procedures.

According to the complaint, there are two ways that privileges can be restricted: for reasons related to quality and if SMCS determines that a department should be closed. The suit maintains that neither of these restrictions apply to the performance of such interventional procedures as angioplasties, biopsies, and placements of stents, currently being provided by cardiologists and vascular surgeons, including one who is a RAS partner.

A Sutter spokesperson would not respond to the allegations, pending receipt of the complaint.

“Our attorneys have not yet received and reviewed the complaints, and so we are not able to offer further details at this time,” says Nancy Turner, spokesperson, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region.