A group of California cardiologists filed a lawsuit against Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, alleging that they were harassed out of their jobs after they complained about a pattern of compromised patient safety at the hospital.
The plaintiffs are led by echocardiographer Dr. Geeta Singh and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Kai Ihnken, with 2 additional cardiologists named alongside them in the lawsuit.
Singh and Ihnken say they filed complaints for years regarding patient safety issues that were never addressed by hospital officials, and were discriminated against when they took their concerns to county executives.
Singh says she was shifted to a satellite outpatient clinic when she filed a lawsuit against hospital leadership following years of unchecked complaints. She also says she was a frequent victim of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment at the hands of former chief medical officer Dr. Hollister Brewster.
Now working at the satellite office, Singh says she is the victim of "sham peer review," by which doctors who disrupt the status quo may be accused of poor patient care as a sort of punishment or means to facilitate termination.
"It seems, at least at SCVMC, that when they want to get rid of an employee all they have to do is a sham peer HIPAA review," Singh told TheHeart.org in an exclusive interview. "It happens in a lot of places, but I don’t think physicians are aware of it."
"What I find so wrong is it’s actually being done by other physicians," Ihnken told the website. "You can’t even say, ‘Oh, they are administrators, they don’t know better.’ They’ve all sworn the Hippocratic oath to do what’s in the best interests of the patient for medicine. It’s just outrageous."
Ihnken’s contract with the hospital was terminated 7 months before it was due to expire, in June 2011, and deputy counsel for the County of San Jose Gregory Sebastinelli told TheHeart.org that the decision was made based on complaints about Ihnken’s demeanor and attitude on the job.
The lawsuit is set to go to mediation at the end of February; it will likely move to a jury trial if not settled.
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