Physicians on staff at Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles have filed suit to block the hospital from negotiating a sale to Tenet Healthcare Corp.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 14 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses the hospital board of secretly negotiating with Tenet, thereby breaching the fiduciary responsibilities of a Catholic, not-for-profit institution.
The plaintiffs include Moneim Fadali, M.D., president of the hospital's medical staff; Santos Uy, M.D., president-elect; and the 700-physician staff.
Named as defendants are the hospital; 13 of 15 board members (excluding Fadali and Uy); J.J. Brandlin, a nondirector who is chairman of the board's management committee; and St. Joseph's Health Support Alliance, a hospital subsidiary.
Hospital officials said the lawsuit is "totally without merit" and that the hospital board and management "have adhered to the law and to their fiduciary and ethical responsibilities." Executives of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Tenet, a for-profit chain, declined comment on the suit.
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the 409-bed hospital to disclose the full extent of its negotiations with Tenet. The plaintiffs also want most of the board members ousted and the hospital placed in the control of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
In addition, the physicians want the court to order that any transaction with Tenet be approved by the head of the archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahony.
While Mahony recently said he supports the idea of the hospital affiliating with another Catholic or not-for-profit provider, he said he would not condone a sale to a for-profit company.
At a press conference last week, Fadali expressed concern that Tenet's for-profit mission may conflict with providing appropriate levels of indigent care to the community surrounding the hospital.
"Tenet may provide excellent care, but we have received no assurances," he said. "Tenet's first obligation is to its shareholders."
Tenet spokesman Harry Anderson said the company resented any implications that it would not care for poor patients. "In any transaction we would preserve the previous level of charity care," he said. He would not comment on the suit.
Queen of Angels and Tenet entered a nonbinding letter of intent to negotiate a deal last August. Both parties have declined comment on the progress of negotiations.
Hospital officials have stressed that competitive pressures and the need for additional capital to make repairs to its aging campus is putting pressure on it to affiliate.