A South Carolina hospital system is burying the hatchet with local physicians who own interests in a competing hospital.
Spartanburg (S.C.) Regional Medical Center, part of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, has agreed to relax some restrictions it imposed on physician investors at cross-town rival Mary Black Hospital.
For starters, the physician investors will be allowed to sit on the medical staff's decisionmaking committees, but they are banned from serving as officers or department chairs at Spartanburg Regional.
The amended bylaws also permit them to vote as committee members except when electing medical staff officers or department chairs.
Spartanburg Regional also will monitor doctors who invest in competing hospitals like Mary Black for inappropriate patient channeling. If it appears such channeling is taking place, the physician in question will be subject to a hearing and could lose privileges at Spartanburg Regional.
The medical staff at Spartanburg Regional approved the bylaws late last month by a 169-2 vote, with all 50 plaintiff physicians voting for them as part of the settlement. The system's board of trustees, which supported the bylaws in a preliminary vote, will take a final vote Feb. 11.
The 50 physicians sued Spartanburg Regional in December 1996, charging the system illegally restricted their privileges at the public hospital because they invested in 226-bed Mary Black, which is operated and co-owned by Quorum Health Group of Brentwood, Tenn.
The doctors will drop their suit as part of the settlement, which has yet to be submitted to U.S. District Court in Spartanburg.
Physicians began investing in Mary Black after Quorum purchased half the hospital in late 1995 and solicited area physicians to join the venture. Several months later, Spartanburg Regional's trustees prohibited physician investors from admitting patients to its hospital and from serving on medical staff committees, voting or attending committee meetings.
Spartanburg Regional asserted that physicians who invest in other hospitals are likely to ship money-losing patients to its hospital and are therefore not trustworthy, according to court documents (March 3, 1997, p. 74).