Children's Hospital of Philadelphia scored a victory against Tenet Healthcare Corp. in a nasty legal fight over the hiring of two doctors from a Tenet hospital in Philadelphia last year.
The U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh last week overturned a U.S. Bankruptcy Court contempt finding against Children's for poaching the doctors from 183-bed St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Tenet bought St. Christopher's and seven other Philadelphia-area hospitals for $345 million at a September 1998 bankruptcy auction for Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation's eastern Pennsylvania assets.
Last year U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Bruce McCullough issued a series of orders prohibiting qualified bidders, who had access to confidential information about the AHERF hospitals, from recruiting AHERF physicians until this May.
Tenet asked McCullough in November to find 304-bed Children's in contempt for contacting the two doctors about jobs while they were still employed at St. Christopher's. He ruled Nov. 5, 1998, that Children's was in contempt and ordered the hospital to pay a fine of $50,000 plus $10,500 for Tenet's legal fees.
Children's Chief Executive Officer Edmond Notebaert said the federal district court ruling overturning the contempt order affirmed that his hospital had exercised the "highest integrity" in offering jobs to Richard Scarfone, M.D., and Joanne Decker, M.D., last year.
Despite the legal imbroglio, the two doctors joined Children's last November, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Tenet shrugged off the setback.
"We haven't seen the opinion, but what we do know is that this is a very narrow opinion that affects these physicians only," said Lance Ignon, a Tenet spokesman. "The (anti-solicitation) order remains in place, and it's stronger than ever. We don't think this will lead to other recruiting efforts by other qualified bidders."