The West Virginia Health Care Authority hasn't decided how to respond to a request by plaintiffs' lawyers for a three-month delay in the sale of four hospitals by HCA, Nashville. The authority's chairwoman, Sonia Chambers, said the request was unprecedented. The lawyers have brought 71 medical malpractice lawsuits against orthopedic surgeon John King and against HCA's Putnam General Hospital, Hurricane, W.Va., for recruiting King, the Associated Press reported. In their letter to the authority, the plaintiffs' lawyers said that they wanted the extra time to complete more discovery regarding the sale, Chambers said. She said the authority's lawyers were reviewing the request.
HCA spokesman Jeff Prescott said the sale of the four hospitals to LifePoint Hospitals, Brentwood, Tenn., has nothing to do with the lawsuits, in which HCA denies responsibility. As part of the sales agreement, HCA indemnified LifePoint for damages that may be assessed against Putnam General, Prescott said. What's more, the hospital suspended King's privileges and was the first hospital at which he practiced to report him to the National Practioner Data Bank, Prescott said. Hearings on the sale are scheduled for Nov. 21 and 22. At deadline, a lawyer involved in the King lawsuits could not be reached. -- by Vince Galloro