It is all well and good that the Joint Commission supports hospitals in their endeavor to have a safe workplace and define what constitutes appropriate conduct by physicians (Joint Commission standard targets bad doc behavior, June 9 ). Hopefully, the standard will be standardized across the country and will be backed by government institutions at all levels.
I work at a hospital in New York where a physician was disciplined by termination of his privileges for a long and well-documented history of intimidating behavior as well as concerns about the quality of his care. The medical centers bylaws, rules and regulations were carefully followed. Nearly two dozen members of the medical staff heard testimony at his hearing and voted to terminate his privileges.
The physician responded by calling the local television station and newspapers alleging inappropriate care in the hospital by certain allied health professionals and providing the media with details of patients cases that he thought should be shared with the public. Members of the physician leadership and nurses who had made complaints about this physician were sued for defamation of character by the physician. The hospital indemnified them, but could not repair the damage done to their morale.
The hospital was vilified in the public eye while trying to protect the confidentiality of the proceedings concerning this disruptive physician. The medical staff was polarized because those who did not hear the evidence believed the physician was being treated unfairly.
The hospital and many of its physicians suffered financially and emotionally. Cases were canceled in the operating room. It has been six months and things seem to be normalizing. What began as a physician discipline proceeding turned into a gut-wrenching, daily assault on the good people of this institution that will have a chilling effect on the culture of patient safety.
Howard Sussman, M.D.Rockville Centre, N.Y.