Dr. Robert Marcus Causey on Wednesday filed suit against North Arkansas Regional Medical Center and hospital CEO Vince Leist alleging improper actions regarding suspension of his hospital privileges and defamation based on a statement made by Leist at a civic club.
Causey’s hospital privileges were suspended in December 2017, but he alleges the process actually was retaliation for him contracting with Washington Regional Medical Center instead of NARMC in 2012.
According to the lawsuit, Causey was subjected to a peer review in August 2017 involving a case the lawsuit refers to as “the ‘sentinel case,’” but the review process concluded that no corrective action was needed. But the case also had to go before the credentials committee to review patient care.
“That peer review hearing was attended by the defendant, Vincent Leist, despite assurances to [Causey] that the administration of the hospital would not be involved in the peer review process of this case,” the lawsuit said.
The credentials committee completed its review and determined Causey was fit to practice medicine as he had, but asked to be notified of any occurrence involving his practice, the suit said. That review was complete in October 2017 and he continued practicing at the hospital.
However, Causey was notified in early December 2017 that the credentials had included three previous cases with its investigation in addition to the sentinel case, and that he again had to meet with the committee. His privileges were suspended for 14 days pending the outcome of that hearing, the suit said.
By that time, the hospital had developed a “leveling system” that applied to review of cases involving doctors with admitting privileges. That system indicated the seriousness of the peer review decisions.
The suit claims the three additional cases had been previously addressed by the peer review committee, one of which was rejected as not requiring further investigation. The other two were found not to present a risk of adverse patient safety.
“The credentials committee, in bad faith and for the purpose of retaliating against [Causey] for entering his employment contract with Washington Regional Medical Center, terminated his privileges” at the hospital.
In January, Causey requested a hearing involving the suspension. After the hearing, conducted by three doctors on the hospital Medical Executive Committee, the committee recommended his privileges be reinstated under a one-year probationary period during which his cases would be reviewed.
The recommendation of the hearing committee was provided to the NARMC Board of directors. Under hospital bylaws, the board could accept or reject the recommendation or even modify the action to be less or more stringent than the recommendation, the suit said.
The suit claims the board then imposed further restrictions on the probationary period, including:
• A three-doctor panel to supervise compliance with restrictions.
• “Concurrent monitoring” by a board certified OB/GYN for six months or until Causey had competed 60 baby deliveries, 10 of which had to be C-sections and five tubal ligations. Causey would also bear the expense of the OB/GYN. After monitoring was complete, a UAMS board certified OB/GYN would be employed to review certain patient charts.
• Associating a perinatologist for the admission of all high-risk pregnancy admission for 12 months. The closest such specialist was in Springdale.
• Attending courses focused on interpersonal skills, even though he had taken such courses in the past.
• Seeking treatment from a licensed mental health care professional for “what was described as an adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood” for 18 months, the suit said.
All those requirements were so stringent that Causey would be unable to complete them, so he resigned his privileges at NARMC.
In addition, the board’s action led to Causey being dropped from coverage by some insurance providers, an action well known to the board. The suit alleges the defendant’s actions were “intentional and improper.”
Regarding the defamation claim, Causey said that Leist attended a civic club and addressed the issue after the vast amount of publicity generated after the credential committee’s actions.
During a presentation, Leist was asked, “What you’re saying is the hospital doctors designate that this doctor is not fit to be a doctor? Is that right?” Leist allegedly responded, “That’s what the credentials committee has decided,” the suit said.
Leist’s statement “is false and concerned [Causey] as all parties present, and all parties in the community for that matter,” knew Leist was referring to Causey.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages to be decided by a jury at trial.