RAS interventional radiologists sue Sutter Health

By Kate Madden Yee, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

July 1, 2010 -- The ongoing dispute between a Northern California radiology group and hospital chain Sutter Health has taken another turn. Radiological Associates of Sacramento (RAS) filed suit this week against Sutter, charging it with unlawfully barring RAS interventional radiologists from performing procedures at Sutter facilities.

Six RAS interventional radiologists filed suit on June 30 against Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, claiming that Sutter Health is preventing the plaintiffs from performing interventional radiology procedures on patients at Sutter General Hospital, Sutter Memorial Hospital, and Sutter Roseville Medical Center, according to a RAS statement.

The suit was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court and Placer County Superior Court, and the plaintiffs seek both preliminary and permanent injunctions that would prohibit Sutter Health from interfering with their medical staff privileges to perform interventional procedures on patients at these Sutter facilities.

According to a RAS statement, Sutter claims that an exclusive contract between Sutter Health and Sutter Medical Group that became effective on April 1, 2010, disqualifies interventional radiologists from RAS from practicing at these hospitals because they are not members of Sutter Medical Group.

RAS noted that interventional radiologists perform minimally invasive procedures (such as biopsies and the placement of stents to treat internal bleeding and clear blocked blood vessels) with wires and catheters, eliminating the need for large incisions. Many of these procedures are also performed by other specialists outside of the traditional radiology department, such as cardiologists and vascular surgeons. Therefore, according to the suit, Sutter is preventing RAS interventional radiologists from performing procedures that other specialists perform just because they are radiologists, and this action is unlawful.

"All our physicians still have medical privileges at Sutter, and have a right to practice," said RAS Executive Vice President Fred Gaschen. "These interventional radiology physicians got together, with RAS' support [to file the suit]. They're clear they're being discriminated against."

Sutter Health let the existing hospital contract between itself and RAS expire on March 31, ending a relationship that began in 1923. On April 1, it began using temporary physicians to perform radiology services in combination with 12 newly hired Sutter Medical Group physicians. But RAS is still providing inpatient radiology services to Sutter hospitals under a contract called the Sutter Physician Alliance (SPA), which is in effect through February 2013, according to Gaschen.

"[RAS] provides interpretation and interventional radiology services to those patients under this SPA contract," he said. "The hospital contract expired, but through SPA we have exclusive right to provide these services to Sutter Alliance patients."

Nancy Turner, director of communications at Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, made this comment on the suit: "Our attorneys have not yet received and reviewed this complaint, and so we are not able to offer further details at this time," she said.

There will be a hearing next week on the suit, according to Gaschen; the plaintiffs hope to get a preliminary injunction that will allow them to go back to work within the next few weeks, if not sooner.

By Kate Madden Yee
AuntMinnie.com staff writer
July 1, 2010

Are hospitals playing hardball with radiology groups? April 22, 2010

Radisphere skirts local groups in bid for hospital contracts, April 15, 2010

Imaging Advantage creates uproar with new business model, July 9, 2009

Florida Hospital forms own radiology group, May 22, 2008

Teleradiology: A threat to local practices? April 22, 2008

Copyright © 2010 AuntMinnie.com

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