The Medical Staff Has A Lawyer? No Fair!

Interesting accusation-that the medical staff is not being collaborative when it retains a lawyer to work on its medical staff bylaws. It is especially interesting to hear an accusation that the medical staff is “adversarial” because it has hired legal counsel, when that accusation comes from the hospital’s lawyer--or, three of the hospital’s lawyers on a conference call, as happened to me recently. And no, the medical staff does not have three lawyers. Somehow, the hospital having lawyers is NOT adversarial. The medical staff having a lawyer=adversarial. The scenario would be funny in the abstract, but in reality, the medical staff does not have time for jokes.

Most hospitals are aware of, if not accustomed to, the medical staff’s right to and need for independent counsel. After all, the American Medical Association has long-standing policy on the issue, to wit:

“The AMA strongly recommends that hospital medical staffs retain their own attorneys so that the medical staff will have its own legal advocates for guidance.” AMA Policy Compendium §235.992

Less sophisticated hospital administration see medical staff counsel as nothing short of a threat, even as they themselves are backed by teams of inhouse and outhouse counsel. Threats are for amateurs. Typically, having counsel for both medical staff and hospital means that issues get focused, positions are aired, and lawyers negotiate, or help bylaws committees negotiate, to a mutually acceptable end.

Insanely expensive? Well, paying three or more hospital lawyers will add up….

More expensive than getting taking months, even years to get nothing done? Not at all.

Medical staff bylaws that work for the medical staff and the hospital? Priceless.

© 2010 Elizabeth A. Snelson, Esq.

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