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Old 03-27-2011, 10:48 PM
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Default Disruptive" Surgeon's Suspension Warranted, Court Rules

The Delaware Supreme Court has backed a hospital's decision to suspend a former staff surgeon for his inappropriate behavior but rejected a lower court's ruling that the surgeon must pay the hospital's legal fees.

Richard J. Sternberg, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford, Del., since December 1999, had regularly drawn complaints from physicians, nurses and patients over his antagonistic interactions with them, according to court records.

His "inappropriate behavior" on July 12 and 13, 2006 — namely, interrupting a doctors' meeting while "waving his arms wildly" and "verbally attacking" a staff member due to dissatisfaction with surgical scheduling, then waving a drill at an OR team member when the surgical instruments he'd requested weren't on hand — led the hospital's medical executive committee to warn him that any further disruptive incidents could cost him his staff appointment and medical privileges.

Later that year, Dr. Sternberg ran for public office. Administrators informed him that he could not conduct campaign activities on hospital premises. On Oct. 13, 2006, he invited a newspaper reporter writing about his campaign to observe surgery. While he had obtained consent for the visit from the patient and the hospital, he allegedly had claimed that the visitor was a student.

Dr. Sternberg was placed on precautionary suspension and attended a disciplinary program. He returned to practice at the hospital but resigned in January 2008 and sued the hospital to challenge the suspension, alleging that it interfered with his business relationships and constituted defamation and breach of medical staff bylaws. The hospital countersued to seek compensation for the attorneys' fees it incurred in the action, which totaled nearly $250,000.
Both parties requested that the trial court dismiss the other's lawsuit. While the court denied Dr. Sternberg's request, it granted the hospital's and awarded it the legal fees. Dr. Sternberg appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.
In a decision issued on March 15, a panel of justices supported the validity of the suspension. The federal Health Care Quality Improvement Act enables disciplinary action when "the failure to take such action may result in an imminent danger to the health of any individual," the court noted. Dr. Sternberg disagreed that he posed "imminent danger" — saying he hadn't harmed patients or exhibited flawed clinical judgment — and disputed the seriousness of the reporter's visit.

"The problem with Sternberg's argument is that it does not take into account his long history of disruptive behavior and the circumstances leading up to the suspension," wrote the panel. However, the panel did not find the surgeon's claims to be "so unmeritorious as to be unreasonable," and denied the hospital's request to recoup legal fees.
Dr. Sternberg's attorneys declined comment. An attorney for Nanticoke Memorial Hospital said the facility was pleased that the court had validated its actions, but disappointed that it struck down the awarding of legal fees.

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Old 03-28-2011, 04:46 AM
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Gawd that Surgeon sounds like a real winner N O T!!
"Just for now. The challenge you are facing is just for now. The joy you are celebrating is just for now. The tide never remains in. It recedes to return again. Inhale and give thanks for your blessing. Exhale and release your burden. They are here just for now." ~ author unknown

Live, life, love with all of your heart, it is better than the alternative.

~ Sabby, RN
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