Interventionalists launch privileging battle with Sacramento’s Sutter Health

July 2, 2010

In a case that goes to the heart of privileging issues, six interventional radiologists associated with Radiological Associates of Sacramento have filed lawsuits against Sutter Health for refusing to allow them to perform procedures at Sutter facilities.

In a case that goes to the heart of privileging issues, six interventional radiologists associated with Radiological Associates of Sacramento have filed lawsuits against Sutter Health for refusing to allow them to perform procedures at Sutter facilities.

The lawsuit asserts that interventional radiologists do not fall within the four categories of specialists that can form exclusive contracts with medical facilities under California law and that a decision by Sutter to exclude the interventional radiologists from using its facilities is discriminatory, said Dr. Mark Leibenhaut, president of Radiological Associates of Sacramento.

Sutter refused to allow the interventional radiologists hospital privileges after contract negotiations broke down between Sutter Health and RAS. Beginning April 1, Sutter formed its own radiology panel, which includes both diagnostic and interventional radiologists, bypassing the RAS radiologists. According to RAS, Sutter’s interventional radiology services are provided by temporary, nonlocal physicians in combination with a few newly hired Sutter Medical Group physicians.

In excluding the RAS interventional radiologists, Sutter Health failed to appreciate the distinction between interventional and diagnostic radiologists, Leibenhaut said. Interventional radiologists share procedure rooms with specialists such as cardiologists and vascular surgeons, and often work outside of the actual radiology department.

For this reason, they should not be considered one of the specialties that fall under the exclusive contract terms of California law, he said. The specialties are diagnostic imaging, emergency medicine, pathology, and anesthesia.

“We’ve had multiple patients request treatment by our interventional radiologists and Sutter has refused,” Leibenhaut said. “Medical staff privileging is under the purview of the medical staff, which is charged with assuring the quality of medical care. Arbitrarily deciding that an interventional radiologist cannot do a procedure because of a contract, but allowing a vascular surgeon or cardiologist to do it, is reprehensible.”

Medical staff and patients should have the right to choose the best physicians, he said.

“We’re standing up for those principles,” he said.

The six interventional radiologists are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting Sutter Health from interfering with their medical staff privileges to perform interventional procedures on patients at Sutter Medical Center Sacramento (Sutter General Hospital and Sutter Memorial Hospital) and Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

The lawsuits were filed June 30 in Sacramento and Placer counties. A Sutter Health spokesperson said she was unable to comment.

“Our attorneys have not yet received and reviewed the complaint so we are not able to offer further details at this time,” said Nancy Turner, spokesperson for Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region.