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Cardiologists win appeal in suit against Citizens Medical Center

By JR Ortega
Jan. 13, 2012 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.

Dakshesh Parikh

Three cardiologists suing Citizens Medical Center won their appeal before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.

The court ruled in favor of Drs. Ajay Gaalla, Harish Chandna and Dakshesh Parikh in regards to equal protection claims, and the court also kept all the board members named on the lawsuit, said Monte James, the lead attorney for the cardiologists.

"They are very happy about the Fifth Circuit ruling in their favor," James said of the doctors.

This time, the court had most of the evidence, he added.

In February 2010, Citizens filed a resolution that would allow only cardiologists with contracts at the hospital to exercise clinical privileges in the cardiology department or part of the hospital's heart program.

The cardiologists fought back days later with a lawsuit stating they were being barred from practicing not based on their merit and expertise, but because of economical and racial reasons.

This not only affected them, but their patients who were denied the right to see the physician of their choice, according to the court documents.

Citizens claimed the resolution was based on their disruptive behavior and issues with Dr. Yusuke Yahagi, a cardiovascular surgeon at the hospital.

Later, court documents also state that the three cardiologists were derogatorily referred to as "the Indians."

The cardiologists also cited a comment from David Brown, the hospital chief executive officer, as saying the hospital was working on a plan for "getting the Indians off the reservation."

The cardiologists said the resolution Citizens placed violated their equal protection rights - and now the Fifth Circuit has voted in their favor.

For now, the case is in stay, or on hold, James said. But soon, he expects the federal court will take it off hold, and it will proceed to trial.

Brown would not comment until he could become familiar with the details, a hospital spokesperson said. As of Friday night, Brown had not commented on the ruling.

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