Citizens Medical Center found to be in contempt, ordered to pay

Dec. 22, 2010 at 6:22 a.m.

Citizens Medical Center must pay $14,539.40 in attorney's fees after being found in contempt for violating a preliminary injunction filed against them in March.

Federal Judge Janis Graham Jack signed the order Dec. 17.

The injunction is part of a federal lawsuit filed in February against Citizens Medical Center by Drs. Ajay Gaalla, Harish Chandna and Dakshesh Parikh, all three of whom are cardiologists.

The lawsuit alleged the hospital violated federal and state law by excluding doctors from continuing their practice at the hospital, resulting in patients being denied their right to see the physician of their choice, according to court documents.

The cardiologists claimed the hospital's actions were based on economics.

The injunction was filed on March 12 and prohibited Citizens from implementing a board resolution that would limit the plaintiffs' exercise of their hospital privileges, namely their ability to provide cardiology care and treatment to their patients at Citizens after Feb. 24.

In support of their claims that Citizens violated the injunction, the plaintiffs provided statements from 16 patients or family members, who claimed they were denied the right to see the plaintiffs after the court entered its preliminary injunction order, according to court documents.

"Patients B.L. and J.C. specifically testify that when they requested that Dr. Gaalla be called, they were told that he was no longer with CMC. This clearly amounts to an implementation of Action 1 of the Board Resolution, effectively excluding plaintiffs from practicing at CMC," Jack said in her order regarding Citizens' violation. "With respect to the other patients who testified, there is considerable doubt as to whether plaintiffs were ever called, despite the patients' requests to do so."

Jack also noted that Citizens did nothing to dispute patients' reports that they came to the hospital and were unable to see the plaintiffs.

Citizens has been ordered to pay the fees by noon Thursday. The lawsuit filed by the cardiologists remains pending.

"We intend to comply with the court's order," said Citizens attorney Kevin D. Cullen.

Monte F. James, an attorney for the plaintiffs, declined to comment.



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