Citizens nears settlement with cardiologists

Keldy  Ortiz

Dec. 8, 2012 at 6:08 a.m.
Updated Dec. 9, 2012 at 6:09 a.m.

Citizens Medical Center is negotiating a settlement to end a lawsuit involving the hospital and three cardiologists who claim they were victims of racial discrimination.

The hospital's governing board Friday issued a public notice that its members would have a closed session "to consult with counsel regarding the pending litigation" against the hospital.

The public notice also states that the board would meet in a public forum after the private session "to consider approval of (the) settlement proposal."

The meeting will take place at 7:30 a.m. Monday at Citizens Medical Center, which is owned by Victoria County.

The settlement proposal comes about four weeks before a Jan. 7 trial date in the case, when three cardiologists - Drs. Ajay Gaalla, Harish Chandna and Dakshesh Parikh - will go before a federal judge to talk about racial comments that were made at the hospital.

Neither a lawyer for the hospital nor the cardiologists returned phone calls Saturday seeking comment about Monday's meeting.

David Brown, CEO for Citizens Medical Center, would not elaborate about the proposal but said, "The board is in a position in which I think they should accept. They will probably vote to accept it. Until that's done, I shouldn't talk about it."

Victoria County Judge Donald Pozzi said, "Until all is said and done, I have no comment on pending litigation."

Talks between Citizens Medical Center and cardiologists are just the latest chapter in an ongoing three-year lawsuit.

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

Cardiologists fought back days later with a lawsuit stating they were being barred from practicing based not on their merit and expertise but because of economic and racial factors.

According to court documents, Citizens' decision not only affected doctors, but also their patients, who were denied the right to see the physician of their choice.

Citizens Medical Center's board Chairman Donald Day, along with other board members, could not be reached for comment Saturday. Citizens has maintained through court filings that the hospital acted only for business reasons and did not engage in any discriminatory practices.



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