Citizens, doctors end lawsuit, agree to $8 million settlement

Keldy  Ortiz

Dec. 19, 2012 at 6:19 a.m.
Updated Dec. 20, 2012 at 6:20 a.m.

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a three-year lawsuit between Citizens Medical Center and three cardiologists after both sides reached a negotiated settlement.

The specific terms of the settlement include the hospital and the hospital's insurance company paying $8 million to the cardiologists. In addition, the three doctors will resign their privileges to practice medicine at the hospital, 2701 Hospital Drive, effective immediately.

"The lawsuit is over," said Kevin Cullen, the county-owned hospital's attorney. "The hospital is going to continue providing the best medical care to their patients."

On Monday, the lawyer for the three cardiologists filed a request to dismiss the case in federal court - a motion that was unopposed by Citizens Medical Center.

U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa signed the order to dismiss the lawsuit.

Donald Day, chairman of Citizens Medical Center's board of directors, said Wednesday that he signed the settlement agreement and described it as a new chapter for the hospital.

"I'm very happy for the hospital to move forward and put this episode behind us," Day said.

The plaintiffs in the case - Drs. Dakshesh Kumar Parikh, Harish Chandna and Ajay Gaalla - released a statement Wednesday afternoon acknowledging the case was over.

"As it stands, CMC has asked us to resign and relinquish our privileges to practice at the hospital immediately," the statement said. "However, whenever the Board of Managers of Citizens Medical Center is willing to grant us our privileges, we will be ready and available to serve the patients and this community at our county hospital."

The end of the three-year lawsuit comes about 2 1/2 weeks shy of the Jan. 7 trial date. The doctors sued in March 2010 after Citizens revoked their privileges to work at the hospital. The cardiologists claimed racketeering, conspiracy and discrimination. Citizens officials contended in court filings that they acted in the best business interests of the hospital.

County Judge Don Pozzi, while not involved in the settlement negotiations, said he was relieved a settlement was reached.

"I'm glad it's over," Pozzi said. "Now we can get on with business as usual at the hospital."

He continued: "Obviously, this was a (hospital) board decision. I back the action of the board. They put in a lot of time and effort into this. Presumably, both sides got what they wanted."



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