Judge Tosses Cardiology Practice's Lawsuit Against SSM Health

Megan Brooks

January 10, 2022

A Missouri judge has dismissed a $50 million lawsuit filed by cardiologists with St. Louis Health and Vascular (SLHV) against SSM Health, an eight-hospital system serving the St. Louis area.

The SLHV cardiologists filed the lawsuit in April after SSM Health notified the practice that they were entering into an exclusive arrangement with another cardiology provider, an arrangement that meant clinical privileges for SLHV cardiologists would be revoked at all SSM Health hospitals. 

"The current situation is economically untenable for us. This is an existential threat to the practice," said Harvey Serota, MD, founder and medical director of SLHV, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News

The lawsuit asked the Court to enter a preliminary (and permanent) injunction that required SSM Health to grant or reinstate their adult cardiology clinical privileges.

But in her decision, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Nellie Ribaudo ruled that SSM Health "substantially complied with its bylaws" and declined to issue a preliminary injunction.

According to the judgement, the court determined that SSM Health's decision to terminate the clinical privileges of the SLHV plaintiffs — along with the clinical privileges of about 16 other cardiologists who were not affiliated with plaintiff SLHV — was "authorized" by the health system's bylaws.

Those bylaws "expressly authorize" the automatic termination or discontinuation of clinical privileges because of an exclusive provider arrangement and expressly provides that any affected staff physicians are not entitled to a hearing on staffing decisions, the judgement reads.

Ribaudo therefore "ordered, adjudged and decreed" that the lawsuit be dismissed and that the costs be taxed against the plaintiffs.

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