TMA Backs Physician in Breach-of-Contract Lawsuit

TMA is supporting a physician who wants the Texas Supreme Court to take another look at a breach-of-contract lawsuit in which he claims he was fired without due process.

TMA intervened in support of physicians' right to make clinical decisions "in the best interest of the patient" without "fear of termination."

TMA filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Community Health Systems Professional Services Corporation, et al. v. Hansen, telling the Supreme Court it's important that nonprofit health corporations provide due process when a physician "faces termination based on the physician's medical performance or professional conduct."

According to court filings, Henry A. Hansen II, MD, was terminated three years into a five-year contract with Regional Employee Assistance Program (REAP), a nonprofit health corporation in College Station that employs physicians who practice at for-profit hospitals.

Dr. Hansen’s contract, which ran through April 2012, could be terminated for cause during the first three years or without cause beginning in the fourth year if annual practice losses for years three, four, or five exceeded a certain amount. If the contract was terminated without cause for practice losses, he wasn't entitled to due process rights — but if he was fired for cause, he was entitled to due process.

Dr. Hansen claims that the decision to terminate him was in the works long before the REAP board did so, at the request of hospital Chief Executive Officer Thomas W. Jackson, in February 2010. Mr. Jackson asked the board to do so because of "clinic losses" in 2008 and 2009 and because of "several behavioral problems" he said Dr. Hansen was exhibiting, Dr. Hansen's court filings claim. The REAP board's termination was purportedly without cause.

But Dr. Hansen's filings claim the board wasn't given any information on practice losses for the contract's third year to make its decision, so it was "impossible" for the board to terminate him without cause. The filings say Dr. Hansen didn't learn of the termination until the end of the third year of his contract, more than two months after the board made the decision. He filed suit the following October. 

The Supreme Court in June held that REAP had conclusively established that it "complied with the contractual conditions to a 'without cause' termination."

TMA's brief supporting Dr. Hansen's motion for rehearing says the "use of the term 'behavioral problems,' like the use of the term 'disruptive behavior,' often fails to tell the full, or even an accurate, story." TMA says in order to determine whether such conduct "is merely patient advocacy … or is actually patient endangerment," a physician must receive due process.

"Otherwise, physicians may be inhibited from exercising their independent medical judgments and doing what they believe to be in the best interest of the patient due to fear of termination," TMA wrote. "This strikes at the very heart of the prohibition against the lay control of medical practice."

Dr. Hansen requested a rehearing in late July. TMA filed its brief on Aug. 14.

Action, Sept. 1, 2017

Last Updated On

September 01, 2017

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