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Radiologist Gets $4 Million For Privileges Loss

November 10, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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A radiologist in Butte, Montana, has won a $4 million settlement from a hospital that, according to his lawsuit, took away his privileges there in order to hire in-house radiologists.

Jesse Cole, MD, said in a news release that in 2006, St. James Healthcare in Butte told him and two other radiologists to clear out their offices at the hospital, where they had practiced for years with privileges in good standing. He said the hospital planned to bring in radiologists from Boston as hired members of the hospital staff in what it called “a business decision, not a medical decision.” Dr. Cole said he was “outspoken in his protests” because “when you start working for the hospital, the hospital can tell the doctors how to practice medicine. Then it becomes corporate medicine.”

Dr. Cole said he would use part of the settlement money to set up a foundation, with a probable initial endowment of $250,000, to thank the Butte community for supporting him.

The hospital, in a media statement, confirmed the amount of the payment, noted that neither side admitted fault or wrongdoing, and said it would have no further comment.

Dr. Cole sued the hospital in February 2007, saying it had interfered with his business and damaged his reputation. The lawsuit said the hospital breached his contract by illegally taking away his hospital privileges. It also said the hospital intentionally interfered with his prospective business by filing a restraining order against him.

That restraining-order action, filed by the hospital in November 2006, apparently stemmed from Dr. Cole’s “outspoken” protests. The filing said hospital officials told Dr. Cole in December 2004 that they weren’t going to renew his contract to provide radiology services. From that point, the hospital alleged, Dr. Cole interfered with the hospital’s attempts to contract with new radiologists. The restraining order specified that Dr. Cole avoid contact with the Boston doctor who eventually became director of radiology before leaving in 2008, Anna Chacko, MD. Dr. Cole denied the allegations.

Dr. Cole continues to practice radiology at Big Sky Diagnostic Imaging in Butte. The settlement of his lawsuit did not result in his regaining privileges at St. James Healthcare, but he said he does have a limited practice at Community Hospital of Anaconda in Anaconda, Montana.

Related seminar: The Business of Radiology

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