In Cole vs. St. James Healthcare, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the entry of a preliminary injunction against St. James Healthcare. The facts, briefly stated, were that the hospital had undertaken an investigation in a manner that was not authorized by the medical staff bylaws and changed Dr. Cole’s Medical Staff status without following the due process procedures, ultimately denying Dr. Cole’s application for reappointment and offering a medical staff hearing at that point. Dr. Cole obtained an injunction at the trial court level by which the court ordered the following:
1. The defendant is enjoined from refusing to consider Dr. Jesse A. Cole to have full lack of privileges at St. James Healthcare, and is ordered to reinstate Dr. Cole’s privileges to the status of full active staff privileges;
2. The defendant is enjoined from adopting the recommendation of the Matovich investigation not to renew Dr. Cole’s privileges at St. James Healthcare, and such investigation and recommendation did not involve peer review as contemplated by the hospital bylaws;
3. The defendant is enjoined from making any adverse report to the National Practitioner Data Bank regarding the hospital’s reduction of Dr. Cole’s privileges; and
4. The defendant is enjoined from taking any further adverse action against Dr. Cole’s full active staff privileges unless and until the hospital utilizes a peer review investigation conducted by its medical staff as required by the hospital’s bylaws.
In this case, there was no issue regarding contractual status of the bylaws; both parties accepted the proposition that the bylaws constitute a contract.
The case is also important because the opinion recognizes that an adverse report to the National Practitioners Data Bank could cause irreparable injury, thereby forming the basis for issuing injunctive relief.
A copy of the opinion is available at the following link.