Dr. Gary Ritten was a medical staff member at Lapeer Regional Medical Center in Indiana. He was summarily suspended in September 2005, allegedly in retaliation for refusing to transfer a patient who had not been stabilized as required by EMTALA. The suspension was initially rescinded by the Medical Executive Committee, although it was reinstated by the hospital’s board of trustees. In July 2006, a peer review committee voted to continue the suspension after an extensive investigation of Dr. Ritten’s practices led its members to the conclusion that Dr. Ritten should no longer practice at the hospital.
One of the issues in the case was the applicability of HCQIA immunity and whether the action taken could be said to be “in the reasonable belief that the action was in furtherance of health care quality,” when in fact the initial suspension was allegedly retaliatory and not justifiable. In Ritten v. Lapeer Regional Medical Center, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan concluded that immunity was available because the ultimate decision was based upon legitimate health care quality concerns identified during the investigation, regardless of whether the initial suspension satisfied those standards.
Furthermore, the Court concluded that it could not issue equitable relief ordering reinstatement after considering evidence that it had been uncovered during the hearing process which supported the continued suspension.