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AMA Welcomes Arkansas High Court Decision to Uphold Physician Legal Victory Against Baptist Health

For immediate release:
Sept. 30, 2010

Statement attributable to:
Cecil B. Wilson, MD
President, American Medical Association

“Today’s ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court validates last year’s key legal victory that found Baptist Health, Arkansas’ largest hospital system, acted improperly by inappropriately restricting hospital admitting privileges and interfering with the patient-physician relationship.

“By upholding the lower court’s decision, the state supreme court preserves the patient-physician relationship and promotes competition in Arkansas by permanently prohibiting an economic credentialing policy adopted by Baptist Health in 2003. This policy allowed the hospital system to interfere in the patient-physician relationship by denying hospital-admitting privileges to medical staff members based on financial concerns.

“Patients benefit when physicians have admitting privileges at multiple health care facilities. Free of Baptist’s restrictive policy, physicians can now offer patients the benefit of choosing a facility that best suits their needs for costs, quality and convenience.

“This important court victory demonstrates that economic credentialing policies at dominant hospitals are intended to restrict physicians and prevent patients from choosing competing medical facilities. Hospitals cannot use their financial interest to justify policies that interfere with patients’ health care choices.

“The American Medical Association (AMA) and the Arkansas Medical Society (AMS) successfully challenged the unfair hospital policy by arguing that the primary factor in credentialing physicians should be competency, not economic factors unrelated to quality. In its 2009 decision in favor of patients and physicians, the Arkansas circuit court observed that the patient-physician relationship is at the heart of this case, and this crucial relationship is entitled to exceptional protection.

“The Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies and the Arkansas Medical Society intervened in the case as plaintiffs, bringing their combined resources to bear in support of the physicians who were subjected to Baptist’s inappropriate credentialing policies.”

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Contact:    
Robert J. Mills
American Medical Association
(312) 464-5970

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