In a case that has gotten national attention, he Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled, 5-2, that medical staff bylaws can constitute a legally enforceable contract between a hospital and medical staff. At the least, the ruling is likely to increase efforts to get physicians to voluntarily align with hospital needs to avoid litigation.
West Central Tribune also reported that the justices ruled that ”a medical staff that meets criteria outlined in state statute has the capacity to sue and be sued.”
”At issue was a 2012 decision by Avera Marshall Hospital in Marshall, Minn.}to introduce new medical staff bylaws, allegedly without input from the medical staff. A group of doctors on the medical staff sued the hospital, claiming the new bylaws stripped physicians of most of their rights and responsibilities and gave the hospital board of directors the controlling power in processes requiring medical staff direction.”
Justice Alan Page, writing for the majority, said that because the medical staff “is composed of two or more persons who associate and act together for the purpose of ensuring proper patient care at the hospital” it meets statutory criteria giving it the power to sue and be sued.
Some fear that the ruling will encourage conflict between medical staffs and hospital boards of directors.