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OH: neonatologist's privileges revoked: peer review immunity upheld under HCQIA.

CASE FACTS: Dr. Richard Cowett, a pediatric neonatology specialist, was the Director of the Division of Neonatology at Tod's Children's Hospital, which placed him in charge of its Special Care Nursery (SCN), a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Two of the neonatologists working at Tod's SCN, including Dr. Natalie Yeaney, did not know or approve of Dr. Cowett's employment before he was hired. Shortly after Dr. Cowett began work, staff members began complaining about his abilities. On September 21, 2001, Dr. Yeaney told Dr. Robert Felter about concerns she had in regard to the care Dr. Cowett provided for two infants, Baby F and Baby H. Dr. Felter had a staff board-certified neonatologist, Dr. Kurt Wegner, review the patients' charts. After a review, Dr. Wegner informed Dr. Felter that there was cause to investigate Dr. Cowett. Dr. Felter also spoke with the Chief Resident, Pediatric Residency Director, and SCN Nursing Manager, all of whom reported that the staff under their management had reported concerns about Dr. Cowett's clinical skills. On October 4, 2001, Dr. Felter was informed about the concerns that Dr. Yeaney and SCN's nurse-practictioner, Beverly Mike-Nard, had regarding the care Dr. Cowett provided for Baby L. After speaking with Dr. Cowett, who denied that the care he provided was substandard, Dr. Felter placed him on administrative leave pending a formal review into the allegations against him. Subsequently, the Professional Executive Committee voted to revoke Dr. Cowett's privileges. Dr. Cowett appealed to the facility's Board, which revoked his privileges, and reported its action to the National Practictioner Data Bank. Dr. Cowett filed suit asserting numerous claims. The Court of Common Pleas granted a motion for summary judgment against Dr. Cowett. Dr. Cowett appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The Court of Appeals of Ohio affirmed the judgment against Dr. Cowett. The court held, inter alia, that Dr. Cowett's claims that the trial court erred were unfounded. The court rejected his contention that the mere evidence of animosity did not mean, ipso facto, that the requirements for peer review immunity were not applicable. The court further held that the trial court did not err when it applied a summary judgment standard. The standard a court uses when ruling on a motion for summary judgment on a claim of immunity under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA) is "somewhat unusual." The HCQIA creates a presumption in favor of immunity, which may be rebutted. The court concluded that Dr. Cowett's unsuccessful efforts to obtain discovery of a letter regarding him was to further his "bad faith" argument, which the court found meritless. Cowett v. TCH Pediatrics Inc., 2006 -Ohio- 5269 (Ohio App. Dist. 7 09 27/2006) N.E.2d--OH

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for over 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Rhode Island firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Regan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Marquis Who's Who in American Law, Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
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Title Annotation:Medical Law Cases of Note; Richard Cowett; Health Care Quality Improvement Act; Cowett v. TCH Pediatrics Inc., 2006 -Ohio- 5269
Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Medical Law's Regan Report
Geographic Code:1U3OH
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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