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SEN. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. wants to explore the possibility of filing an ethics complaint against former Guam Memorial Hospital legal counsel Atty. Robert Weinberg for providing hospital management with “faulty” legal advice which Rodriguez believes compromised the integrity of the medical peer review process.
“Someone needs to be held accountable, because clearly ... the procedure has been jeopardized. ... If it was your attorney who gave you faulty advice, we need to establish that; and if that’s the case, we may go forward and file some ethics violations with that attorney because I think this was not a good settlement for the hospital and it wasn’t good for the peer review process,” Rodriguez told GMH Authority administration officials during last night’s oversight hearing on GMH.
Rodriguez was referring to a global settlement GMH entered into with Dr. George Macris. The settlement stipulates that Macris will drop all charges filed against the hospital in exchange for reversing the medical peer review that led to the suspension of his hospital privileges.
Last night’s hearing was a reconvening of the April 30 oversight hearing, during which lawmakers also intensely grilled GMH interim Administrator Rey Vega and Medical Director Dr. Larry Lizama on GMH’s decision to agree to the settlement.
During last night’s hearing, the Committee on Health and Human Services focused on GMH’s medical peer review policy and even cited the National Practitioner Data Bank’s three prerequisites to be able to correct, void or revise a report on a physician. The NPDB is a federal repository that maintains records of malpractice judgments or adverse actions against licensed healthcare practitioners.
The three requirements are: 1) the report was erroneously submitted; 2) the action was not reportable under data bank reporting requirements; and 3) the action against the medical practitioner was overturned on appeal.
“So based on that, were any of those three met?” Rodriguez asked.
Vega acknowledged that none of the three requirements were met before Dr. Macris’ NPDB report was voided; however, he stated that the closest semblance GMH has to meeting any of the three requirements was the “appeal.”
Rodriguez then pointed out there was no appeal made. He said the appeals process, in this particular case, was circumvented and taken directly to court.
In the settlement, GMH stated for the record that its sole purpose for entering the settlement was to avoid an expensive and lengthy legal battle with Macris.
“From what I’m hearing, you were presented with a settlement agreement that was, in your opinion, thoroughly vetted by the hospital attorney, and you signed off because that’s what was presented to you to be in the best interest of the hospital,” Sen. Rory Respicio said. “And so what this side of the table is asking is, in anywhere in the settlement agreement, did it demonstrate that [the] physician appealed the case?”
Although he could not speak on behalf of Macris, Lizama indicated that Weinberg may have advised GMH at the time that the “involved physician” may not have been afforded the fair hearing process, nor may he have wanted to appeal his case to the Medical Executive Committee.
“If I’m appealing to the same [parties] that are accusing me of wrongdoing, it may not be the best fair hearing,” Lizama said.
Lizama assured the Rodriguez committee that under the current GMH Administration, the medical peer review remains intact and its policies and procedures are being followed and maintained.