Doctor sues Aiken Regional

  • Posted: Thursday, May 13, 2010 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, May 13, 2010 4:24 p.m.

In a lawsuit that was unsealed Wednesday, a doctor claims that several other doctors and administrators at Aiken Regional Medical Centers conspired to run the local obstetrician out of the hospital and out of business.Board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Margo Hein-Muniz filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Aiken accusing Aiken Regional, its administrators and the owners of a second ob-gyn clinic of, among other things, trying to have her privileges to practice at the hospital revoked for the gain of other doctors with whom she competed. Hein-Muniz is the founder of the Magnolia Medical Center practice in Aiken.The suit, filed in April under seal, names Aiken Regional; its parent company Universal Health Services Inc.; Aiken Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates (AOGA); current hospital CEO Carlos Milanes; former CEO K.D. Justyn; AOGA Drs. Oletha Minto, James Boehner and Robert Boone; and two members of Aiken Regional's Medical Staff Executive Committee Drs. Jonathan Anderson and Thomas Paxton."Specifically, Minto is in direct competition with Muniz and Magnolia Medical and has acted repeatedly to inflict harm ... in an attempt to injure her in her profession while at the same time stifling competition," the suit claims.As well as the alleged conspiracy, Hein-Muniz claims she was reported to a government body for malpractice despite her offering of evidence that exonerates her, she said in the document."ARMC is going to ruin Muniz's medical career before providing her with a fair hearing," the suit reads. "All of the references, conclusions and findings were wrongful and made arbitrarily and in bad faith, without giving Muniz notice and an opportunity to be heard, and as a result, ARMC has breached its own bylaws and contract with Muniz."The suit seeks unspecified damages, for her privileges to be restored and to stop any reporting of her actions to the government malpractice watchdog, the National Practitioner Data Bank.All of those named as defendants in the lawsuit filed their responses under seal mid-April and deny all allegations made by Hein-Muniz. Those filings are all general, simply denying the accusations but offering no counterargument.According to court filings, the confrontations began when in October 2008, the Medical Staff Executive Committee, an internal body that evaluates complaints, first decided to revoke Hein-Muniz's privileges at Aiken Regional. In a letter informing her of the decision and her right to appeal, it stated that the committee found "she lacked clinical competence in the treatment of" five specific cases.Hein-Muniz appealed the decision, and a hearing panel, consisting of three peers, found in April 2009 that her actions were not sufficient to warrant this excommunication.However, they did highlight "significant areas of concern" including saying the doctor was "narcissistic" and that she "does not recognize the limits of her clinical skills," court documents show. Adding to this was the panel's shock that Hein-Muniz told a review panel that they must consider "the revenue it would lose if Dr. Muniz's privileges are terminated."Though the panel said she should retain her privileges, it recommended that she be evaluated by a psychiatrist, and she was.Hein-Muniz went back to normal work after she "was cleared of all clinical and medical incompetence," she said in her complaint. Then in February 2010, while on call at Aiken Regional's emergency department, a pregnant woman was admitted in distress. The fetus was extracted via Cesarean section as a stillborn.Afterward, Aiken Regional suspended privileges again, recommended this become permanent for Hein-Muniz and reported her to the National Practitioner Data Bank, a government database that records payments in medical liability and reports of unprofessional or adverse actions. The hospital said Hein-Muniz "failed to recognize an emergent situation" and gave inappropriate medication that resulted in a "catastrophic adverse outcome (death)," documents state.Hein-Muniz, in her suit, denies these findings and states the hospital's pathologist thinks the fetus was "brain-dead upon arrival to ARMC" and that no actions could have changed the outcome. "To be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank is the worst punishment a physician can receive and effectively ends their career as a physician," Hein-Muniz writes in her suit.A civil suit represents only one side of a lawsuit.Attempts to reach Aiken Regional Medical Centers and Hein-Muniz were unsuccessful Wednesday.Contact Mike Gellatly at mgellatly@aikenstandard.com.

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