A local OB/GYN has lost a long-running legal battle with Aiken Regional Medical Centers, which removed her privileges after an incident where a fetus was stillborn.
Dr. Margo J. Hein-Muniz filed the lawsuit in April 2010, after she had her privileges to practice at ARMC revoked and she was to be reported to the National Practitioners Data Bank.
However, after a two-and-a-half year battle in U.S. District Court, a judge has granted ARMC's motion for summary judgement and ended the case in their favor.
Muniz described the reporting as “the worst punishment a physician can receive, and effectively ends their career.”
In 2008, Muniz faced a disciplinary review by the hospital, after they claimed a “demonstrated lack of clinical competence.”
Her privileges were first set to be revoked after a March 2010, incident where a high-risk pregnancy was lost under her care. These facts were cited as the reason for Muniz's firing in the original complaint.
However, her privileges were eventually removed due to “a lack of candor, lack of credibility, poor judgment.”
This judgement does not make any ruling on the competency of Muniz or the veracity of the claims made against her by ARMC. The judgement only addresses the legal right of ARMC to revoke the doctor's use of the hospital's facilities.
Muniz's case attacked the process of her disciplinary hearings, the allegations made against her and that ARMC had breached their contract with her.
While the court found in favor of ARMC and found they conducted the reviews of Muniz legally, the order noted problems with the review process for Muniz's case.
“The court is aware that there were procedural deficiencies during the hospital's peer review process,” the order reads. “The court is particularly disturbed by the discrepancies between the original reasons for terminating Dr. Muniz's privileges and the reasons given by the Hearing Panel in their report upholding the (Medical Executive Committee)'s recommendation.”
The hospital originally charged that Muniz “failed to recognize an emergent situation,” delayed treating the distressed fetus for two hours and “gave inappropriate medication.” However, it was for her lack of candor, veracity and good judgement that she was eventually dismissed.
Muniz strenuously denied the claims made in both 2009 and 2010 by ARMC.
Muniz's fear about being reported to the NPDB seems to be reasonable. Evidence from the case shows that she was reported in 2011, and has since applied for positions at several hospitals, but has been denied privileges due to the report to the NPDB.
Attorneys for Muniz did not respond to calls for comment on the case.
ARMC has a policy of not commenting on litigation.