Doctors, Hospital in Court Today; Cardiologists Embroiled in a Battle to Use Satilla Regional Medical Center

By Dickson, Terry | The Florida Times Union, April 7, 2005 | Go to article overview

Doctors, Hospital in Court Today; Cardiologists Embroiled in a Battle to Use Satilla Regional Medical Center


Dickson, Terry, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Terry Dickson, The Times-Union

When two Waycross cardiologists go to court today in hopes of retaining their rights to practice at the local hospital, they will have new allies in the 5,000-member Medical Association of Georgia.

The association has filed a "friend of the court" brief in hopes of restoring the hospital privileges of Willie Bell and Joel Ferree and, in a separate case, 10 cardiologists from St. Vincent's Medical Center in Jacksonville.

All have been told they could no longer use Satilla Regional Medical Center's space, equipment and staff.

The doctors argue that Satilla's actions are hurting patients and steering patients away from their trusted physicians.

The hospital asserts that heart patients are being well cared for under a new contract with physicians associated with Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, and that it is protecting its Heart Center from a takeover by a group of St. Vincent's Medical Center cardiologists.

Although the case has grown increasingly complicated in the past two weeks, there is only one issue today before Superior Court Judge Dwayne Gillis. Gillis is conducting a hearing on the hospital's motion to dissolve his temporary injunction that allowed Bell and Ferree to resume practicing in the hospital until a full trial is conducted on their suit against Satilla Health Services.

The hospital's governing board has said it has not revoked the cardiologists' privileges. What it did instead was forbid the doctors from using hospital equipment, staff and space so that it could implement the terms of an exclusive contract with Baptist Specialty Physicians, a group of Jacksonville cardiologists, for services at the hospital.

Satilla Health Chief Executive Officer Robert Trimm could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but hospital officials issued a response in which they said they will stand by their position.

"In an effort to assure continued 24 hour, seven day a week coverage for cardiology services in our community, Satilla Regional Medical Center stands firm with its actions to protect its new exclusive agreement for cardiology services with Baptist Specialty Physicians, Inc.," the release said.

Satilla Health also anticipates the court will uphold the hospital board of directors' decision to choose which physicians are allowed to exercise their privileges within the hospital. …

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