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Hospitals Responsible for Physicians' Bad Behavior

Liz Jones for HealthLeaders Media, October 20, 2010

If a physician discriminates against or harasses a hospital employee—regardless of whether that employee is another physician, a nurse, or a person in food services, etc.—and that employee files a claim with HR or even the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), HR will most likely take the reigns and interview the physician and other witnesses to determine whether discrimination or harassment occurred.  

"The hospital must take action to investigate and, where necessary, remediate the issue even if it's not their employee," says McAuliffe Miller.

However, HR should not leave the medical staff in the dark. HR should involve the medical staff as it collects information about the physician's behavior. HR may work with the medical staff to limit the independent physician's contact with the complainant, when necessary, McAuliffe Miller adds. HR may also coordinate with the general counsel, with the president of the organization, and/or with the chair of the department during an investigation and any remedial action to ensure that appropriate measures are taken.

The medical staff's actions will vary depending on the severity of the behavior. For minor cases, a medical staff leader, such as a department chair, may sit down with the physician and explain that the behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. For more severe cases, the medical staff may report the physician to the state licensing agency. "You always want to document regardless of what the final outcome is," says Wolff. Medical staffs should document their steps, regardless of the severity of the behavior.

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