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Strategies for Managing Disabled Physicians

From HCPro's Medical Staff Briefing, August 23, 2011

 Reasonable accommodation: Disabled individuals have a right to reasonable accommodations through their employers. According to www.ADA.gov:

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a ­qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the ­application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable ­accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.

The ADA doesn't spell out each and every accommodation possible. Rather, it describes reasonable accommodations through examples. Organizations are left to determine which accommodations are reasonable depending on their available resources.

"The key to looking at accommodations is to ask, ‘With the accommodation, can the person perform the essential functions of the job?' " says Silverstein.

FAQs on managing disabled physicians

With a generally litigious atmosphere in the healthcare sector, medical staffs and hospitals may wonder what they can and can't do when it comes to managing physicians with disabilities. Even medical staffs and hospitals with the best intentions may accidentally step over the line between legal and illegal. The following is a list of FAQs that will help keep your facility safe from a discrimination lawsuit.

Q Does the ADA apply to independent physicians?

A "The idea that a physician may be designated as an independent contractor or have an employment agreement stating so is not necessarily the final word on whether that physician is a ‘nonemployee' under the ADA," says Forrest Read IV, Esq., an attorney who specializes in employment law in the healthcare ­sector at Epstein Becker Green in Washington, DC. Rather, determining whether an individual is covered under the ADA involves an assessment of the arrangement between the individual (the independent physician) and the entity (the hospital). To be on the safe side, hospitals should always assume that an independent physician is covered under the ADA and may potentially bring an action ­under the employment title (Title I) or the public accommodations title (Title III) of the ADA.

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