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11/27/2012 9:03:00 PM
Medical staff seeks to restrain Healthcare District Board from contracting out surgical services

Marty Bachman

The medical staff at Palo Verde Hospital has filed a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief against the Palo Verde Healthcare District Board of Directors President Jim Carney and board members Catalina McClain, Beatrice "Quitty" Pinon and Rosalie Carlton, charging unfair competition, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

Board Member Sam Burton is not named in the complaint but Palo Verde Hospital and its CEO, Peter Klune, are. Both Carney and Carlton were voted off the board in November but their term doesn't expire until after the Nov. 28 meeting.

According to Dean J. Smith of Taylor Blessey, LLP, attorney for the medical staff, the call for a restraining order is to prevent the board from voting Wednesday to contract out surgical services, which is currently under the purview of surgeon Hossain Sahlolbei. Sahlolbei, a frequent critic of the four board members named in the complaint, is not expected to be employed by the contracted agency if a vote to contract out is successful.

In his complaint, Smith outlines the medical staff's version of events between their members and the boards and managers that have served since 2000, particularly citing instances where the boards have made attempts to attack and remove Sahlolbei.

Smith also recounts the medical staff's alleged aversion to exclusive contracts.

"In April, 2010, after 20 years, the Blythe City Council voted 4-1 to deny a lucrative exclusive contract to Blythe Ambulance for BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulance transfer," the complaint contends. "...The Medical Staff strongly supported ending this exclusive contract. Members of the Medical Staff, including Dr. Sahlolbei and Dr. Kenneth Lucero spoke publicly in support of an end to the exclusive contract. Mr. Carney worked vigorously in support of extending this exclusive contract..."

The complaint then accuses Carney of advocating to appoint his "close friend", Pinon, who works for Blythe Ambulance, to a board seat, a move which failed.

"Since then, all private hospital related communication between Mr. Carney and Dr. Sahlolbei in particular got worse," the complaint states.

Pinon was elected to the board months after she failed to be appointed.

The complaint then contends that the board changed the hospital's transfer policy, which according to the suit, favored Desert Air, a competitor of Pinon's employer, Blythe Ambulance. Desert Air is owned by Trina Sartin, who was elected to the Healthcare District Board last November. The new policy requires the hospital's emergency room doctors to call on Desert Air and Blythe Ambulance on alternating days. The medical staff's argument is that, as primary care physicians, they know their patients and the system best. The hospital claims it was forced by federal laws to change the policy and that the new agreement provides faster service times for emergency room patients that need to be transferred to larger hospitals.

The complaint finally alleges that because the hospital has a Medi-Cal contract with the Department of Health Services under the Medi-Cal Selective Provider Contracting Program, the California Welfare & Institutions Code prohibits them from entering into exclusive contracts for the services the medical staff provides.

"If the District Board is permitted to enter into this illegal contract the terms may make it impossible to cancel and it will irreparably damage the already fragile finances of the hospital and eventually patient care for years to come," the complaint reads.

The complaint asks the court to restrain the accused board members from entering into the exclusive contract for surgical services at Palo Verde Hospital and to pay the medical staff's attorney fees.

According to Smith, the complaint is scheduled to be heard in Indio in the morning, though he did not provide a time.

Hospital officials did not respond.

Download the complaint filed by the Palo Verde Hospital Medical Staff

Download the exhibits submitted by the Medical Staff

Related Stories:
• Drop in patients and surgeries pushes hospital to financial brink
• Hospital Board voids meeting citing Brown Act violations
• COLUMN: Bah! Humbug, Dr. Scrooge
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Medical staff needs to take responsibility for failing grade
• Hospital receives 'F' grade from patient safety advocacy group
• COLUMN: Hospital again
• Sahlolbei attorneys file demurrer in response to suit

Related Links:
• Healthcare District files lawsuit against hospital surgeon, Hossain Sahlolbei
• Sahlolbei no stranger to courtrooms: Hospital Chief of Staff has sued at least 17 people in Riversid
• Appeals Court grants Montgomery's anti-SLAPP motion

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Blythe Lifer

Whoo hoo!!! Bout time someone stood up to Carney and his lack of business ethics. Glad to see that not eveyone has a brown nose when it comes to him and his ideas. Good Job to whomever filed this complaint.....

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Clarification 1

Please not that "medical staff" is really only the doctors and maybe not all of them.
I don't know any nurses or other "staff" at hospital that are involved in filing this paperwork.
Looks like the power struggle for control of the hospital and where the revenue goes is ramping up.

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: just me@wake up Blythe

thank you how true your words are.

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: I don't kno much

I would think that the board has been triing to get rid of him sense 2000 I would think that would tell you something, [OR HIM] don't you think?

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Wake up Blythe

I have observed Blythe for many years and every time your elected officials attempt to do the right thing for Blythe an element pops up and kills it! This element is always driven by Power and Money (look at Walmart lawsuit by local Business). Now your Hospital Board is attempting to correct things and again money! Hudson and Sartin have ties to Dr Sahlolbei who is being sued for Fraud and Sartin looks to gain financially from her ambulance company.

Wake UP Blythe!
Go support your current Board and help save Blythe and your Hospital!

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