Stripped of Hospital Privileges, St. Louis Cardiologists Go to Court
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St. Louis Heart and Vascular — a longstanding, full-service practice in the region — is suing health system SSM Health over what it says is the abrupt loss of privileges.

The practice and its 14 physicians filed suit last month in St. Louis County Circuit Court, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. St. Louis Heart and Vascular claims it was unexpectedly notified by SSM Health in January that the health system had entered into an exclusive agreement with another provider for adult cardiovascular services.

St. Louis Heart and Vascular cardiologists Harvey Serota, MD, and Sanjaya Saheta, MD, told MedPage Today that the group is suing to retain its privileges and is seeking $50 million in damages should that not be the case.

On April 1, a judge denied the group’s motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent SSM Health from effectuating the loss of privileges at the end of day on April 2. However, the judge granted their motion for expedited discovery, set to begin within days.

St. Louis Heart and Vascular has seen patients at SSM Health facilities for decades, Serota and Saheta said. In total, lost privileges could affect some 35,000 patients. Those are likely to be patients of the practice who live in the region that SSM Health serves and who arrive at the health system’s emergency rooms or urgent care facilities in need of care.

Serota said he believes he and his colleagues are being dismissed because of competition for patients.

St. Louis Heart and Vascular physicians will continue to see patients at its own facilities, and its physicians have privileges at other hospitals. However, both Serota and Saheta reiterated their concern about the loss of privileges at SSM Health.

The $50 million in damages St. Louis Heart and Vascular is seeking represents what the damages would be over the lifetime of the practice should the loss of privileges stand, Serota said. But, he added, “That’s not our goal.”

“We don’t think it’s good for the continuity of care,” Saheta said.

The patients “have the most to lose here because they have seen us at different stages of their lives,” Saheta said. “That relationship as it moves forward over time only gets stronger.”

Though the practice’s patients can still be admitted at SSM facilities, they will have to be seen by other physicians there.

SSM spokeswoman Stephanie Zoller provided a statement to MedPage Today in an email that said the health system does not comment on pending litigation. “However,” the health system said in the statement, “we will point out that SSM Health continually works to improve the care and service offered to our patients.

“Exercising exclusivity within our adult cardiology services contributes to that improvement and is well within normal business practice,” the statement added.

  • Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as an enterprise and investigative writer in Jan. 2021. She has covered the healthcare industry in NYC, life sciences and the business of law, among other areas.

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