Doctor Claims Suspension Violated Freedom Of Speech

Arguments In $2.4 Million Suit Set To Start Tomorrow In Towson

March 08, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

To Angel Losada, the suspension of his prescription-writing privilege after more than 30 years on the Springfield Hospital Center staff was retaliation against his outspoken criticism of how quickly the hospital discharges patients.

The suspension -- enacted in July 1989 by Bruce Hershfield, the hospital superintendent and David Waltos, the hospital clinical director -- was "intentional, willful and malicious, and (was) designed to, and did, retaliate against Losada for the exercise of his Constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech," according to a suit filed against the two in Baltimore County Circuit Court in August 1990.

Opening arguments in the $2.4 million suit -- which seeks reinstatement of Losada's privileges -- are scheduled to start tomorrow morning in Towson, Baltimore County.

The suspension has meant that Losada needed permission from a supervisory physician before he is allowed to write a prescription.

Losada retired from the hospital stafflast August.

According to the suit, Losada had for more than three years spoken out on "various hospital policies implemented by Hershfield, involving not only the pressure to discharge patients who werenot ready to be discharged, but including such issues as patient violence, the absence of adequate patient treatment due to unnecessary overcrowding and . . . the abolition of rehabilitative psychiatry."

Losada -- who lives in Sykesville -- is represented by Westminster attorneys Stephen P. Bourexis and Judith S.Stainbrook.

Losada was one of a group of doctors the administration "would like to discharge," the suit says. A secret file on him was kept by Hershfield, the suit contends, and the contents of that file were used to "discredit himfor his views on the public policy of the hospital regarding patientcare."

Losada was transferred to different parts of the hospital eight times between 1986 and 1989, an unusually high rate of transfer, the suite says.

The suspension, the suit contends, was done in violation of hospital policy, and it led to a unilateral re-writing ofthe staff bylaws by Hershfield.

Before the suspension, those by-laws had been written by the doctors and the administration. They wereagreed upon by both sides, and they formed the basis of the professional relationship between doctors and their supervisors, Bourexis said.

The by-laws were also part of a larger system of physician oversight, in which the medical staff and the administration monitored the quality of care at the hospital.

In September 1989, the suit says, "the medical staff by-laws . . . were unilaterally set aside and replaced by new by-laws which abolished the electoral power of the physicians."

Hershfield also named Waltos acting chairman of the medical staff, replacing Ellis McClelland. Later, McClelland filed a lawsuit in Carroll Circuit Court, which caused difficulty in Springfield's ultimately successful bid to regain accreditation.

The hospital had been without accreditation for nine years before the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations granted it in 1991.

McClelland had met with Hershfield to discuss the change in the by-laws.

"If changes in the by-laws were unilaterally forced on the medical staff, physicians' work might suffer," the suit recordsMcClelland as saying.

The medical staff expressed its opposition to the administration's moves with a "no confidence" vote.

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