Easily the largest victory for physicians in Washington state this year, Dr. Diana Smigaj has accepted a settlement from Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital over allegations the hospital used its peer-review process to push her out of practice.
“I feel relieved it is over,” Smigaj wrote in an email Thursday afternoon. “It has been a long five years.”
So, what exactly happened and why is this such a victory? Well, Dr.Smigaj sued the hospital in 2010 over various allegations stemming from malicious peer reviews that eventually resulted in her parting with the hospital. The true importance of the case is in the arena of peer review, the process by which doctors evaluate each other in efforts to maintain quality and safety, because it means hospitals no longer have all the control. Hospitals can no longer exploit the process to force out innocent physicians.
“I feel I risked everything to stand up for what is right, against those in a position to abuse their power, and feel in the end the outcome was the right one, but the price was high to me,” she wrote in the email. “I am happy with the outcome in the end and I hope what I did will make a difference somehow.”
So, what will happen to the peer review process across the country? Will more stringent requirements be placed on this process?