Judge rejects doctor's suit over hospital
Published on 11/6/98
New Orleans Bureau
NEW ORLEANS - A federal judge Thursday
threw out a Metairie obstetrician/gynecologist's lawsuit against East Jefferson
General Hospital, saying the hospital acted reasonably when it fired her over
questionable or unnecessary treatments for pregnant patients.
U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon's
dismissal of Dr. Annelle Clayton Blanchard's suit came just 15 days after the
Louisiana board that licenses doctors and investigates complaints about their
conduct suspended Blanchard's license.
Blanchard, 48, is an LSU Medical Center
graduate and former unpaid faculty member at LSUMC.
East Jefferson General Hospital revoked
Blanchard's right to practice at EJGH in 1994 after an investigative panel of
the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that she had
ordered questionable or unnecessary treatments for 16 of 20 patients whose
records the panel reviewed. EJGH had asked for the review.
Blanchard sued EJGH and a dozen of its
physicians in 1995, claiming antitrust violations, defamation, unfair trade
practices, breach of contract, conspiracy, sexual discrimination, intentional or
negligent infliction of emotional distress, violations of her civil rights, and
"The undisputed facts show that the
actions against Blanchard were taken in the reasonable belief that doing so
would promote quality health care," Lemmon wrote in a 15-page order
dismissing Blanchard's suit.
Based on the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists panel's report and Blanchard's "continued
refusal to accept the findings of these experts," the judge said, EJGH's
medical executive committee "had a reasonable belief that they must act in
order to assure patient safety."
"When the report revealed the
severity and pervasiveness of the problems, East Jefferson Hospital had no
choice but to take immediate action to protect the well-being of patients by
suspending Dr. Blanchard's privileges," Lemmon wrote.
Blanchard could not be reached for
comment. Her Metairie office telephone number is no longer in service, and her
home number is unpublished.
EJGH attorney Stewart Niles Jr. of New
Orleans said Lemmon's ruling "confirms that the hospital is being
Lemmon also said EJGH and its physicians
named in Blanchard's suit are entitled to attorney's fees, which will be awarded
"upon submission of documentation in support thereof."
The only remaining defendant in
Blanchard's suit is the late Dr. Thomas Elkins, former head of obstetrics and
gynecology at LSUMC. Elkins criticized Blanchard for funneling patients to a
home health company in which she had a partial interest.
He also accused Blanchard in court
documents of devising a scheme to convince women that they were in premature
labor and then making money from their treatment.
Elkins, who left LSUMC for Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore, died of a heart attack Aug. 12. Elkins was a full
professor and director of gynecology at Johns Hopkins, Kelly said. Elkins
claimed he was forced to leave LSUMC for blowing the whistle on Blanchard's
medical referrals to a company she partly owned.
The Louisiana State Board of Medical
Examiners suspended Blanchard's license Oct. 21, but did not say why it acted
against her. The suspension will remain in effect "pending formal
adjudicatory proceedings," the board said.
Blanchard hasn't practiced medicine since
early 1996, when she lost her privileges at Kenner Regional Medical Center,
where she practiced after losing her privileges at EJGH. Blanchard has said in a
deposition that she was suspended from the Kenner hospital for health reasons.