Judge rejects doctor's suit over hospital firing

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 fraudulent misrepresentation.

"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 Her Metairie office telephone number is no longer in service, and her home number is unpublished.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 administered properly."

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.