Former Physician Sues Hospital for Defamation

A suit was filed on Monday in the District of New Mexico by plaintiff George J. Madera, M.D. against defendants Taos Health Systems, Inc. (doing business as Holy Cross Hospital), the hospital’s board, and several unknown individuals. The complaint for damages accuses the defendants of breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic relations, and defamation.

Madera, per the complaint, is a board-certified general and interventional cardiologist with over 40 years of experience. He worked for the defendant, Taos Health Systems, for about 3 months from 2018 to 2019 as a locum tenens physician. Taos Health Systems maintains and operates medical institutions, including the Holy Cross Medical Center.

When the plaintiff first began working at the hospital, he “quickly realized that there were scheduling-related issues within the cardiology department which were affecting patient care.” After attempting to work with the scheduling staff to correct the issues, Madera concluded that the arrangement at the hospital would not work out.

In March of 2019, the CEO of the hospital terminated the plaintiff, allegedly based on the plaintiff’s “vocal criticism of the Hospital’s scheduling processes and plaintiff’s direct interpersonal communication style, which had drawn criticism from members of the Hospital’s staff.” The complaint explains that the CEO did this with knowledge that the termination may have serious ramifications on Madera’s career, including affecting his future employment prospects and professional reputation.

Madera claims that he was not immediately informed of his termination, but instead was simply told by a single person that it would be last day with no detail regarding cause. Since the plaintiff had previously requested that the arrangement be ended, he assumed his prior request had simply been approved, not that he had been terminated.

After Madera had left the hospital, the hospital credentials committee raised the issue of Madera’s clinical privileges. A meeting was held regarding these privileges without Madera’s knowledge, meaning he was “not given an opportunity to attend the meeting or otherwise defend himself against the allegations levied against him.” The committee ultimately revoked the plaintiff’s clinical privileges, even though Madera contends that these privileges automatically expired when he was terminated.

Following this, the hospital filed a false and defamatory adverse action report regarding Madera in the NPDB, which is a “web-based repository of reports containing information on medical malpractice payments and certain adverse actions related to health care practitioners, providers, and suppliers.” Madera asserts that this was done without a legitimate, lawful basis to file the report. The report allegedly made false allegations and gross mischaracterizations that attempted to paint the plaintiff as a disruptive physician. The report was sent to all states where Madera held a medical license.

The following summer, the hospital withdrew the report after receiving advice from their legal counsel to do so, acknowledging that it should not have been filed in the first place. However, formal investigations and actions against the medical licenses of the plaintiff were already underway.

As a result of the defendant’s misconduct, the plaintiff has experienced terminations, fines, suspensions, statements that he is an “ongoing danger” to patients, and much more. The complaint cites breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations and prospective economic relations, and defamation. Madera is seeking compensatory, punitive, and emotional distress damages, litigation fees, pre- and post-judgment interest, and any other relief the Court deems the plaintiff entitled to.

The plaintiff is represented by Davis & Gilchrist, P.C., Hinkle Shanor LLP, and Miller Stratvert P.A.