A physician who faced investigation by an internal review board regarding standards of patient care filed suit against her workplace and several review board members Monday in the Southern District of Ohio, alleging that the defendants’ peer review was not conducted in good faith nor without bias and that they violated antitrust laws through conspiring to eliminate the plaintiff as a competitor in the workforce.
Dr. Amanda McAleer, an Ohio OB/GYN, has been employed by the Wilson Health Medical Group since Jan. 2, 2019. In her complaint, she described an August 2019 incident that unfolded between her and defendant Carrie Huber — another OB/GYN at Wilson Health, who also chairs the Medical Peer Review Committee (MPRC) and is a voting member of the Medical Executive Committee (MEC) — in which Huber allegedly “left several angry and unprofessional messages” for McAleer after learning that she had taken a vacation day to work a locums job, a temporary fill-in shift, at another area hospital.
McAleer said from this point forward, “Dr. Huber acted as if she had a personal vendetta against Dr. McAleer,” and, in one instance, Huber allegedly “physically shoved” McAleer, resulting in their separation of workspaces to limit interaction.
From August 2019 on, McAleer would face six MPRC reviews of standard of care for various patients. In framing Huber’s alleged conduct as “personal” and noting Huber’s position on the review board, McAleer believed her peer review processes were conducted unfairly and with bias.
“Despite Dr. Huber’s conflict with Dr. McAleer,” the plaintiff claimed, “Dr. Huber did not disclose her personal conflict with Dr. McAleer to the members of the MPRC or the MEC, Dr. Huber did not recuse herself from Dr. McAleer’s peer review matters before the MPRC or the MEC investigations of Dr. McAleer, and neither the MPRC nor the MEC conducted a formal investigation of Dr. Huber’s conflict of interest with Dr. McAleer.”
None of the reviews of McAleer’s standard of care resulted in any action against her until a December 2019 alleged failure to ensure that a pregnant patient followed up for an ultrasound. The MEC found that this was indeed a failure of McAleer, and ultimately decided to suspend McAleer’s obstetrics privileges and gynecology privileges for pregnant patients as well as to conduct a formal investigation.
The MEC had told McAleer that she would be able to choose whether her OB/GYN privileges would be suspended while the investigation was ongoing; however, one day later, the MEC chair and a voting MEC member told her that she would face immediate summary suspension of her privileges if she did not voluntarily choose suspension, according to the complaint. McAleer refused voluntary suspension, and, thus, the summary suspension was effective late January 2020.
These occurrences amount to allegations of the defendants engaging in “verbal contract, combination, conspiracy, and/or concerted action by committing to a common scheme with an illegal objective to eliminate Dr. McAleer as a competitor in violation of federal anti-trust laws,” according to the complaint, all while allegedly breaching peer review standards through “failing to keep deliberations concerning Dr. McAleer frank, honest, accurate, unbiased, and non-inflammatory.” Further, the plaintiff argued, Huber directly contributed to the bias of the reviews through purportedly failing to disclose a conflict of interest between her and McAleer.
The plaintiff is requesting a rescindment of her summary suspension and corrective actions against her, a full reinstatement of her privileges at Wilson Health, and monetary damages, among other relief.
McAleer is represented by Jones Law Group.