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Hospital commission forces switch in attorneys

 


A majority of hospital district commissioners voted Thursday to immediately hire new legal counsel, then went into closed session with the new attorney.

Commissioner Jerry Kennedy said the board’s reasons for changing attorneys had been compounded the week before when the hospital administration mailed a notice of a privacy breach, reportedly to thousands, saying a doctor had violated federal patient privacy rules.

“One of the hopes that I had was that … having legal counsel involved in that would help minimize reputational damage to the institution and to staff that might be potentially involved,” Kennedy said. “I didn’t feel, as a lot of people didn’t feel, that that happened.”

The HIPAA notice, made under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, came at a time when the hospital administration has been at seemingly irreconcilable odds with its doctors, who have expressed no confidence in administration.

The vote among the three commissioners present was unanimous, but President Greg Behrens was out of town, and Commissioner Kris Hare didn’t arrive until after the vote.

Behrens told The Star by text message he would be in favor of the change as long as Foster Pepper, the district’s then current counsel, could finish work in which they were currently engaged for the hospital.

That stipulation was not addressed in Kennedy’s motion.

Switching law firms was originally proposed by Kennedy at an earlier meeting. At issue were public complaints about stopping a popular discounted lab test week. Kennedy and Commissioner Geary Oliver had served as a committee to look into obtaining independent legal counsel for the board to get a second opinion on the matter.

Instead, they recommended a complete change to the Spokane firm of Stamper Rubens, PS, a firm already familiar with CMC, and possibly to retain Foster Pepper for more specialized legal needs.

Randy Stamper told a full crowd at Thursday’s meeting that the firm has 13 attorneys and that about a third of them do health care work.

After their executive session with Stamper, the commissioners adjourned the meeting.

One immediate impact Stamper had on the volatile situation at CMC was the squelching of opinion pieces submitted by commissioners to the newspaper. Two commissioners had submitted letters for publication in this issue, but later requested they not be published. Commissioner Betty Brueske said Stamper had advised against it.

 

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