Emergency room doctors refute antitrust charges
Emergency room doctors at Aspen Valley Hospital yesterday moved for dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit alleging they conspired with hospital administrators and a private medical practice to eliminate competition for orthopaedic services in Aspen.
Attorneys for Aspen Emergency Medicine, a firm that contracts with the hospital to provide professional services in the emergency room, filed a two-part response to the complaint in federal district court – a motion for dismissal and, just in case the judge denies the motion, a formal answer to the allegations.
“There is not, and never has been, an illegal combination or conspiracy with anyone else, including Orthopaedic Associates or Aspen Valley Hospital, to make referrals,” the motion reads.
It is the first of three responses expected this week to the antitrust suit filed in Denver Federal Court in September by two local surgeons. The hospital and Orthopaedic Associates of Aspen are expected to file separate answers this week.
Dr. Stephen Nadler and Dr. Gary Brazina, who in 1996 moved to Aspen and formed Aspen Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, accused the doctors at Aspen Emergency Medicine – Dr. John “Bud” Glissman, Dr. Steven Ayers, Dr. Christopher Martinez and Dr. Marion Berg – of acting in concert with hospital administrators and doctors at Orthopaedic Associates to keep them from setting up practice here.
Given the nature of bone and joint injuries in Aspen – with a steady flow patients being referred to orthopaedic specialists after being treated in the emergency room – Nadler and Brazina say the emergency room physicians hold a pivotal role when it comes to referrals.
But rather than following hospital policy and referring patients to the “on call” orthopaedic surgeon, the suit alleges emergency room doctors regularly referred injured patients to whomever they chose – mostly the doctors at Orthopaedic Associates.
The suit also alleges the emergency room doctors filed frivolous complaints against Nadler and Brazina, aimed primarily at justifying their refusal to follow hospital policy. And, hospital administrators not only failed to enforce policy, but later had it changed to allow the emergency room physicians to refer cases to Orthopaedic Associates.
Aspen Emergency Services denies every one of Nadler’s and Brazina’s allegations; its response even contests most of the definitions – including the definition of “Aspen Valley Hospital” – laid out at the beginning of their complaint.
The emergency room group maintains throughout its response that its doctors must be allowed to refer patients to whoever they think will provide the best care. Without referring to any specific cases, the response repeatedly says the emergency room physicians were concerned about Nadler’s and Brazina’s competence.
“Over time, the Aspen Emergency Medicine physicians began to lose (and ultimately lost) confidence in Plaintiff’s ability to manage acute orthopedic injuries,” the response reads.
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