Testimony starts in suit against Chino Valley Medical Center

Lori Fowler, Staff Writerdailybulletin.com

Posted:   06/14/2013 06:43:52 PM PDT

June 15, 2013 3:36 AM GMTUpdated:   06/14/2013 08:36:55 PM PDT

RANCHO CUCAMONGA - When John Bolds' wife was having a hard time breathing last year, he took her to the emergency room at the Chino Valley Medical Center.

His wife, referred to only as SB during a preliminary injunction hearing Friday at West Valley Superior Court, has been admitted to that hospital before, Bolds testified. She suffers from breathing problems and was treated by doctors of the Inland Pulmonary Medical Group for 10 years.

The hearing stems from a lawsuit IPMG filed against the hospital and its owners alleging it routinely ignores patients' wishes to contact IPMG physicians who are familiar with their medical histories.

Instead, Chino Valley delegates care to their residents who place the hospital's financial interests above patient care, IPMG officials said.

Bolds testified Friday that in the past, Chino Valley hospital workers had wanted to know who his wife's pulmonary doctor was so they could contact the physician.

But during their most recent visit in July, Bolds was not asked to fill out the normal paperwork that would have provided the hospital with her doctor's information.

In fact, SB's doctor was never contacted and she was treated by a different doctor during her one-month stay at the hospital, Bolds said.

When the couple later ran into their doctor at a different facility, he was surprised to hear she had been admitted.

"I felt terrible, I felt that he should have been contacted," Bolds said.

Other caregivers testified on Friday that they too felt deceived by Chino Valley's decision not to contact their loved one's primary care specialist following admission to their hospital.

And IPMG doctors testified that there had been intentional interference of the contract they have with the hospital to be notified when their patients are stabilized at Chino Valley, which is owned by Prime Healthcare. Doctors said that they have received no calls since February.

"The patients are being impacted because their doctors are not being called," said Michael Amir, an attorney for IPMG, to the judge.

But defense attorney Greg Hafif said Chino Valley is not required to call the doctors.

"We are required to either call the health plan or the group," said Hafif, with the Claremont-based law firm Herbert Hafif. "The HMO has never told Chino Valley to call IPMG."

Judge Janet M. Frangie suggested Hafif was arguing a loophole, but he said the hospital has done nothing wrong.

The defense is also arguing that this is all about money for the doctors.

Hafif was able to call one witness to the stand before the day ended.

Dr. George Perez, an emergency room physician who practices in Chino and Montclair, testified that IMPG doctors have prolonged or delayed responses when they are contacted about a patient in the emergency room.

"Sometimes it's minutes, sometimes it's over an hour," Perez said. "That affects patients."

Perez also said some IMPG doctors complain about having to come to the emergency room and put patients at risk by prematurely discharging them.

The hearing was put over to Aug. 16 so defense attorneys could call the rest of their witnesses.