For those unaware, hospital “privileges” permit a doctor, who is not an employee of the hospital in question, to practice medicine within that hospital. Depending on the specific nature of the privileges, a doctor may be permitted to admit patients to the hospital, to see and treat patients in the hospital, or to perform surgery at the hospital.

A doctor seeking privileges at a particular hospital must first go through a credentialing process before any privileges are granted. The process typically involves the hospital reviewing and verifying the doctor’s credentials and competence. In addition, the hospital may look at a doctor’s education, training, license, board certification, work history, malpractice history, and/or criminal background before finally granting any privileges.

One topic that has arisen across the country concerns the question of whether a hospital can be sued for negligently granting privileges. Often referred to as a “negligent credentialing” claim, this cause of action essentially alleges that the hospital was negligent in granting privileges to a doctor who should not have been privileged in the first place, because of a lack of competence, training, or some other factor. In Pennsylvania, this legal theory falls under the hospital Corporate Negligence Doctrine.

Under the Corporate Negligence Doctrine, among other things, a hospital has a legal duty to select and retain only competent physicians. If a patient, injured due to medical negligence at a hospital by a physician who had privileges at that hospital, believes that the doctor was not sufficiently qualified or credentialed to have been granted privileges, the patient can bring a direct claim against the hospital for negligent credentialing. This is separate and apart from any claim the patient may have for medical malpractice against the physician.

While most states now permit some form of negligent credentialing claim against hospitals, not all do. Most recently, South Dakota joined the list of states that permit such a claim, a circuit court in that state having decided that such a claim falls under a hospital’s duty to care for patient safety.

If you or your family has been injured due to hospital negligence, it is recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.