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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Pediatrician sues hospital

Hanks seeks to restore reputation

Express Staff Writer

Facing a statue of limitations for taking legal action, Dr. Marel Hanks, a pediatrician who formerly practiced in the Wood River Valley, has filed a lawsuit "Pro Se," on her own behalf, against St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center Ltd., its chief officers and its parent organization, St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, in Boise. Other defendants listed in the suit include four Wood River Valley clinics and several professionals in the local medical community.

The lawsuit filed Monday, July 12—two years to the day after Hanks contends she was forced to give up her association with the hospital—focuses on a meeting July 12, 2002, with St. Luke’s CEO Bruce Jensen and Dr. Herb Alexander, who was chairman of the hospital medical executive committee.

Jensen said the hospital’s Boise attorney Janine Sarti is still tracking down a copy of the lawsuit and that a hospital statement will be forthcoming.

Hanks is seeking special and general damages of at least $290,000, and compensation for legal fees and punitive damages as deemed appropriate by a jury. She has also sought leave to amend her complaint to add additional causes of action based on the outcome of discovery.

When Hanks resigned from the hospital in 2002 she said she had contemplated filing a lawsuit against St. Luke’s to reclaim her privileges and to seek damages, but had decided she could not afford to do so. However, the impact on her career has forced her hand, she said Tuesday.

"They handed me this three-page expert’s letter at the time and told me it proved that I should be dismissed," Hanks said. "Jensen had a resignation letter already prepared. It looks like I resigned because I was a terrible doctor."

Hanks’ resignation was sent to the national data bank. Hanks said she is listed as having a suspension on her record. The categorization is a red flag to hospitals, she said.

Hanks contends she was unfairly stripped of her privileges at the hospital. She said she signed the resignation letter because she felt attacked and defeated.

A doctor must hold hospital privileges to admit patients or to treat them at the hospital.

Since Hanks’ departure, care of pediatric patients at the hospital has been covered by family practice doctors and interim pediatrician, Pamela Sue Smith, of Dayton, Ohio. Currently, there is no pediatrician associated with the hospital, Jensen said.

Hanks, who had practiced locally for eight years before her resignation, now works for Trinity Mother Francis Hospital Systems in Athens, Texas.

Hanks said planting trees at her new home in East Texas has helped her work out the frustration of complications caused by her unwilling departure from the Wood River Valley.

"When I started looking for another job hospitals wouldn’t touch me," she said. "I had no choice but to fight back."

Hanks said she is now being represented by Breck Seiniger, a Boise attorney.


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