Lockport Memorial Hospital has lost its bid to suspend staff surgeon Dr. L. James Alrutz because of alleged "disruptive behavior."
Hospital officials tried in September to put the Lockport surgeon on a 90-day leave of absence, during which he was "to consider his alleged disruptive behavior, provide his unqualified written assurance of future good behavior and agree to have his personal conduct monitored by the hospital board of directors."
Instead, Alrutz filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the hospital's action.
Justice Jacqueline M. Koshian ruled against the hospital and its board of directors and has ordered the suspension vacated, Alrutz' lawyer said Tuesday. The order was filed Monday with Niagara County Clerk George D. Maziarz.
The surgeon's lawyer, Mary K. Roach of Buffalo, said Alrutz's longtime practice at Lockport Memorial was uninterrupted while awaiting the justice's decision.
Justice Koshian ruled that the suspension would have violated the hospital's bylaws.
In an eight-page decision, she said the hospital had taken "final action" in Alrutz' case by ordering him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in 1989 "to determine possible impairment." She held that the hospital's bylaws prohibited any "further hearing or review.
"The psychiatrist found no showing of a psychiatric disorder or mental illness," Justice Koshian wrote. "If I were to read between the lines, I would conclude that the (hospital study) committee never believed that Dr. Alrutz would submit to a psychiatric evaluation."
She quoted from the psychiatrist's report:
"Dr. Alrutz is an extremely conscientious, dedicated, responsible physician who becomes greatly upset over any circumstance which compromises the highest level of professional care for his patients.
"He is a very direct individual, with a temperament that leads him to confront such issues in a manner which at times may be abrasive to others. Consequently, as with most physicians today, the pressures of professional responsibility compounded by certain procedural requirements may, at times, lead him to express his impatience in an outspoken manner.
"This is not a symptom of psychiatric disorder in my judgment." The name of the psychiatrist was not given in Justice Koshian's decision.
The hospital's disciplinary proceedings against the surgeon began in March 1989.
Hospital President William J. Baker and others continued to decline to comment on the case Tuesday.
Alrutz received widespread support from friends, professional and social associates and patients who conducted letter-writing and bumper-sticker campaigns and a public rally.
The hospital issued a public statement defending its practice of refusing to confirm or deny incidents of disciplinary action against staff members, but that statement did not mention any specific cases.
Alrutz also has declined to discuss the case in public.
Kreag Donovan of Rochester, a lawyer who represented the hospital staff and board of directors in a hearing last month before Justice Koshian, could not be reached to comment.
The justice noted that the hospital's governing board retains the right to bring new "corrective action proceedings" against Alrutz for any "alleged future disruptive behavior."