Judge dismisses termination lawsuit against UA
Pima County Superior Court Judge Carmine Cornelio dismissed a lawsuit against the University of Arizona and ordered that University Physicians Healthcare, a non-profit corporation that employs University of Arizona Medical Center staff, grant the former Chief of Transplantation at UAMC internal administrative due process.
Dr. Rainer Gruessner, former chair of the UA Department of Surgery and chief of transplantation, filed a lawsuit against the UA, UPH and University of Arizona Health Network, a non-profit corporation that integrates UPH with UAMC, in November, after being placed on administrative leave with pay from UPH and the UA.
Gruessner wasn’t seeking damages with the suit and was instead looking to get his job back, claiming UPH terminated him unlawfully and was supposed to give him a due process before termination. UPH placed Gruessner on leave after he allegedly altered or directed someone to alter medical records and terminated his employment in December. Gruessner remains on paid leave at the university but was told in an email from, Steve Goldschmid, former UA College of Medicine Dean, that he was not allowed to be on the UA College of Medicine campus or UAMC without first making arrangements with UAMC security, according to court documents.
Complications between Gruessner and Goldschmid began in July when the Goldschmid asked Gruessner to step down from his position as Chair of the Department of Surgery, citing a “record of poor performance” according to court documents. While Gruessner initially refused, he eventually negotiated with Goldschmid and agreed to step down from his position as chair with the agreement that he’d keep the title for six months. The dean also told Gruessner he wasn’t allowed to keep his position as chief of transplantation.
In September, Gruessner wrote a letter of resignation from chief of transplantation to Karen Mlawsky, chief executive officer of the hospital, something Mlawsky said came as a surprise. A day after his resignation, Mlawsky found out that Gruessner had requested counts of primary and secondary surgeons from Michael McCarthy, manager of business systems for the department of transplant. After McCarthy read Gruessner the numbers he’d requested, Gruessner pointed out some flaws in the data that didn’t match operation reports, McCarthy said at the hearing.
McCarthy, who is in charge of overlooking information submitted into the hospital’s database, said while Gruessner didn’t directly tell him to make changes to the database, he sat with McCarthy making notes on print-outs of the records, implying that the changes needed to be made.
After a two-and-a-half-day preliminary hearing Judge Cornelio said the court did not have the right to reinstate Gruessner to his previous positions. After dismissing the lawsuit against the UA, the judge ordered UPH to arrange a hearing which will offer Gruessner due process which is to begin in the next 15 days.