WYOMING — After the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in mid-March that physician recruitment contracts are public records, the Gillette News-Record discovered a local hospital promised doctors up to $50,000 a month to relocate there.
Gillette’s Campbell County Memorial Hospital lured doctors to the rural area with promises of incomes of $50,000 a year to $50,000 a month, according to a news article in the News-Record based on the contracts.
The case began when the News-Record requested access to the records in October 1992. The hospital denied the request based on an exemption in the public records act for hospital records.
The newspaper appealed to a Gillette district court judge, who ordered the hospital to disclose the physician recruitment contracts in April 1993, ruling that the hospital records exemption did not apply.
On appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court, the hospital contended that the exemption included all hospital or hospital district records relating to medical staff. The newspaper argued that the exemption did not include hospital district records.
The state Supreme Court agreed with the newspaper, citing the ordinary meaning of hospital records as information concerning the hospital’s day-to-day business of providing medical or surgical care to the sick or injured.
Financial agreements, like the physician recruitment contracts, are not covered under the hospital records exemption, the court said. “Members of the public have a legitimate interest in the operation of the county hospital and in the amount the community is spending to attract health care providers,” the court said.
Further, disclosure of the financial agreements between a county and a physician is not an unwarranted invasion of the doctors’ privacy.
(Franscell v. Houghton; Media Counsel: Michael Krampner, Casper)
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