Community Health System strikes $1.2mil settlement over 2020 neurosurgeon walkout

A medical group gave Community little advance notice of a physician walkout in 2020, threatening the care Community Regional Medical Center could provide at its Level 1 trauma center.

A Santé-affiliated medical group has agreed to a settlement of more than $1 million to Community Health System over a breach of contract lawsuit stemming from a September 2020 walkout. 

Central California Faculty Medical Group (CCFMG), now Inspire Health Medical Group, will pay Community $1.2 million to settle the lawsuit filed in 2021. 


The backstory: In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the contract between CCFMG and Community Regional Medical Center expired for 28 physicians, including six neurosurgeons who worked in the trauma center. 

  • CRMC brought in locum physicians to fill neurosurgical coverage while a long-term deal was negotiated in order to maintain the hospital’s Level 1 trauma center status – the Central Valley’s only such trauma center. 
  • Community filed a lawsuit against CCFMG and Community Regional Medical Staff Medical Group – an associated entity of Santé Health System – alleging Santé and CCFMG colluded to threaten the Level 1 trauma center status to gain leverage in contract negotiations. 

Flashback: Last year a Fresno County Superior Court Judge issued a tentative ruling in favor of Community, stating that the walkout breached the contract with Community with inadequate notice. 

  • The case was scheduled to go to trial in July. 
  • Community also detailed in the lawsuit that Santé CEO Scott Wells and CCFMG CEO Joyce Fields-Keene colluded on the walkout, given their romantic relationship. 

What they’re saying: “While the $1.2 million settlement CCFMG will pay does not fully address the disruption caused by the unprecedented neurosurgeon walkout, it does reinforce that business disputes should never impact patient care and the health of our community,” said Community CEO Craig Wagoner. 

  • “Our hope is that CCFMG will work with us to ensure that abrupt interruption of patient care never happens again,” Wagoner continued. “By putting this unfortunate dispute behind us, we hope to repair the relationship with CCFMG that Community has had for decades and focus on providing the best possible care for the Central Valley.” 
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