By Christopher Cheney
Yale New Haven Hospital’s Late Career Practitioner Policy, which features an assessment of whether clinicians 70 and older are fit to practice medicine independently, has been challenged in federal court.
Like the general population, the proportion of the country’s physician workforce entering retirement age is growing. In 2019, the American Association of Medical Colleges reported that nearly half of physicians were either at retirement age or approaching retirement age in the next decade: 15% of physicians were more than 65 years old and 27% of physicians were between the age of 55 and 64.
The Late Career Practitioner Policy at Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH) requires clinicians who are at least 70 years old and seeking reappointment to the medical staff to undergo vision and neuropsychological assessments. The evaluation of cognitive functioning includes a battery of 16 tests. The hospital’s Medical Staff Review Committee supervises the process of determining whether impaired clinicians can practice medicine independently or should retire.
Clinicians under age 70 are not subject to the evaluation.
Last month, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut challenging the Late Career Practitioner Policy. The lawsuit claims the hospital’s policy violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“While Yale New Haven Hospital may claim its policy is well-intentioned, it violates anti-discrimination laws. There are many other non-discriminatory methods already in place to ensure the competence of all of its physicians and other healthcare providers, regardless of age,” Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, said in a prepared statement.
The EEOC’s New York District Office oversees Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
A YNHH spokesman told HealthLeaders the hospital is confident that the policy will withstand the court challenge.
“Yale New Haven Hospital’s Late Career Practitioner Policy is designed to protect our patients from potential harm while including safeguards to ensure that our physicians are treated fairly. The policy is modeled on similar standards in other industries and we are confident that no discrimination has occurred and will vigorously defend ourselves in this matter,” YNHH spokesman Mark D’Antonio said.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.