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Hospital Admitting Privileges a Tedious Process

The Wisconsin Justice Department is fighting on behalf of a new state abortion rule. It requires providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

A federal judge has blocked the law, until a court considers whether the rule is legal, in November.

Admitting privileges mean a doctor can admit patients to a particular hospital and treat them there.

It’s a lengthy process, according to Dr. Tim McAvoy. He’s president of the Wisconsin Medical Society and works at Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

McAvoy says doctors who want admitting privileges there must apply for staff membership. The review is rigorous.

“He’s evaluated by a credentials committee that reviews all his paperwork including first hand verification of all his credentials, where he went to medical school, where he got his residencies from, his board status, whether he’s board certified in a specialty or board eligible in a specialty,” McAvoy says.

McAvoy says a second committee must also approve the application and so must the hospital’s governing board. Those approved then go through a type of probationary period.

“Generally when you join a staff you join provisionally until they have a chance to judge your proficiency, and you will be under a heightened degree of scrutiny until such time that they feel you no longer require that. (When) they’re happy with the quality of your work, the soundness of your judgment and the efficacy of your therapy plans and surgeries,” McAvoy says.

McAvoy says most hospitals require doctors to renew their admitting privileges every two years. One thing they check is whether staff members adhere to the mission of the institution. Some religious ones do not offer abortions.

And McAvoy says hospitals generally grant admitting privileges only to doctors who have a decent amount of experience at the procedures the hospital offers. That way, the staff has the numbers to gauge the quality of work.

So, for instance, dentists usually don’t have admitting privileges, because they rarely send patients to the hospital.

Two Wisconsin abortion providers are crying foul over the new law for that reason – they say patients rarely require hospitalization, so providers don’t need admitting privileges. Supporters of the law insist the requirement will protect women’s health.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.