Florida Gov. Rick Scott Makes Changes to Florida Impaired Practitioners Program

indest1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On May 31, 2017, Florida Governor, Rick Scott, signed into law House Bill 229 (Ch. 2017-41, Laws of Florida), which made changes to the statutory basis for Florida’s impaired practitioner programs. The impaired practitioner program for nurses in Florida is the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN), which is a for-profit corporation, The impaired practitioner program for doctors, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, and all other licensed health professionals is the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), a non-profit corporation.

The program, as envisioned in the statute, is designed to assist health care practitioners who are impaired as a result of the misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or of a mental or physical condition, which could affect the ability to practice with skill and safety.

Revisions to the Program.

The new law requires DOH to establish terms and conditions of the program by contract, provides contract terms, requires DOH to refer practitioners to consultants and revises grounds for refusing to issue or renew license, certificate, or registration in health care professions.

A significant change in the program involved a licensee’s duty to report colleagues that have or are suspected of having an impairment. The new law creates an exception to the mandatory reporting of an impairment to the DOH. The new revision will allow a licensee who knows that a person is unable to practice with reasonable skill and safety due to an impairment, to report such information to the consultant, rather than DOH. Both the core licensure statute and individual practice acts are amended to include this language.

Be sure to check Florida’s DOH website regularly for news and updates, here.

To learn more about how The Health Law Firm can help you with matters involving the DOH, click here.

If You Are Instructed to Contact IPN or PRN, Call an Attorney First.

If you are ever instructed by your employer or anyone else to report yourself to the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) or to the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), consult with an experienced health law attorney first. There are many problems that you can avoid by having good legal advice before you make a stupid mistake. We are often consulted and retained by clients when after they have made mistakes in talking to the wrong people about the wrong things and are in a situation they could have avoided.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. We represent impaired physicians and other health professionals in Professional Resource Network (PRN) and disruptive physician matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Sources:

“Changes to Florida Reporting for Impaired Practitioners.” Holland & Knight LLP. (June 7, 2017). Web.

Mckown, Mia. “Changes to Florida Reporting for Impaired Practitioners.” Lexology. (June 7, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for impaired physicians, Legal representation for Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) attorney, Professionals Resource Network (PRN) defense legal counsel, DOH investigation defense attorney, legal representation for investigations against health care professionals, legal representation for Florida DOH investigations, Florida DOH representation, DOH complaint defense, legal representation for DOH complaint, Florida impaired practitioners program, legal representation for PRN matters, legal representation for IPN matters, legal representation for disruptive physician issues, health law defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, changes to Florida impaired practitioners program, legal representation for health care investigations, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Medical Students, Interns & Residents Beware: A Finding of “Irregular Behavior” Can Ruin Your Medical Career Before it Starts

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A medical student, intern or resident may receive a letter from the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), United States Medical Licensee Examination (USMLE) Secretariat advising them that they are suspected of “irregular behavior” on a Step examination. In the case of graduates of foreign medical schools, this will be a letter from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Although “irregular behavior” is not the same thing as “cheating,” it is often thought of as the same by medical school officials and residency program directors.

A notice of irregular behavior may delay your entry into a residency program, your graduation from medical school and your potential job opportunities. Your examination scores will be held up while the matter is investigated until a Committee review or hearing can be held.

It is imperative that anyone accused of irregular behavior immediately consult with legal counsel experienced in such matters. At The Health Law Firm, we have represented a number of medical students, interns and residents in hearings on irregular behavior and we have consulted with many before on these matters.

Don’t Listen to Bad Advice.

The following are examples of erroneous advice we have heard was given to those accused of irregular behavior:

1. You shouldn’t have a lawyer represent you in such matters because this will make the Committee angry at you.

2. You don’t need a lawyer because you can just explain it yourself.

3. You just write a statement and explain it; the Committee will understand and find in your favor.

4. You do not need to request a hearing on it because if you submit documents, the Committee will review them, find in your favor and no hearing will be necessary.

5. If you request a hearing on the matter, you do not need to attend it in person.

6. If you request a hearing, an attorney is not allowed to represent you at the hearing.

7. You should not worry about the Committee finding against you because you can always appeal the finding or sue in court.

The above advice is wrong. The only advice you should listen to is the advice of an attorney who is experienced in handling matters of irregular behavior.

The Importance of Retaining Experienced Legal Defense.

The biggest problem faced by an individual accused of irregular behavior who does have a valid defense is to concisely and adequately explain the situation. Additionally, you must produce evidence that supports what you are saying.

Someone who is not trained in the legal profession and who is not familiar with such hearings will be unfamiliar with the process even though such hearings are not as formal as court hearings. Additionally, it is easy for a non-lawyer who is not familiar with the rules of the USMLE to fail to address those concerns and get side tracked on irrelevant matters.

Additionally, documents, statements, affidavits, expert witness reports and other documents presented to the Committee as evidence should be well organized, indexed, with a table of contents, pages numbered and summarized. This will better present an organized, easily understood defense. Sending in a few stray documents with no organization or explanation how the documents relate to the issues can be far less than effective.
Consequences of an Irregular Behavior Finding.

If a finding of irregular behavior is made against you, then this usually means that your best score is voided and you must retake it. The Committee may require you to wait a year or more to retake the examination. This can prevent you from obtaining or entering a residency program or it may delay you from graduating. Furthermore, the notation that you were found to have committed irregular behavior will be placed on your Step exam transcript. This will be reported out when your test scores are reported.

As indicated above, many medical decision makers view this as similar to cheating. It may disqualify you for many jobs or residency programs that you would otherwise be considered for.

If the time and money you have spent on your medical career is valued by you, you will act promptly to retain legal counsel experienced in USMLE hearings and procedures to represent you. You wouldn’t perform surgery on yourself. You shouldn’t attempt to represent yourself in such legal matters.

The takeaway message is that retaining an attorney to represent you against irregular behavior allegations could be the difference between a clear record and a mark that will follow you for the rest of your career. Don’t risk jeopardizing your future as a healthcare practitioner. Consult with an attorney as soon as you receive notice of allegations against you regarding irregular behavior.

To learn more on the repercussions of findings of irregular behavior, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Matters of Irregular Behavior Today.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to medical students, residents, interns and fellows in irregular behavior allegations, USMLE issues, academic disputes, graduate medical education (GME) hearings, contract negotiations, license applications, board certification applications and hearings, credential hearings, and civil and administrative litigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for allegations of irregular behavior, legal representation for USMLE investigations, National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), irregular behavior defense attorney, legal representation for medical students, legal representation for medical residents, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), legal representation for USMLE hearings , legal counsel for USMLE appeals, health law defense attorney, ECFMG defense counsel, ECFMG legal representation, ECFMG hearing attorney, medical student attorney, medical resident lawyer, medical intern attorney, legal representation for civil proceeding, legal representation for criminal proceeding, legal representation for administrative proceeding, medical administrative hearings defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, The Health Law Firm reviews, USMLE Committee for Individualized Review (CIR) hearing attorney, ECFMG Committee for Individualized Review (CIR) hearing lawyer

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of The Health Law Firm, P.A., and Florida professional service corporation, since 1999, and is also a registered service mark. Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

It is Always a Bad Idea for a Doctor, Nurse or Health Professional to . . . .

3 Indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

My experience in representing doctors, nurses and other licensed health professionals in disciplinary cases has lead me to conclude, us to conclude, its is always a bad idea for them to:

1. Write a prescription for any medication for yourself.

2. Start a romantic relationship with a patient.

3. Take someone else’s prescription medication, ever.

4. Write a prescription for or treat a patient, especially a family member, for a condition outside the scope of his specialty (e.g., a dentist prescribing antibiotics to her children to treat a cold; a pediatrician prescribing pain medications for an adult; a dentist writing a prescription for pain medications for a patient’s back paid; an OB/GYN prescribing antidepressants for a male).

5. Write any prescription for or treat any patient who is in another state when the physician is not licensed in that state.

6. Treat or prescribe for any spouse, other family member, friend or colleague, without opening a medical record and fully documenting the treatment or prescription, as you would for any other patient.

7. Hire a patient to work for you in your office or, especially, allow a patient to “volunteer” to work in your office.

8. Pre-sign blank prescriptions for your Physician Assistant, ARNP, Medical Assistant, receptionist, or anyone else, to complete later, or have pre-signed blank prescriptions in your office.

9. Seek psychotherapy or drug/alcohol abuse treatment with a physician or HCP health professional in your own medical group, institution or the staff of your own hospital.

10. Add to, alter or change any medical/dental record entry after you know there may be a claim, investigation or litigation involving it.

11. For a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health counselor, social worker, psychiatric nurse practitioner) to have any type of social relationship with a current patient.

12. Take and use your own drug samples provided by pharmaceutical companies.

13. Go into a hospital where you do not have clinical privileges and treat or “assist” in treating a patient there, even if it is your own patient.

14. Have a sexual relationship ( including “sexting” or “telephone sex”) with a patient or patient’s immediate family member.

These are actual examples from cases in which I have had to represent licensed health professionals in defending their licenses and attempting to keep their jobs. For each of the above, there have been more than one.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys. We represent medical students, interns, residents, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs. We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters and other disputes with their employers. We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: legal representation for health professionals, legal representation for doctors, health law defense attorney, Florida health law defense attorney, Legal counsel for licensure issues, licensure defense attorney, legal representation for suspended or revoked license, legal representation for adverse disciplinary actions, administrative defense attorney, legal representation for investigations and complaints, legal representation for administrative hearings, complaint investigation defense attorney for health care professionals, appeals (and variations on appeal ) of adverse license action, Virginia health law defense lawyer, Louisiana health law defense legal counsel, legal representation for physicians, legal representation for mental health professionals. Colorado health professional defense lawyer, Virginia health law defense counsel, District of Columbia health law legal representation, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

City of Fort Myers, Florida, Agrees to Pay $149,000 to Settle Dispute With Mental Health Facility

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 3, 2017, the city of Fort Myers, Florida, agreed to pay $149,000 to settle a discrimination-related real estate zoning and licensing dispute with Sovereign Health of Florida Inc., a rehabilitative mental health and addiction treatment provider.

Sovereign Health, which opened January 2015, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the city of Fort Myers violated discrimination and disability laws by trying to shut it down after nearby residents started to complain about the center and the crime they believed it would bring to the community. According to the lawsuit, the city allegedly violated the rights of the provider’s disabled patients under Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.

The Federal Suit.

In April 2015, Sovereign Health filed a complaint that stated that two years earlier, the treatment provider had met with representatives for the landowner to discuss entering into a long-term lease for the property. The representatives for the land owner then contacted the city to get a zoning verification letter, telling the city of Fort Myers the property would be used for onsite residential mental health treatment. Despite this, neighbors living near the facility learned about the facility’s use and began to complain that crime would increase as a result of the individuals living at Riverside. In response Sovereign Health stated in its complaint, “None of the complaints were based on any legitimate land use-based reason such as traffic or density. Instead, the complaints were based on illegitimate, irrational fears associated with the type of individuals (i.e., individuals in recovery from addiction) who were living at the Riverside Property.”

In its own response, the city of Fort Myers refused to accept Sovereign Health’s application for a business tax receipt license and issued a cease and desist order citing it for operating without a license. The city also reversed its zoning position, saying the facility was only allowed in an industrial zoning district, according to the complaint.

Terms of the Settlement.

As part of the settlement agreement, the city will pay a Tampa-based law firm $99,000, as well as cover any of Sovereign Health’s expenses up to $50,000 that enhance security for the facility and the surrounding residents. Security cameras, additional or improved lighting and gate improvements would all be covered. The facility at the center of the discrimination lawsuit will continue to operate as it has since first opening its doors, Sovereign Health said in a statement. The city of Fort Myers continues to dispute the discrimination claims and admits no wrongdoing, as part of the agreement.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Family Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Hansen, Joyce. “Fort Myers, Fla., Settles With Sovereign Health For $149K.” Law360. (February 7, 2017). Web.

Dulaney, Corey. “Fort Myers spends $149K to settle drug rehab dispute.” News Press. (February 7, 2017). Web.

About the Author:  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for mental health professionals, defense lawyer for mental health professionals and facilities, mental health professional defense attorney, health care discrimination defense attorney, legal representation for physicians, complex health care litigation attorney, business litigation lawyer, health care professionals legal representation, health law defense attorney, legal representation for discrimination against health care professionals and facilities, legal representation for discrimination lawsuit against a healthcare professional or facility, healthcare litigation defense attorney, legal counsel for health care professionals, legal representation for clients involved in the health care industry, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Appeals Court Affirms $1.37 Million in Sanctions Against Doctor for Dismissed Defamation Suit Against Former Employers

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 16, 2016, an appeals court in Texas affirmed a $1.37 million sanction assessed against a doctor. The doctor was ordered to pay the sanction after the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit he filed against his former employers. The doctor’s former employers were Baylor College of Medicine (Baylor) and Texas Children’s Hospital.

The case had previously been appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. This makes the November 16, 2016, opinion the second time the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals has had to rule on the case. Additionally, it is the second time that it has held that the sanctions against Dr. Rahul K. Nath were justified.

The Back Story of the Case.

According to the opinion, Dr. Nath was employed by Baylor as a plastic surgeon and was affiliated with Texas Children’s Hospital. He was allegedly terminated in 2004. In February 2006 he filed a lawsuit against his former supervisor at Baylor and Texas Children’s. According to court documents, Dr. Nath had accused his former supervisor of making defamatory statements about him after he stopped working there. The alleged defamatory statements included that Dr. Nath had been fired, was unqualified and lacked professional ethics and integrity.

To read the court opinion, click here.

Was the Former Employer Responsible for Accumulated Fees?

The Texas high court was considering whether the behavior of Baylor or Texas Children’s was ultimately responsible for the attorney’s fees that had been accrued in the case. Previously, the trial court found that both Texas Children’s and Baylor’s actions had not caused the litigation expenses which Dr. Nath was assessed. The trial court wrote that the amount was appropriate as it was “far less” than the actual fees incurred by either party in defending Dr. Nath’s claims.

On appeal, Dr. Nath argued that the trial court hadn’t held a proper evidentiary inquiry and that it had based its sanctions award on “conclusory and self-serving” affidavits. Dr. Nath claimed that he was wrongly denied discovery in the case. To learn more about Dr. Nath’s legal challenge, click here.

Despite Dr. Nath’s arguments, the court of appeals disagreed, holding that the trial court followed the Supreme Court’s instructions in deciding to impose the sanctions. Additionally, the court found that there was evidence in the record to support the conclusion that neither Texas Children’s nor Baylor’s conduct caused the legal expenses that were passed on to Dr. Nath as sanctions.

Adequate Supporting Evidence.

The first time the case came before the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, it affirmed the sanctions against Dr. Nath. The high court held that there was evidence to support the trial court’s finding of bad faith and improper purpose on Dr. Nath’s part with regard to certain filings in the case. Dr. Nath appealed, and the Texas Supreme Court held that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in finding the doctor had exercised bad faith and improper purpose in certain filings.

To learn more about defamatory statements and how to handle such claims, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, medical groups, health facilities, nurses and other health providers in complex litigation, investigations, Medicare Audit defense, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Knaub, Kelly. “Texas Appeals Court Affirms Doc’s $1.3M Sanction.” Law360. (November 16, 2016). Web.

Knaub, Kelly. “Doc To Challenge $1.3M Sanction Before Texas High Court.” Law360. (January 15, 2014). Web.

“Texas Appeals Court Affirms Doc’s $1.3M Sanction.” LexisNexis. (November 16, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for physicians, complex health care litigation attorney, business litigation lawyer, health care professionals legal representation, physician lawyer, health law defense attorney, legal representation for defamatory statements against health care professionals, legal representation for defamation lawsuit against a healthcare professional, healthcare litigation defense attorney, legal counsel for health care professionals, legal representation for clients involved in the health care industry, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, The Health Law Firm, legal fees expert witness, attorney’s fees and sanctions expert witness, health care litigation expert witness, health law expert witness
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.