Other Options Must Be Considered Before Emergency Suspension Order Will Be Upheld

The Department of Health (“DOH”) issued an emergency order suspending Burton’s license to practice nursing.

On appeal, the court quashed the emergency order. It held that DOH had failed to examine other disciplinary options available to it short of suspension. While recognizing DOH might be able to support license suspension as an appropriate penalty, it held that Burton was entitled to a hearing to contest the charges.

In the dissenting opinion, Judge Osterhaus cited numerous findings in the DOH order that supported suspension.

Source:

Burton v. Department of Health, 116 So. 3d 1285 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013) (Opinion filed July 24, 2013).

About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by Mary F. Smallwood, Esquire, of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar. It originally appeared in the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Dec. 2013).

Nurses, No More Excuses: Get a Personal Professional Liability Insurance Policy Now-Part 1

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

To protect yourself from automobile accidents, you carry auto liability insurance. To protect your home from fire, storms and other accidents, you carry homeowners’ insurance. However, I have noticed many nurses fail to carry any insurance to protect one of their most precious assets, their nursing licenses. Yet such insurance is cheap and easy to obtain. I cannot stress enough how important it is for a nurse to carry a personal professional liability insurance policy that covers any investigation, complaint or administrative hearing that might be filed or opened against a nurse’s license.

In my experience, I’ve heard every excuse as to why a nurse does not have a personal professional liability insurance policy. In this blog series, I am exploring those excuses. I want every nurse to understand the importance of buying personal professional liability insurance now, before it is too late.

Keep in mind that a great deal more nursing license complaints are filed against nurses than there are liability lawsuits.

Excuse: I Am a Good Nurse, I Don’t Need Professional Liability Insurance.

You may be a good nurse, but good nurses are the subject of lawsuits and complaints. All it takes is just one violation that gets reported to the DOH or BON, and the nurse is suddenly in a position of having his or her license investigated. The nurse then has to defend his or her actions to protect the integrity of his or her license, and possibly the ability to continue practicing.

The harsh reality is that legal representation is very expensive. Without insurance, even if the nurse is found to be not negligent, the nurse is still responsible for the attorney’s fees and expenses incurred during trial. However, professional liability insurance will protect the nurse in the event of a lawsuit, and it may also pay legal defenses in the event of a complaint against the nurse’s license to practice or for other legal problems.

Excuse: I am Covered By My Employer’s Insurance.

We hear this on a weekly basis. Many nurses mistakenly believe that their employer insures them for legal fees and costs associated with defending against licensure complaints, Emergency Suspension Orders (ESOs), Notices of Investigation, and Administrative Complaints. In the overwhelming majority of cases, this is false. Often it is the employer that files the complaint against the nurse that causes the investigation. If you are told your employer will cover you in such circumstances, ask for a letter in writing and signed by the employer stating that the employer will pay for your defense in any DOH or BON investigation or subsequent administrative proceedings that arise out of your employment. It is unlikely that you will get it.

When a nurse is “covered” under a hospital’s (you can substitute nursing home, clinic, etc., as applicable here) policy, that policy primarily protects the hospital’s interests. Therefore, this “coverage” extends only to those situations and occurrences where the hospital might have liability.

Check This Blog for More.

I will continue to explore excuses I hear from nurses as to why they do not have a personal professional liability insurance policy in later blogs.

It is my hope that after reading this you will look into purchasing your own professional liability insurance policy.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing (BON) in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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

Comments?

Do you have personal professional liability coverage? Are you thinking about getting a personal policy now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Appealing Final Orders and Emergency Suspension Orders (ESOs) from the Florida Board of Nursing

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

The professional boards for licensed health professionals in Florida, such as the Board of Nursing, are all under the Florida Department of Health (DOH).  Each board is responsible for disciplinary actions and other matters regulating the professions under its authority.  The investigators and attorneys assigned for Board of Nursing matters all work for or are assigned to the DOH.  The Florida DOH is headed up by the Florida Surgeon General.  I think of the DOH as the umbrella agency over the professional boards or as a parent corporation which owns many subsidiary corporations.

Administrative Procedures Governing Investigations and Disciplinary Actions.

All agency actions, especially disciplinary actions and investigations, are governed by the Florida Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Chapter 120, Florida Statutes.  The Florida APA is modeled after the Federal Administrative Procedure Act.  However, in addition to the Florida APA, DOH investigations and hearings may also be governed by several different provisions of Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, a set of laws which govern all licensed health professionals.

For example, Section 456.073, Florida Statutes, gives certain procedural steps that must be followed in investigations and probable cause hearings involving complaints against nurses and other health professionals.  Section 456.073(13), Florida Statutes, is a new section added several years ago that provides a six (6) year “statute of limitations” for many disciplinary matters;  but there are many exceptions to this.

Section 456.074, Florida Statutes, gives the Surgeon General the authority to issue emergency suspension orders (or ESOs) in certain cases.  Section 456.076, Florida Statutes, authorizes the establishment of treatment programs for impaired health professionals and offers some alternatives to disciplinary action.  To date, the only recognized programs are the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) (which covers all nursing professionals) and the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) (which covers almost all other health professionals).  Section 456.077, Florida Statutes, authorizes nondisciplinary citations for certain offenses.  Section 456.078, Florida Statutes, authorizes mediation for certain offenses.

Mistaken Advice Regarding Appeals.

We are often consulted by nurses after they have an emergency suspension orders (or ESOs) entered against them or after they have a Final Order for disciplinary action entered against them.  We often hear that they consulted an attorney who advised them at an earlier stage of the proceedings, after they received a letter from a DOH investigator advising that they were being investigated, to not worry about putting together or presenting any defense at that stage.  We often hear that they consulted an attorney who advised them not to dispute the charges at a formal administrative hearing or not to request a formal administrative hearing.  We are told that they have been mistakenly advised that they should just wait and file an appeal because they are more likely to win on appeal.

This is, of course, incorrect advice.  If you compare these proceedings to criminal investigations, would any competent attorney advise you to not worry about preparing for a trial or contesting the charges at a trial?  Would any competent attorney advise you to just wait until you are convicted, because you could then file an appeal?  No, of course not.  This is because appeals are based on legal defects in the proceedings and do not involve any presentation of new facts that are not already in the record.  Additionally, very few cases are reversed on appeal, whether criminal, civil or administrative in nature.  So why give up your best shots at winning a case:  presenting a good case of factual information and documents at the investigation level or disputing the charges at a formal hearing?

Don’t Try to Be Your Own Attorney on an Appellate Matter.

There are, of course, many valid legal grounds for appeals of ESOs and Final Orders.  However, you have to understand the law and the procedural rules that govern such matters in order to be able to identify them and argue them on appeal.  In addition, appellate law is a legal specialty of its own.  If you are not familiar with researching case law and writing legal briefs, you should not be attempting to appeal your own case.  Would you attempt to perform brain surgery on yourself?  If so, you should get your head examined.  The courts of appeal are far more exacting in their requirements than trial courts are.  See The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.  However, most Florida courts of appeal also have their own local rules which may apply to appeals.

Grounds for appeal of an ESO include that less restrictive means of protecting the public were available or that the conduct alleged does not meet the legal requirement for imposing such a suspension.  Grounds for appeal of a Final Order include that the punishment it gives exceeds the disciplinary guidelines that each board has and that proper procedures were not followed which deprived the respondent of his or her right to a fair hearing.  There are many other grounds which one who practices regularly before the Board will be able to identify and raise in an appeal.

In many cases, it would be completely useless to appeal an ESO.  You would just waste time and money by doing so, with little or no chance to win or have it reversed.  You might be far better off requesting an expedited formal hearing, to which you are entitled in an emergency suspension case, and get your case heard as soon as possible.  You need the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney to help you figure out what the best course of action is in your case.

Where to Appeal May Be an Issue.

The notice of appeal must be filed with the clerk of the DOH.  However, a copy must also be filed with the appropriate appellate court having jurisdiction.  The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee will have jurisdiction in almost all DOH and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) appeals.  However, the District Court of Appeal which has jurisdiction over the county in which the respondent health professional resides will also have jurisdiction.  If the appellate case law of one of these is more favorable than the other, from a strategic viewpoint, it may be better to file in the one with the more favorable case law.

Alternative Actions to an Appeal May be Appropriate.

Furthermore, there may be more effective and less expensive methods of obtaining relief from an ESO or Final Order than an appeal.  If you are subject to an ESO, you have the right to an expedited hearing.  Sometimes this will result in quicker relief than appealing it.  If you are subject to a Final Order that has been issued in error or there was some mistake in the proceedings that led up to it, the Board may be inclined to reconsider the matter and amend it.  This would require you to file a motion for reconsideration with the Board itself.

Always Carry Professional Liability Insurance that Includes Licensure Defense Coverage.

We continue to recommend that all nursing personnel, especially those who work in hospitals, nursing homes or for agencies, carry your own professional liability insurance.  If you do purchase insurance, make sure it has professional license defense coverage that will pay for your legal defense in the event a complaint is filed against your nursing license.  Usually coverage of up to $25,000 comes with most good nursing liability policies.  There are many companies that sell such insurance for as little as $100 per year.  However, if you can get additional coverage, $50,000 is more likely to cover any foreseeable investigations, hearings and appeals.  Even higher limits can be purchased for a few dollars more from many insurance companies.

Seek Legal Advice and Prepare Your Defenses Early.

Always seek legal advice as soon as you suspect there may be a complaint of any kind or an investigation of any kind.  Don’t hide your head in the sand and think that the investigation could not possibly be about you.  Talk to an attorney before you talk to anyone else.  A good attorney will help to save you from making mistakes that could compromise a good legal defense.

Call the attorneys of The Health Law Firm to set up a consultation on any of the above issues. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Did you find this blog helpful? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Traveling Nurses Must Have Appropriate Professional Liability Insurance

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

We are often asked what we consider to be the biggest problem that a nurse has in defending herself in a complaint against her license.  In our opinion, it is not having the financial resources to retain the services of an experienced attorney to defend her.  Because of this, we believe that any nurse, especially traveling nurses working at a hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health agency, assisted living facility, medical group, or any other organization must have her own personal professional liability policy that provides ample insurance coverage for professional license defense expenses.

Most Complaints Made Against Nurses are Filed by Employers.

In our experience, most of the complaints filed against nurse professionals come from employers.  In many cases, a patient will complain to the employer and the employer will file the complaint.  In others, the employer initiates the complaint because of substandard performance, documentation problems, allegations of theft or drug diversion, allegations of falsification of documents or records, etc.  When this happens, in most cases the employer terminates the nurse.  This is why we say that a nurse must have her own professional liability insurance policy.

We see a great many more complaints filed against a nurse’s license that she then must defend, than we ever see civil claims for damages.

Many nurses work under the incorrect assumption that they are “insured” by their employer or their agency or that their employer’s or agency’s insurance covers them.  This is a fallacy, especially when it comes to defending against a complaint made against one’s nursing license.  If your employer or agency is the one that files the complaint against you, you don’t really think that your employer or agency is going to cover the legal expenses associated with your defense, do you?

Some hospitals and health organizations are notorious about firing nurses who have any discrepancies in drug counts or who have documentation errors.  This often results in a complaint to the Department of Health (DOH) against the nurse’s license.

Furthermore, we are all aware of the phenomenon with the traveling nurse, the person who is no longer there, getting all of the blame for any problem or incident that come up.  The ones that are still at the facility, the ones who are conducting the investigation on the incident, are far less likely to find blame with their friends and colleagues who are still there.

Just when you need it the most, you may find yourself out of a job, with no income, and no money to pay for a legal defense.  This may ultimately lead to your losing your nursing license and your ability to ever work as a health professional again.

If You Don’t Have Personal Professional Liability Insurance-Get It.

Professional liability insurance policies for nurses are very cheap.  Often policies are only about ten dollars a month.  Usual limits of coverage for this small premium payment are one million dollars of coverage for civil suits and $25,000 or more coverage for professional license defense.

But wait, it is not as simple as just purchasing the first professional liability insurance policy you find.  Many professional liability insurance policies do not offer license defense coverage.  Or, if they do, it is limited to only complaints where there is also the threat that a patient is going to sue for money.  Still others provide such low limits of coverage for license defense expenses (e.g., $5,000 or $10,000) that it is not worth the money paid for it, while others do not allow you to choose your own attorney.

Insurance Companies We Recommend.

We usually tout insurance companies such as that provided by Nurses Service Organization (NSO) and Healthcare Professionals Service Organization (HPSO) as providing great bang for the buck.  But here lately, we’ve been seeing (and hearing) more and more about CPH & Associates insurance.  Not only does it provide one million dollars in coverage if you are sued in a civil court, but it also provides up to $35,000 in coverage for professional license defense.  Additionally, for a very small additional payment, with CPH & Associates Insurance you can increase that coverage to $100,000 for professional license defense.  The other company we hear good things about is Lloyd’s of London.

If you have a complaint filed against your nursing license and you have to prove your innocence through a formal administrative hearing (trial), this can be very, very expensive.  Additionally, if you lose at this level, you may have to appeal the results to a higher court.  These expenses can easily cost $75,000, even if you win.  And you are not ever assured that you will get any of this money paid back to you, even if you are innocent and you win the case.  Inexpensive insurance coverage is the only thing that makes since.  Buy it!

In Conclusion.

We urge all nurses, especially traveling nurses, to purchase and maintain their own personal professional liability insurance policy.  It’s tax deductible.  But check to make sure you have coverage for professional license defense, even when there is no claim for damages expected from a patient.  Additionally, pay the extra premium to purchase a higher limit of coverage for professional license defense cases, or buy a second insurance policy for this additional coverage.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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

Comments?

Do you have personal professional liability insurance? Will you consider purchasing a personal policy now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Woman Arrested for Allegedly Posing as a Nurse, Giving Botox Injections-For Second Time

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Boca Raton, Florida, woman was arrested on June 21, 2013, after authorities say she posed as a nurse and offered Botox injections. The fake nurse has been charged with unlicensed practice of a health care professional. If found guilty, the phony nurse could be sentenced to up to five years in jail. This was a joint investigation between the Florida Department of Health (DOH) Investigative Services Unit, the City of Boca Raton Police Department and the Florida Department of Corrections.

To read the press release from the DOH, click here.

Undercover Agents Visited Fake Nurse at her Place of Business.

According to The Palm Beach Post, officials began their investigation of the fake nurse on June 6, 2013, after receiving an anonymous tip. Local police officials and the DOH set up an undercover sting. Days later an undercover agent scheduled a Botox appointment with the phony nurse and then visited the office. Hours later, investigators allegedly arrested the fake nurse.

Click here to read the entire article from The Palm Beach Post.

According to the DOH, this is not the first time she has claimed to be a nurse and got caught. The same phony nurse was allegedly previous arrested for unlicensed activity in Palm Beach, Florida, according to DOH authorities.

Verifying the License of a Health Care Professional.

This particular woman allegedly claimed to be an operating room nurse and on the website Groupon.com she allegedly claimed to be a surgical nurse.

The DOH has several resources to fight unlicensed activity. Patients are encouraged to check the DOH’s website to verify the license information of their health care providers. Complaints can also be filed calling the DOH. Click here to view the DOH’s website.

Practicing Without a License Is a Crime.

Practicing medicine without a license is a crime. Additionally, so is helping someone practice medicine without a license. As a practitioner, you may be asked to supervise or join a practice. Remember, your license may be at stake with any wrongdoing by your subordinates. Before you join a practice or agree to supervise others, check first with the DOH that the other providers are legitimate. You can verify a license for free on the DOH’s website.

Remember, a license to practice medicine in Venezuela, Cuba, or anywhere else, is just that: a license to practice in that country. It does not allow a person to practice medicine in the United States.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Health Professionals to Come.

In the future on this blog, we will continue to include additional articles on fake doctors and health professionals.

To see a blog on a fake South Florida dentist and the damage he inflicted on a teenage girl, click here. To read a blog on an infamous Florida teen impersonating a physician assistant (PA), click here. You can also read the story of a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.

If you find yourself working for or supervising someone that does not have a valid Florida license, your own license may be at risk. If and when the Department of Health (DOH) becomes involved, do not sign anything, do not speak to the investigators and do not make any statements. Contact an experienced health law attorney immediately to review your case.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, pharmacies and other health care providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies. If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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

Comments?

What are your thoughts on this story? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Florida Department of Health. “Joint Investigation Leads to Arrest in Palm Beach County.” Florida Department of Health. (June 21, 2013). From: http://newsroom.doh.state.fl.us/wp-content/uploads/newsroom/2013/05/062113Goldman.pdf

Alcantara, Chris. “Woman Arrested a Second Time for Allegedly Posing as Nurse, Offering Botox Injections in Boca Raton.” The Palm Beach Post. (June 22, 2013). From: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/crime-law/woman-arrested-a-second-time-for-allegedly-posing-/nYSDh/

Entin, Brian. “Sheri Goldman: Boca Woman Arrested After Police Say She Offered Botox, Told People She was a Nurse.” WPTV. (June 21, 2013). From: http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_s_palm_beach_county/boca_raton/boca-woman-arrested-after-police-say-she-offered-botox-and-told-people-she-was-a-nurse

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.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

The Collateral Effects of Discipline on Your Nursing License

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

A. A case involving an arrest or a conviction involving alcohol abuse (DUI/public Intoxication) or drugs (possession, diversion, theft, trafficking) will probably result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) until the entire licensure case is complete.

B. Client may be required to be evaluated and probably enrolled in the Impaired Nurses Program (IPN) (for nurses only) or the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) (for all other licensed health professionals), which is usually at least a five year contract.

C. Action to revoke, suspend or take other action against the clinical privileges and medical staff membership of those licensed health professionals who may have such in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, or staff model HMO or clinic. This will usually be advance registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) and certified registered nurse anesthetists.

D. Mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) (Note: Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently folded into NPDB) which remains there for 50 years.

E. Must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available to the public online (for those having one), and remains for at least 10 years.

F. Any other states or jurisdictions in which the client has a license will also initiate action against him or her in that jurisdiction. (Note: I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states).

G. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program. If this occurs (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

H. If the above occurs, the provider is also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting and is placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) debarment list.

I. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

J. The certified health professional’s certify organization will act to revoke his or her certification.

K. Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

L. Any profile maintained by a national organization or federation (e.g., American Medical Association physician profile or Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy profile) will include the conviction.

M. Regardless of any of the above, any facility licensed by AHCA (hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), public health clinics, public health clinics, group homes for the developmentally disabled, etc.) that are required to perform background screenings on their employees will result in AHCA notifying the facility and the professional that he or she is disqualified from employment.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health Investigations, before the Board of Nursing, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Nurse Allegedly Filled Fake Prescriptions for Painkillers

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Central Florida nurse is in trouble with the law for allegedly writing fake prescriptions and illegally obtaining painkillers for herself, according to the Orlando NBC affiliate, WESH television. The nurse was allegedly arrested during the week of December 31, 2012. She is accused of trafficking in oxycodone and trying to fill forged prescriptions.

Click here to read the WESH article.

Pharmacist Did Not Fall For Fake Prescription.

According to an Orlando Sentinel article, a pharmacist, who was suspicious of one of the prescriptions the nurse tried to fill, called the doctor listed on the prescription. The doctor informed the pharmacist that she (the doctor) was the nurse’s employer, and the nurse was not a patient. It was then discovered that the nurse used the names of two doctors at her place of employment. She had stolen the prescriptions to obtain painkillers for herself.

A search of Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Database allegedly showed that the nurse had obtained dozens of prescriptions for controlled substances for herself in the past year.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

Check the Department of Health (DOH) Website for a Health Provider’s License Status. 

According to the Department of Health (DOH) the nurse’s license is currently suspended. A complaint on the nurse’s record also shows that in December 2009, the nurse admitted to stealing pain medication from her patients.

Preventing Employees from Stealing.

I recently wrote an article for Medical Economics on how to prevent or detect employee embezzlement in the medical or dental office. It contains valuable information for any small health care practice owner. Topics discussed in the article include: how to recognize embezzlement warning signs, steps to take to safeguard your assets, and the proper way to take action against a suspected embezzler. To read it in its entirety, click here.

I have also written a number of blogs on abuses with narcotics. See my blog on a fake prescription ring busted in Osceola County, and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrest of a doctor allegedly on crack cocaine charges, for example.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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

Comments?

As a health professional how do you keep tabs on your important office supplies? How would you handle an employee stealing from your office? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Nurse Charged with Stealing Scripts, Illegally Obtaining Painkillers.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 3, 2013). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-01-02/news/os-nurse-arrested-prescription-drugs-20130102_1_fake-prescriptions-prescription-sheets-cvs

WESH-TV. “Nurse Accused of Illegally Obtaining Painkillers.” WESH. (January 3, 2013). From: http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/seminole-county/Nurse-accused-of-illegally-obtaining-painkillers/-/17597106/17995906/-/dmj2se/-/index.html?absolute=true

 

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

What Nurses Need to Know about Florida Law and HIV Testing

indest9By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Section 381.004, Florida Statutes, provides for an increased level of protection of medical records that contain human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test results. The super confidentiality requirements imposed by Florida law are viewed as the precautions which must be taken both before an HIV test can be performed and after the HIV test is performed to ensure patient confidentiality.

Pre-Test Requirements.

The administration of an HIV test requires the informed consent of the patient for whom the HIV results will be obtained. No person in Florida may order an HIV test without first obtaining the informed consent of the person upon whom the test is being performed. Section 381.004(3)(a), Florida Statutes. Consent need not be in writing if the medical record documents that consent was given. Section 381.004(3)(a), Florida Statutes. Informed consent must be preceded by an explanation of the right to confidential treatment of information identifying the subject of the test and the results of the test to the extent provided by law. Information must also be provided on the fact that a positive HIV test result will be reported to the county health department with sufficient information to identify the test subject and on the availability and location of sites at which anonymous testing is performed.

Post-Test Requirements.

Notification – Once an HIV test has been administered, there are a number of statutorily prescribed steps that a health care professional must follow. All reasonable efforts must be made to notify the test subject of his or her test result. Section 381.004(3)(c), Florida Statutes. Notification of a person with a positive test result will include information on the availability of appropriate medical and support services, the importance of notifying partners who may have been exposed, and preventing the transmission of HIV. When testing occurs in a hospital emergency department, detention facility, or other facility and the test subject has been released before being notified of positive test results, informing the county health department for that department to notify the test subject fulfills this responsibility. No test result shall be determined as positive, and no positive test result shall be revealed to any person, without corroborating or confirmatory tests being conducted except in the following situations:

1. Preliminary test results may be released to licensed physicians or the

medical or nonmedical personnel subject to the significant exposure for purposes of
subparagraphs (3)(h)10., 11., and 12.

2. Preliminary test results may be released to health care providers and to the
person tested when decisions about medical care or treatment of, or recommendation to, the person tested and, in the case of an intrapartum or postpartum woman, when care, treatment, or recommendations regarding her newborn, cannot await the results of confirmatory testing. Positive preliminary HIV test results shall not be characterized to the patient as a diagnosis of HIV infection. Justification for the use of preliminary test results must be documented in the medical record by the health care provider who ordered the test. This subparagraph does not authorize the release of preliminary test results for the purpose of routine identification of HIV-infected individuals or when HIV testing is incidental to the preliminary diagnosis or care of a patient. Corroborating or confirmatory testing must be conducted as followup to a positive preliminary test. Results shall be communicated to the patient according to statute regardless of the outcome. Except as provided in this section, test results are confidential and exempt from the provisions of Section. 119.07(1), Florida Statutes. Section 381.004(3)(d), Florida Statutes.

Confidentiality.

Once an HIV test has been performed and the results have been obtained, confidentiality must be preserved. The identity of any person upon whom a test has been performed and test results must be held confidential. Section 381.004(3)(e), Florida Statutes. No person who has obtained or has knowledge of an HIV test result may disclose or be compelled to disclose the identity of any person upon whom a test is performed, or the results of such a test in a manner which permits identification of the subject of the test,
except for the following reasons:

1. Patient Release. Consent for disclosure by the subject may be obtained in
a “legally effective release.” Section 381.004(3)(e)(1-2), Florida Statutes.

2. Authorized agents or employees of providers and facilities. Personnel
within a single facility or provider are authorized to disclose to each other
on a “need to know” basis.

3. Health care consultation. Health care providers that are not employees of
the same provider or facility may disclose HIV test results to each other
without the subject’s consent, provided they are involved in the care or
treatment of the test subject and the consultation is for the purpose of the
patient’s diagnosis or treatment. 381.004(3)(e)(4), Florida Statutes.

4. Department of Health. The Department may share HIV test results “in
accordance with rules for reporting and controlling the spread of disease,
as permitted by state law.” 381.004(3)(e)(5), Florida Statutes.

5. Transfer of body parts. Health care facilities and providers who transfer
body parts and semen, for the purposes of artificial insemination, may
disclose HIV test results to each other. 381.0041, Florida Statutes.

6. Health facility staff committees may disclose HIV test results for the
purposes of conducting program monitoring, program evaluation, or
service reviews pursuant to Chapters 395 and 766, Florida Statutes.

7. Research. HIV test results may be disclosed to authorized medical and
epidemiological researchers who are then prohibited from disclosing any
identifying characteristics or information regarding test subjects. Section
381.004(3)(e)(8), Florida Statutes.

8. Court Orders. Subpoenas are not sufficient under Florida law for the
release of HIV test results. A court order must be obtained and this
process is not easily accomplished. A “compelling need” must be
demonstrated by the individual seeking the results and the court must
balance this need against the test subject’s privacy rights as well as
public’s interests in privacy.

9. Workers’ Compensation. An administrative law judge of compensation
claims of the Division of Workers’ Compensation may authorize
disclosure of HIV test results, but only upon a finding that the person
seeking the test results has demonstrated a compelling need for the results.

10. Custodians of Children. Under Section 381.004(3)(e)(11), Florida
Statutes, there are three classes of persons allowed access to HIV test
results:

a. Department personnel and other employees “directly
involved in the placement, care, control or custody” of
the tested child who demonstrate a need to know;

b. Adoptive parents of the tested subject; or

c. An adult custodian, relative or other person responsible
for the child’s welfare if the parent or legal guardian
cannot be reasonably located and informed of the test
result.

Oral Disclosure.

Oral disclosure of HIV test results shall be accompanied by oral notice and followed by a written notice within 10 days. This written notice shall include the following statement: “This information has been disclosed to you from records whose confidentiality is protected by state law. State law prohibits you from making any further disclosure of such information without the specific written consent of the person to whom such information pertains, or as otherwise permitted by state law. A general authorization for the release of medical or other information is NOT sufficient for this purpose.” Section 381.004(3)(f).

Penalties.

Any violation of this section by a facility or a licensed health care provider is grounds for
disciplinary action contained in the facility’s or professional’s respective licensing chapter. Any person who violates the confidentiality provisions commits a misdemeanor of the first degree. Any person who obtains information that identifies an individual who has a sexually transmissible disease, including human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, who knew or should have known the nature of the information and maliciously, or for monetary gain, disseminates this information or otherwise makes this information known to any other person, except by providing it either to a physician or to a nurse employed by the department or to a law enforcement agency, commits a felony of the third degree. Section 381.004(6), Florida Statutes

Conclusion.

The use of tests designed to reveal a condition indicative of human immunodeficiency virus infection is a valuable tool in protecting the public health. Many members of the public are deterred from seeking such testing because they misunderstand the nature of the test or fear that test results will be disclosed without their consent. The laws imposed on the super confidentiality of HIV testing are intended to benefit the public health and the public will be benefited by the nursing profession, when those nurses serve by facilitating informed, voluntary, and confidential use of tests designed to detect human immunodeficiency virus infection.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Overcoming License Suspension and Revocation Pending Appeal

By: Lance O. Leider, J.D.

If you are a doctor, nurse, dentist, psychologist, pharmacist, massage therapist or other licensed health professional whose license has been recently revoked or suspended, there may still be hope. Ordinarily, you must immediately stop practicing or you risk being prosecuted for unlicensed practice, a felony. Although this blog deals with Florida law, similar relief may be available in other states, too.

One of the hardest things about having a license suspended or revoked is that it immediately cuts off the licensee’s sole source of income. If you have a thriving practice, this will usually destroy any value your business has. Without income, paying your bills will be a challenge, much less the cost to fight the legal action or to appeal.

Even if you appeal the decision and win the appeal, you will be out of practice for many months, often more than a year, before your license is reinstated. You still have all the lost income and business, and you never get this time and money back.

Fortunately, Florida law provides an avenue for temporary relief from the adverse decision, so that you may retain your license and practice your profession pending appeal of your case. This legal process is called a writ of supersedeas.

What is Supersedeas Relief?

Supersedeas relief is a form of relief granted by a reviewing court (court of appeal) that suspends the enforcement of the judgement of the lower court (or agency) while the underlying issues are decided on appeal. What this means is that you can have the action to revoke or suspend your license put on hold while you appeal the decision of the Department of Health (DOH).

This relief is authorized in two separate places in Florida law: Section 120.68(3), Florida Statutes, and Rule 9.190(e)(2)(C), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Both of these provisions state that a reviewing court can grant a stay of enforcement of the revocation or suspension of a license pending review.

The relief is not automatic, however. Both provisions specifically prevent supersedeas from being granted if the licensee poses a probable threat to the health, safety or welfare of the state. Fortunately, it is the burden of the agency whose order is being reviewed to prove that there is a danger to the public.

Additionally, the Appellate Rule permits you to ask for expedited review. (Which of course is recommended because you want to be back to work as quickly as possible, right?) This means that the agency only has ten (10) days to file its opposition. This shortened time period may make it difficult for an overworked government attorney to file on time or to produce quality opposition.

Steps to Seeking Supersedeas Relief.

1. File an appeal of the Final Order revoking or suspending your license with the appropriate agency and a copy to the appellate court. Be sure to follow all appellate rules and instructions.

2. File a Petition for Expedited Supersedeas Relief with the appellate court at the same time.

3. If you receive a favorable ruling from the court, deliver that order to the licensing agency (in this case, the DOH) and request that your license be reinstated immediately.

Other Considerations.

It is important to note that this form of relief will not make the underlying action disappear. Your return to practice will only be temporary, unless you win the appeal. You will still have to show the licensing agency did something contrary to law when it imposed the discipline in order for the appellate court to overturn the decision. This is not often an easy task. Furthermore, the law only permits a thirty (30) day window in which to appeal the agency’s decision, after which your rights are lost and you are very likely stuck with the decision.

Appeals Are Very Technical and Require a Thorough, Specialized Knowledge of the Law.

What few people understand is that appeals are very technical and have complex, procedural rules that you must follow. An appeal of an agency final order is not the place to argue about the facts of your case or to try to prove different facts.

An appeal is all about the law and the court cases that have interpreted the law. Unless the agency (in this case your board) made a legal error and violated the law, you won’t win.

For an appeal, a person needs an attorney. To prevail on an appeal, you must have a detailed knowledge of the correct, relevant court cases and you must be able to argue these in the proper form in legal briefs.

There are many other procedural steps you must follow in an appeal that only a good appellate attorney will know. To attempt to do this yourself is not advisable.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.

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: Lance O. Leider 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.

 

The 25 Biggest Mistakes Nurses Make After Being Notified of a Department of Health Complaint

By Lance Leider, J.D.

The investigation of a complaint which could lead to the revocation of a nurse’s license to practice and the assessment of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, usually starts with a simple letter from the Department of Health (DOH). This is a very serious legal matter, and it should be treated as such by the nurse who receives it. Yet, in many cases, attorneys are consulted by nurses after the entire investigation is over, and they have attempted to represent themselves throughout the case. Often, the mistakes that have been made severely compromise an attorney’s ability to achieve a favorable result for the nurse.

These are the 25 biggest mistakes we see in the nursing cases we are called upon to defend after a DOH investigation has been initiated:

1. Failing to keep a current, valid address on file with the DOH (as required by law), which may seriously delay the receipt of the Uniform Complaint (notice of investigation), letters, and other important correspondence related to the investigation.

2. Contacting the DOH investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral interview. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

3. Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH investigator to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

4. Failing to carefully review the complaint to make sure it has been sent to the correct nurse. (Note: Check name and license number).

5. Failing to ascertain whether or not the investigation is on the “Fast Track” which may then result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) suspending the nurse’s license until all proceedings are concluded. (Note: This will usually be the case if there are allegations regarding drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual contact with a patient, mental health issues, or failure to comply with PRN instructions.)

6. Providing a copy of the nurse’s curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator because the investigator requested them to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

7. Believing that if they “just explain it,” the investigation will be closed and the case dropped.

8. Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena when there are valid grounds to do so.

9. Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient medical record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed.

10. Delegating the task of providing a complete copy of the patient medical record to office staff, resulting in an incomplete or partial copy being provided.

11. Failing to keep an exact copy of any medical records, documents, letters or statements provided to the investigator.

12. Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in hospital procedures, medical procedures or the health care matters or procedures being investigated.

13. Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and this will result in the matter being dismissed.

14. Failing to check to see if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend them in this investigation.

15. Talking to DOH investigators, staff or attorneys, in the mistaken belief that they are capable of doing so without providing information that can and will be used against them.

16. Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six months or more the matter has “gone away.” The matter does not ever just go away.

17. Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.

18. Failing to wisely use the time while the investigation is proceeding to interview witnesses, obtain witness statements, conduct research, obtain experts, and perform other tasks that may assist defending the case.

19. Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of your licensing board for a decision.

20. Taking legal advice from their colleagues regarding what they should do (or not do) in defending themselves in the investigation.

21. Retaining “consultants” or other non-lawyer personnel to represent them.

22. Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to have it dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel.

23. Attempting to defend themselves.

24. Believing that because they know someone with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.

25. Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them, to communicate with the DOH investigator for them, and to prepare and submit materials to the Probable Cause Panel.

Bonus Point: 26. Communicating with the Department of Health about the pending case.

Not every case will require submission of materials to the Probable Cause Panel after the investigation is received and reviewed. There will be a few where the allegations made are not “legally sufficient” and do not constitute an offense for which the nurse may be disciplined.

In other cases, an experienced health care attorney may be successful in obtaining a commitment from the DOH attorney to recommend a dismissal to the Probable Cause Panel. In other cases (usually the most serious ones), for tactical reasons, the experienced health care attorney may recommend that you waive your right to have the case submitted to the Probable Cause Panel and that you proceed directly to an administrative hearing. The key to a successful outcome in all of these cases is to obtain the assistance of a health care lawyer who is experienced in appearing before the Board of Medicine in such cases and does so on a regular basis.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Nurses.  

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses and nurse practitioners in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 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.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider, J.D. 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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.