How Can I Tell Whether or Not My Attorney Knows Anything about Florida Board of Nursing or Disciplinary Cases?

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

Hiring an attorney can be intimidating and costly. However, hiring representation for a Florida Board of Nursing or disciplinary case is an investment in your future and career. An experienced attorney is indispensable for preparing and defending your case. But how do you know if your representation is knowledgeable in health law?

Below are some examples of what an experienced attorney will not say to a nurse about his or her Board of Nursing or disciplinary case. Remember, if you hear any of the advice below, the attorney most likely has limited or no experience in this area of legal practice.

1. Your attorney tells you that you can argue your case to the Board of Nursing.

Reason:

You cannot “argue your case” in front of the Board of Nursing. If you are at a hearing before the Board of Nursing, it is because you have requested an “informal hearing.”

If you have requested an “informal hearing” this means you do not dispute any of the facts alleged against you in the Department of Health (DOH) complaint. If you are not disputing the facts, this means you are agreeing that you are guilty. If you are at a hearing in front of the Board of Nursing, you will not be allowed to argue that you are not guilty, and you will not be allowed to call any witnesses or introduce any documents. You are only there for the purpose of determining how much punishment the Board will give you and this is based on guidelines that the Board has previously enacted.

2. If your attorney tells you that he or she does not intend to submit any information or documents for consideration by the Probable Cause Panel (PCP) of the Board of Nursing.

Reason:

Many cases are dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel (PCP) and this is the easiest, most expedient, and least expensive way of winning your case. However, your presentation (written only) that is submitted to the PCP must be direct, concise, directly address the legal issues, and be well organized. It is not advisable to try to prepare this yourself. We often include affidavits from our own expert witnesses that have reviewed the case. If the PCP does not vote in favor of probable cause, the case is dismissed and closed. It is like it never happened. There is no record kept of the initial complaint.

The PCP of the Board of Nursing consists of between two and four members. Some of these can be laypersons with no experience in your area of healthcare. A majority has to vote and decide that there is probable cause. Therefore, if there are only two members, and you convince one that you did not do it, then there is no probable cause.

In my opinion, this is the best and quickest way to win your case, but you must know what you are doing. There are exceptions to every rule.

3. If your attorney tells you to meet with the DOH investigator or to give a statement (written or oral) to the investigator, especially without being present or preparing you.

Reason:

DOH investigators are similar to police. If you give them any statement, this can be used to prove the case against you. In most cases, you never want to do this. Although there may be a rare exception, we strongly advise the client against this in about 99% of the cases we handle.

Even if you believe that you are totally innocent, your former employer, the unhappy patient who reported you, or the DOH prosecuting attorney may be convinced that you are not innocent and recommend that charges are prosecuted against you. Exhibit 1 used against you at a hearing will be your own statement. The first witness the DOH prosecutor will call to testify will be you.

Be smart in such matters. Don’t think you can just explain the case away. Don’t give evidence that can be used against you. It is not required under Florida law, and you cannot be compelled to do this.

4. If your attorney says you should call and negotiate with the DOH attorney, or PRN/IPN case manager.

Reason:

As discussed above, anything you say can and will be used against you. This is one of the main reasons you should retain an experienced attorney: to act as a buffer between you and the legal system, to protect you, and shield you from mistakes you make that could hurt your defense.

Additionally, if your attorney is not much more familiar with the DOH and the PRN/IPN procedures than you are, then why have you hired him or her?

5. If your attorney tells you not to worry about the hearing, you can later appeal.

Reason:

Only about 20% of cases are won on appeal. On appeal, the Court of Appeal is limited to the record of the hearing that was held. You are not allowed to reargue the facts in an appeal. You are limited to arguing about legal errors that were made during the hearing. If you don’t know the law, you are unable to effectively appeal.

6. If your attorney tells you that he or she can represent you during the investigation but is unable to “try” your case at an administrative hearing.

Reason:

Representation only through the PCP hearing stage simply is not enough. An attorney should have sufficient knowledge, experience, and skill to represent you throughout the entire case. If he or she does not, and formal administrative charges are recommended by the PCP, you will then need to retain a completely new attorney who will need time, effort, and legal fees to learn your case in order to properly represent you.

Additionally only an attorney who has experience in litigation cases against the DOH and your professional board will have the credibility and experience to negotiate the most favorable deal for you if you later desire to settle the case.

Consult With An Experienced Health Law Attorney.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to registered nurses (RNs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse midwives and nurse practitioners and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing registered nurses (RNs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse midwives and nurse practitioners in investigations at Board of Nursing hearings. Call now or visit our website 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. http://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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

At Board of Nursing Hearing, Each Aggravating Factor Must be Supported by “Competent Substantial Evidence” or Discipline Is reversible on Appeal

The foregoing case summary was prepared by Mary F. Smallwood, Esquire, of The Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

The Department of Health, Board of Nursing (“Board”) filed charges against Fernandez for administering medication to a person who was not his patient. The facts demonstrated that Fernandez had visited a friend in the hospital and administered a drug prescribed for one of his home health care patients. After an administrative hearing, the Board found that five aggravating circumstances justified an upward departure in the penalty provided for the Board’s guidelines to license revocation.

On appeal, the court reversed. While it found support for four of the aggravating circumstances cited by the Board, it held that one of the circumstances was not supported by competent substantial evidence. Specifically, the Board had determined that Fernandez’ actions had caused damage to the patient. The court found the only support for this determination was testimony in the hearing transcript that the court characterized as “speculation.” Since the court concluded that it was unclear whether the Board would have revoked Fernandez’ license absent the determination of damage to the patient, it reversed in part and remanded for the Board to reconsider the penalty without the unsupported aggravating circumstance.

Source:

Fernandez v. Department of Health, 120 So. 3d 117 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (Opinion filed August 14, 2013).

About the Author: The foregoing 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, Col. 36, No. 2 (Dec. 2013).

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).

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.

Terrible Things That Can Happen after Discipline on Your Nursing License or Resignation of a Nursing License after Notice of Investigation

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

Do you have nursing licenses in several different states? Do you have a license in more than one health profession? Have you been notified that an investigation has been opened against you? Are you thinking about resigning your nursing license or voluntarily relinquishing such a license? Then you must be aware of the following.

First, you should never voluntarily relinquish or resign your license after you know that an investigation has been opened or that disciplinary action has been taken against you. Such a resignation is considered to be a “disciplinary relinquishment” and is treated the same as if your license had been revoked on disciplinary grounds.

Second, this will be reported out to other states, agencies, to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), to any certifying bodies for certifications you have and to other reporting agencies (such as the National Council of State Boards of Nursing for its NURSYS data bank). Other states and other professional boards will most likely initiate disciplinary action based upon the first one.

Protect Your Nursing License from These Adverse Actions.

The following is a list of some of the adverse actions that you can expect to be taken against you after discipline on your license or after you resign your nursing license after receiving notice of investigation:

1. A mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) which remains there for 50 years. Note: The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently merged into the NPDB.

2. 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 ten years.

3. Any other states or jurisdictions in which the nurse has a license will also initiate investigation and possible disciplinary action against him or her in that jurisdiction. (Note: I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states and all, even ones that were inactive or not renewed years ago, initiated action).

4. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. 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.

a. If this happens, you are prohibited by law from working in any position in any capacity for any individual or business, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, physicians, medical groups, insurance companies, etc., that contract with or bill Medicare or Medicaid. This means, for example, you are prohibited from working as a janitor in a nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, even as an independent contractor.

b. If this happens, you are also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting, and you are placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) debarment list. This means you are prohibited by law from working in any capacity for any government contractor or anyone who takes government funding. This applies, for example, to prevent you from being a real estate agent involved in selling property financed by a government backed loan, prohibited from working for an electrical company that bids on contracts for government housing projects, working as a school teacher in a public school, etc.

c. If this happens, your state Medicaid Program is required to terminate you “for cause” from the state Medicaid Program. In many states, this is also grounds for revocation of your nursing license.

5. Any profile or reporting system maintained by a national organization or federation (e.g., NURSYS profile maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing) will include the adverse action in it, generally available to the public.

6. If you are a nurse practitioner or other professional with clinical privileges at a hospital, nursing home, HMO or clinic, action will be taken to revoke or suspend the clinical privileges and staff membership if you have such. This may be in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, staff model HMO or clinic. This will usually be for advance registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), nurse midwives or certified nurse anesthetists (CNAs).

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

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

9. Many employers will not hire you or will terminate your employment if they discover your license has been disciplined in another state.

What Should You Do?

- Don’t take the easy way out by immediately relinquishing your license if you are notified you are under investigation.

- Don’t hide your head in the sand by thinking the case will just go away on its own.

- Don’t take the easy way out. If you are innocent of the charges, request a formal hearing and contest the charges; defend yourself.

- Do not request an informal hearing or a settlement agreement in which you admit the facts alleged against you are all true. If you do this, you are “pleading guilty.”

- Do immediately seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in such professional licensing matters and administrative hearings. They are out there, but you may have to search for one. Do this as soon as you get notice of any investigation and especially before you have talked to or made any statement (including a written one) to any investigator.

- Do purchase professional liability insurance that includes legal defense coverage for any professional license investigation against you, whether it is related to a malpractice claim or not. This insurance is cheap and will provide needed legal assistance at the time when you may be out of a job and not have money to hire an attorney. Beware of the insurance policy that only covers professional license defense if it is related to a malpractice claim.

A Health Lawyer’s Opinion on Professional Liability Insurance.

We strongly encourage all licensed health professionals and facilities to purchase their own, independent insurance coverage. Make sure it covers professional license defense under all circumstances. Make sure you have enough coverage to actually get you through a hearing. $25,000 coverage for just professional licensure defense is the absolute minimum you should purchase; $50,000 may be adequate but $75,000 or $100,000 may be what you really need in such a situation. For a few dollars more (and I do mean only a few) you can usually purchase the higher limits.

Also, I will repeat, make sure it covers your legal defense in an administrative disciplinary proceeding against your license, even if there is no malpractice claim filed against you or likely to be filed against you.

We also recommend that you purchase coverage through an insurance company that allows you to select your own attorney and does not make you use one that the insurance company picks for you.

Companies we have encountered in the past who provide an inexpensive top quality insurance product for professional license defense costs include: CPH & Associates Insurance, Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance, Healthcare Providers Organization (HPSO) Insurance and Lloyd’s of London Insurance.

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.

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.

Kudos to Wyoming State Board of Nursing for its Accurate Information on its Website for Nurses

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

As a nurse, when you are the subject of a complaint that alleges improper conduct or action that could result in discipline against your license, finding correct information regarding the disciplinary process is vital. I’ve recently found that the Wyoming State Board of Nursing (BON) is one of the few nursing board websites that provide accurate information on discipline. On this website, there is information about  nurses’ legal rights, and explanations of the investigation or hearing process, for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs).

Click here to go to the Wyoming State BON website.

Wyoming State BON Website Provides Information Regarding the Board’s Duty of Reporting to National Practitioner Data Bank.

Information about nursing discipline actions was previously reported to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB) by the Board taking action. The HIPDB collected reports made by federal and state licensing agencies, federal and state prosecutors, and federal and state government agencies that had excluded a practitioner, provider or supplier from their health plan.

On May 6, 2013, the HIPDB officially merged with the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The two data banks are now known as the NPDB. To read a blog on how this merger affects you, click here. For more information about NPDB, visit the website: http://www.npdb-hipdb.hrsa.gov/.

Wyoming Website Provides Information Regarding Actions by Office of Inspector General and the Exclusion List.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has the authority to exclude individuals and entities from federally funded health care programs (Medicare, Tricare, Medicaid) and maintain a list of all currently excluded individuals and entities. This is called the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). Anyone who hires an individual or entity that is listed on the LEIE may be subject to civil monetary penalties (CMP).

The OIG has discretion to exclude individuals such as nurses or nursing assistants on a number of grounds, including misdemeanor convictions related to health care fraud (other than Medicare or a state health program); misdemeanor convictions relating to the unlawful manufacture, distribution, prescription, or dispensing of controlled substances; and purposes of disciplinary action by the Board including suspension, revocation or surrender of a license for reasons baring on professional competence or professional performance.

This means that if your license or certificate is suspended, revoked or voluntarily surrendered, your ability to be employed by a health care provider or facility that also receives federal funding, such as Medicare, may be precluded despite the statue of your licensure. In other words, once you are on the exclusion list and have not been taken off even after a reinstatement, you will not be able to be hired as a nurse or nursing assistant by medical facilities receiving federal funds.

To read more on the devastating and far-reaching effects of being excluded, click here.

The Wyoming BON website is the only one I have come across that accurately advises nurses of the collateral consequences of disciplinary action.

Legal Advice for Nurses in These Situations.

I want to commend the Wyoming State BON for including this information on its website. The information provides a great start for nurses with complaints against their licenses.

I’d like to offer up some additional advice. I encourage all nurses to buy insurance to cover license investigation legal defense expenses. Most nursing malpractice insurance policies are very inexpensive and provide excellent coverage. Most contain insurance coverage that will pay for an attorney and other legal defense expenses if you are being investigated or charged with a licensure offense. You should have at least $25,000 in coverage for such investigations and administrative proceedings.

Obtain an Experienced Health Law Attorney Immediately After Receiving Any Notification of an Investigation.

If the BON is investigating a complaint against your license, immediately obtain an experienced health law attorney to represent you throughout the investigation and disciplinary proceedings.

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?

What do you think of the information listed on the Wyoming State Board of Nursing website? 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.

Indiana Nurses Fired for Refusing to Get Flu Shots

George F. Indest III is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

George F. Indest III is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

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

The warnings have been loud and clear from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This influenza season is off to an early and serious start. With that in mind, a number of states are requiring all health professionals in the state to receive the flu vaccination. Some of those opposed to getting vaccinated are being fired by hospitals and health facilities. Because of this, a controversy is arising between employee rights and patient safety, according to a number of news sources.

Click here to read more on this year’s flu season from the CDC.

Agenda Calls for a 90% Average Vaccination Rate of Health Professionals by 2020.

In December 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced a 10-year agenda to improve the nation’s health. It’s called Healthy People 2020. A part of this agenda calls for a ninety percent (90%) average vaccination rate of health professionals. Click here to read the press release on the Healthy People 2020 initiative from the DHHS.

According to an American Medical News article, there’s a push in the medical community to meet this goal as soon as possible. The CDC states that as of November 18, 2011, close to eighty-four percent (84%) of doctors in the U.S. had been immunized against influenza. The CDC is praising these doctors for this high number, hoping other health professionals and the public will follow suit.

The safety of patients is the chief reason for the mandate. In an ABC News article, one Indiana hospital said that it implemented the mandatory vaccine in September of 2012, to promote patient safety. Of the hospital’s 26,000 employees statewide, ninety-five percent (95%) have complied.

Two Indiana Nurses and Others Fired for Not Getting Vaccinated.

A large majority of employees at the Indiana hospital complied with the mandate; however, 1,300 employees did not. According to ABC News, eight employees, including at least three veteran nurses, were allegedly fired because they refused to get a flu vaccine.

The fired nurses are standing their ground, saying they should have the right to refuse the flu vaccine. One nurse had filed two medical exemption requests, a religious exemption request and two appeals. All were denied by the hospital. To read more on this story from ABC News, click here.

In October 2012, Rhode Island mandated immunizations for all health care workers who have patient contact. On December 6, 2012, a health care worker union filed a federal lawsuit against the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) to prevent it from implementing the regulations, according to a Fierce Healthcare article. Click here to read the entire Fierce Healthcare article.

Fighting the Mandate.

The attorney representing the Indiana nurses, who were fired, states that his clients had the right to refuse their flu shots. He argues Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination against employees. The attorney is suggesting religion is legally broad under the First Amendment, so it can include any strongly held belief. According to a Chicago Tribune article, in 2009 New York mandated flu shots for all health workers, during the H1N1 outbreak. Unions fought the issue in court, and the state has since relaxed the rule.

Florida Health Care Professionals Worried About Jobs.

I’ve recently received calls from several local health care professionals working in different Florida hospitals, regarding refusing flu shots and other vaccinations. I’ve also read the news stories about Tampa General Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa requiring employees to receive the influenza vaccine. According to the news articles, the two Tampa health facilities require employees who refuse the flu shot to wear surgical masks.

However, the states and hospitals may not back down in this case. The issue may have to be decided by the courts. I promise to write more on this topic later.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and 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.

Sound Off.

What do you think of mandated flu shots for health care workers? Is receiving a flu shot mandatory at your job? As a health care professional, do you think it is important to receive a flu shot? Is there enough medical evidence to justify firing health care professionals for not receiving the flu shot? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Lupkin, Sydney. “Nurses Fire for Refusing Flu Shot.” ABC News. (January 3, 2013). From: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/indiana-hospital-fires-nurses-refusing-flu-shot/story?id=18116967

Moyer, Christine. “More Physicians on Track to get Flu Shots.” American Medical News. (December 14, 2012). From: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/12/10/hlsb1214.htm

Cheung-Larivee, Karen. “Health Unions Sue Over Mandated Flu Shots.” Fierce Healthcare. (December 10, 2012). From: http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/health-unions-sue-over-mandated-flu-shots/2012-12-10

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.