Administrative Complaints filed against a doctor with the Florida Department of Health can damage his or her career and long-term professional livelihood. Since virtually any license discipline can have a negative effect on your current employment and future career opportunities, taking prompt, informed action is crucial.
In this blog post, I’ll discuss what to do to protect your physician’s license and your career. For more specific information and help, please call me at 407-894-4555 or submit the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website.
I’m a former Marine and former prosecutor with 20 years of experience. Concerning your Florida physician’s license, I can help you understand the Department of Health’s (DOH) investigation and enforcement processes and advise you on the best way to protect your rights and your future.
Responding to a Complaint Letter and Investigation
If you receive a complaint letter, you should make sure you understand the exact nature and context of the complaint so you can respond fully. An informed, detailed response is essential at this point to rebut the complainant’s position and hopefully lead to closing the case prior to an Administrative Complaint being filed.
If the allegations and supporting documentation show that a statutory or rule violation may have occurred, the complaint will be investigated by the Department of Health’s Investigative Services Unit. This investigation can include obtaining documentation related to the complaint, interviewing the complainant and the doctor against whom the complaint was made and any witnesses, and serving subpoenas to get any necessary information.
The case can be closed after this investigation, so being well prepared with supporting information to show that a violation did not occur is vitally important. For example, even when an allegation of malpractice is unfounded, a thorough defense of your treatment and adherence to the standard of care is necessary when the allegation is reported to and investigated by the Department of Health.
Understanding the Administrative Complaint Process
Cases that are investigated are ultimately decided by a Probable Cause Panel (PCP) composed of 2 or 3 board members, 1 or 2 licensed physicians, and a consumer member. The PCP reviews all evidence and information collected during the investigation and decides if probable cause exits. Based upon its determination, the PCP issues a recommendation to file a formal Administrative Complaint, to issue a letter of guidance and close the case, or to dismiss the case.
If probable cause is found, the Administrative Complaint process begins and the case becomes public. If probable cause is not found, the case remains confidential and is not available through a public records request.
When an Administrative Complaint is filed, you are entitled to a copy of the Department’s investigative file, containing all of the information possessed regarding the complaint. You are also entitled to determine the next step:
- Formal Hearing Before the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
If you disagree with the facts in the Administrative Complaint, you may choose to have a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) in which you can call witnesses, testify on your own behalf, present evidence, and cross examine the Department’s witnesses. Formal hearings are the administrative equivalent of a trial in civil or criminal litigation.
If you opt to proceed with a formal hearing, your attorney can negotiate specific conditions of settlement with the department’s attorney for presentation to the Board. However, any settlement terms constitute license discipline and must be understood within the context of your specific practice and circumstances.
- Informal Hearing Before the Board
If you do not dispute the facts in the Administrative Complaint, you can choose to have your case heard by the Board. At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to provide evidence in mitigation, but you may not challenge the facts in the Administrative Complaint.
This approach is typically not favored, since you waive your right to not only a formal hearing on the truth and accuracy of the alleged facts, but also to reach a settlement with the Department. Requesting an informal hearing means your license will be disciplined and you waive your right to appeal in most cases.
Assessing the Consequences
Whether the result of a settlement or an adverse finding by an ALJ, discipline for Administrative Complaints can be very serious, consisting of one or more of the following:
- Continuing education
- Restriction of practice
- Suspension of license
- Revocation of license
An ALJ’s finding and discipline or the Board-issued discipline can be appealed to the District Courts of Appeal in which case the Department’s attorneys will defend the final order, and you will need an experienced Florida health care attorney to present your case.
With the stakes so high in Administrative Complaint cases, it’s important to understand the potential consequences and act accordingly to protect your career and your future. Having a skilled medical license defense attorney advocating for you is definitely in your best interest. It can make the difference between minimal disciplinary action and suspension or revocation of your license.
Finding the Right Attorney
There are numerous skilled defense attorneys throughout Florida, but for an Administrative Complaint that could affect your ability to practice medicine, you need an experienced medical license defense attorney. I have the experience in healthcare and criminal defense law and record of success you need to protect your career in medicine.
For sound advice on how to proceed when an Administrative Complaint is filed against you and a strong defense to protect your future, call today at 407-894-4555 or submit the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website.
Florida Department of Health. (2019). Enforcement. floridahealth.gov.
Florida Department of Health, Division of Medical Quality Assurance. (2019). Enforcement process flowchart. floridahealth.gov.