When a physician decides to settle an issue with the office of professional medical conduct, (OPMC) there is often included in the Terms of the agreement some type of license restriction. This can be the inability of the physician to prescribe narcotics, the requirement that the physician has a chaperone, the need for a physician monitor who reviews the treatment of patients by the physician in question, or some other type of restriction. This restriction might be for a period of years, typically three years, or it can be a permanent restriction.
In any case, any restriction on a physician’s license can be devastating to the doctor’s career. That happens in several ways, and they all are damaging. For instance, workers’ compensation will, no doubt, suspend the physician for the duration of the restriction. Also, many HMOs will not allow a physician on their provider list who has any license restriction at all. Of course, many hospitals will simply not have any physician on staff who has a restricted license. As is obvious, these problems can greatly injure a doctor’s practice and ability to earn an income.
We recently represented a doctor who had a permanent license restriction that had been in place for approximately eight years. The doctor wanted to have the restriction removed. We took on the case knowing that the chances of success were fairly low, but the damage to the physician was so great that there really was no choice but to try to turn the matter around.
After investigating all of the issues, we decided to utilize public health law 230 (10) (q). That section allows the doctor to apply to modify an agreement based on changed circumstances, new evidence, or for any other reason. Accordingly, we obtained all of the evidence we could, including an affidavit from the doctor, and attached the documents to a position paper that set for the reasons why the restriction should be terminated.
OPMC considered the matter for eight months and, in the end, it was decided that the restriction would be terminated. Other conditions applied, but the heart of the matter was that the restriction was removed. That removal makes all the difference in the world, as it now allows the physician to apply for positions that were completely unavailable while the restriction stayed in place.
The moral of the story is that if you can make a reasonable and well-thought-out argument to OPMC on behalf of a doctor, you will have a fair hearing and often you can accomplish your goal.
Obtaining a result of this magnitude requires careful thinking of how to present the issue so that OPMC can fully understand the problem you are trying to solve. We have found that OPMC will agree to changes if the situation is well-framed in a position paper, and the correct type of evidence is supplied on behalf of the physician. This requires that the attorney and the physician/client address the matter in a realistic and detailed manner.