Published in the Medical Society of the State of New York, News of New York, March 2006 “What Should You Do When the New York State Department of Health Office of Professional Medical Conduct Requests that You Appear for an Interview in its Office?”
The New York State Department of Health Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) investigates all complaints made against medical doctors by patients, nurses, fellow doctors, or members of the public.
A letter requesting that you to come to OPMC means that there has been a complaint filed against you concerning your conduct as a physician. Your license to practice medicine may be in jeopardy. This is not an issue that you should attempt to solve yourself. It is highly recommended that you obtain the services of an attorney experienced in OPMC matters.
You have the right to be represented by counsel. You also may be entitled to have your legal fees paid by your professional liability insurer. Therefore, call your insurance company to see if you have coverage. The company will permit you to retain any attorney of your choice. When OPMC calls you in for an interview you must be aware that:
- They will demand that you provide medical records for certain patients.
- They already will have interviewed the person who is making the complaint.
- They may have interviewed, without your knowledge, your employees, past or present.
- They may have interviewed other physicians, nurses, etc., at the hospitals where you work.
- They will have information about your past and pending medical malpractice cases. OPMC is not required to divulge to you the nature of the complaint, nor what anyone interviewed has said.
- They will know if you have had prior complaints filed against you with their office.
- They may know if you have been disciplined in another jurisdiction, or had your privileges restricted by any hospital during your career.
- They may have information regarding collateral matters such as divorces, marital difficulties, arrests, substance abuse problems, driving offenses, or any matter that may have had an impact on your practice. Any issue may be raised during an OPMC interview, even if not related directly to the complaint under investigation.
What Occurs at the Interview?
- At the interview there is usually an investigator and a medical doctor, both of whom have carefully read all of the data in your file. You should have an attorney with you and the two of you must be prepared as completely as possible.
- No stenographic record or tape recording of the interview is made, but the investigator can later testify in a hearing concerning what was said at the interview.
- Your performance at this interview will determine if OPMC will charge you with misconduct. If you are charged, you have two choices. You may settle the matter, which may involve accepting a penalty, sanction or restriction on your license to practice (including suspension); or
- You have a right to a trial before an administrative panel. You could win, in which case there will be no sanctions or penalties. If you lose, however, penalties and sanctions more severe than what you could have settled for, may be imposed. The most serious potential sanction is revocation of your license to practice medicine. You have a right of appeal.
- Therefore, the interview is your opportunity to convince OPMC to end the investigation.
This information is only a small part of what you must know before going to the interview. You must not take this interview lightly. Professional assistance and complete preparation are the keys to protecting your license and your future.