The health care industry includes health care providers (hospitals, nursing homes, pain management clinics, doctor’s offices, surgical centers, rehab facilities, etc.) and health care professionals (physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, medical students, medical interns, hospital administrators, etc.). These health care providers and health care professionals are often the subject of legal issues.

Cheating, Irregular Behavior and Other Maladies Plaguing Future Physicians: A Two-Part Series

The road to becoming a physician is paved with many unique challenges. The uphill battle begins with rigorous undergraduate course work, followed by the MCAT and medical school applications. Upon acceptance into medical school, the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) and its STEP 1 and STEP 2 exams provide another hurdle. At any of these stages, a student can be accused of numerous faults including cheating, misrepresentation, falsification of information, unfair advantages and the many faces of “irregular behavior.”

Today’s post focuses on the challenges imposed on a student prior to entering medical school. On Friday, the implications of various forms of “misconduct” for med students will be dissected (including USMLE irregular behavior and the case of NBME and FSMB v. Optima University LLC).

Prior to medical school, pre-med students must be ambitious, inquisitive and extra cautious about any disciplinary action. A minor blemish on a pre-med student’s academic record (from academic dishonesty or other accusations), will become a major red flag once that student begins the process of applying to med school. Not only will any kind of discipline record hinder a student’s chances of acceptance into med school, an infraction can also ruin that student’s reputation as they apply for residency and beyond.

Because the process of becoming a physician is difficult without having a discipline record, any  charge against a pre-med student must be taken with the upmost seriousness. If a student is accused of any kind of inflammatory behavior (cheating, academic dishonesty, plagiarizing, misrepresentation of information, falsification of information, etc.) that student needs to immediately try to correct the accusation. If a professor or another student is responsible for the accusation, the accused can try to fix the situation by meeting with the accuser before it advances. However, if this fails and the complaint is taken to a higher administration, it is best for the student to consult a legal expert who can represent them in front of an academic committee.

Often, these cases can be resolved informally,through negotiation or mediation. However, occasionally it is necessary that a civil suit be filed against the school, in order to protect the reputation of the student and prevent retaliation. The student must discuss what legal route will work best for their case in order to have the best chances of a positive outcome.

If a pre-med student makes it through undergrad without any kind of discipline record, there is still a chance that something could go wrong during the MCAT, leading to an investigation by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).

In the event that a student is accused of cheating on the MCAT or disruptive behavior during the test administration resulted in a voided test, it is best for the student to seek legal representation. If a student takes no action, or fails to correct the situation independently, they may be banned from taking the MCAT and have no chance of entering medical school.

After surpassing each obstacle on the way to med school acceptance, students may still be presented with a challenge during the admissions process. Students attempting to be admitted to medical school who are wrongfully denied for various reasons, need to seek legal advice. In one case, a student who was a whistle blower found himself being the subject of retaliation by a medical school professor for whom he had worked in college. After seeking legal counsel, this student was successful in countering the retaliation of the medical school professor and was admitted to the medical school of his choice.

Becoming a physician may be challenging, but the results can be rewarding and worth any sacrifices. A clean slate during your days as a pre-med student will pay off during your medical school admissions cycle and beyond. For more information visit or read this article concerning Education Law.

Why You May Be Waiting For Your Florida Medical License

Applying for a Florida medical license? Read this now, so you don’t have to wait later.

What are the most common problems that hinder an application for a medical license or other health professional license in Florida?

Still waiting for your Florida medical license or other health professional license? Here are some reasons why it may be taking so long.

According to the Florida Board of Medicine‘s website on May 17, 2011:

NOT BEING COMPLETELY CANDID ABOUT YOUR HISTORY AND EDUCATION is the #1 reason for denial of an application for a full unrestricted license. Failure to disclose a problem will get you in trouble with the Board far more often than the problem itself.  Here are some other causes for delay in your application:

  • Actions during postgraduate training
  • Hospital staff privileges with action/termination of employment
  • Action by a specialty board
  • Action by another state regulatory board
  • Misdemeanor or felony convictions
  • Results of the criminal background check
  • Civil judgments/malpractice
  • Medical, physical, mental or chemical dependence impairment/condition within the last five years
  • Lack of active practice
  • Action by DEA
  • Action by the military
  • Applications that require Petition of Waiver/Variance

Do most complete applications get approved?

Yes, most applicants are granted an unrestricted Florida medical license. Those applicants who are not issued an unrestricted license may have the following occur:

  • Approval with conditions such as a fine, corrected application and new application fee.
  • Approval with condition such as taking or retaking an examination.

The Board may also outright deny the license, or may allow the applicant to withdraw the application.


  1. Mail the application to the correct address.
  2. Keep in mind that any monies have to be processed by the Department vendor.  This may take a couple of days.
  3. Identify any variation of names and nicknames.
  4. Once you start the process, submit the application within 30 days so that your supplemental documents, including transcripts, will have an application file to go to.
  5. Have the correct address on the application for training programs and hospitals.
  6. Send in necessary back up documents in a timely manner.
  7. Follow up with sources that are sending the Board of Medicine your documents.
  8. Watch for letters or e-mail from your reviewer.  This is how we tell you what else is needed for your application to be complete.
  9. If asked for follow-up information from the Board, please read the request carefully to identify exactly what is needed to make your application complete.
  10. Answer questions honestly and provide an explanation where appropriate.

For more information about medical licenses and other legal matters, visit

Senators Want National Investigation of State Medical Boards

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

A bipartisan effort has been initiated by three U.S. Senators to launch a national evaluation of state medical boards. Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) sent a letter to the director of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting an investigation into state medical boards at the end of February 2012.

In the letter the senators ask the OIG to launch a national investigation of state medical boards in which the OIG would:

  • Identify challenges and process improvements for state medical boards, including those that occur across state boundaries;
  • Identify legislative changes that would better facilitate the transfer of information from federal agencies to state medical boards and between state medical boards, including as it affects those physicians needing multiple state licenses such as those practicing telemedicine;
  • Evaluate state medical board performance, including the timeliness and consistency of decision making; and
  • Determine whether the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services'(CMS) Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) and/or Part A/Part B Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) report adverse information, including Medicare revocations based on felony convictions, to state medical boards or the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).

The OIG has not undertaken an investigation of this magnitude of state medical boards in over fifteen (15) years.

The U.S. Senate letter dated February 15, 2012 can be seen here.

If this proposed federal investigation proceeds, it is likely that more disciplinary actions will be filed against health professionals. State medical boards may feel pressure to suspend or revoke more health care licenses, which could result in a slower administrative proceeding process.

For more information about state medical boards and disciplinary actions against health providers, visit our website at

Sources Include:

Christensen, Pia. “Senators Request Inquiry Into State Medical Boards.” American Association of Health Journalists. (Feb. 15, 2012). From

Oh, Jaime. “U.S. Senators Call for Federal Investigation Into State Boards’ Action on Physicians.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (Feb. 22, 2012). From

Walker, Emily P. “Senators Want Medical Boards Investigated.” MedPage Today. (Feb. 21, 2012). From

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.  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Medicare Put the Hospice Industry Under the Microscope

Patricia's Photos 013By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

It’s no surprise to anyone that Medicare is cracking down on hospices around the country. According to a report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), eighty-two percent (82%) of hospices’ claims did not meet Medicare coverage requirements. That is why Medicare is investigating the industry as a whole. Specific details on what Medicare is looking for can be found in the 2013 OIG Work Plan. Click here to read the 2013 OIG Work Plan.

So far, Medicare has kept true to its word. During the week of January 7, 2013, the federal government announced it is suing a Central Florida hospice for Medicare fraud, according to the Orlando Sentinel. (Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.) Also, one of the nation’s largest and most respected hospices located in San Diego, California, is in the middle of a federal audit, according to a Kaiser Health News article. (Click here to read the Kaiser Health News article.) These are just a few examples of what hospices around the country are dealing with.

Central Florida Hospice Dealing with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Case.

The federal qui tam (whistleblower) lawsuit against the Central Florida hospice was reportedly filed by the hospice’s former vice president of finance in September 2011. The Department of Justice (DOJ) joined the whistleblower lawsuit in September of 2012.

The federal lawsuit alleges the hospice CEO ordered employees to admit patients without properly determining whether they were terminally ill, as required by Medicare. Staff was also apparently told to find ways to “edit” patients’ medical files so that the billing appeared legitimate. To learn more on this case, click here to read a blog I wrote on the hospice when the government joined the lawsuit. Click here to read the entire whistleblower complaint.

San Diego Hospice Cuts More Than Just Patients After Medicare Audit.

In 2010, federal officials audited a large hospice located in San Diego, California. Medicare is still investigating the hospice’s 2009-2010 admissions. Since the audit, the hospice has had to drop around 400 patients, due to their ineligibility for hospice care. Cutting patients meant a decrease in profits, which subsequently meant the hospice had to let 260 employees go and close a 24-bed hospital, according to Kaiser Health News.

Hospices Under Scrutiny.

According to the Kaiser Health News article, the hospice industry is booming. In 2011, it’s estimated hospices served 1.65 million people in the U.S., which is about forty-five percent (45%) of all those who died that year. Medicare paid for the hospice benefits of eighty-four percent (84%) of those patients.

Medicare is concerned with the amount of people hospices admit. Hospices normally treat patients with fewer than six months to live. If a patient recovers, Medicare expects the patient to leave the program. Patients may stay in hospice care only if they are re-certified as still likely to die within six months by a physician. It’s thought that enrollment bonuses to employees and kickbacks to nursing homes that refer patients are big factors as to why hospices accept ineligible patients.

Medicare Trying to Keep Up with Fraud and Abuse in Hospice Industry.

Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is focused on safeguarding tax payers dollars from fraud. I have recently seen a number of audits initiated against health professionals who treat assisted living facility (ALF), hospice and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. Most often these are audits by the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), because these facilities have been identified as fraught with fraud and abuse. I wrote a two-part blog this topic. Click here for part one and here for part two.

If you are being audited, click here to read some tips we recommend in responding to a Medicare audit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, nurses, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

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

What Do You Think?

What do you think about Medicare targeting hospices? Do you think it is necessary? Is the hospice business going to suffer because of these investigations? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.


Santich, Kate. “Feds Sue Hospice of the Comforter for Medicare Fraud.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 14, 2013). From:,0,7827264.story

U.S. ex rel. Stone v. Hospice of the Comforter, Inc., No. 6:11-cv-1498-ORL-22-AAB (M.D. Fla) United State District Court for the Middle District of Florida Orlando Division. (September 12, 2012), available at

Dotinga, Randy. “Slowly Dying Patients, Am Audit and A Hospice’s Undoing.” Kaiser Health News. (January 16, 2013). From:

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. 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.

Department of Justice Seeks up to $600 Million in Whistleblower Case Against Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Florida

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking for between $350 million and $600 million in damages and penalties from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Halifax employee filed the whistleblower lawsuit in 2009, accusing the hospital of illegal kickbacks to doctors, improper admissions and unnecessary spinal surgeries. The DOJ joined the case in 2011. Click here to read a previous blog on the DOJ joining the lawsuit.

If the government wins this case, it would amount to the largest whistleblower case of its kind in the nation.

Claims Against Halifax.

Halifax is accused of overbilling Medicare by inappropriately admitting patients and having financial arrangements with some of its doctors that violated a federal anti-kickback law.

The federal Stark Law prohibits Medicare and Medicaid payments for hospital services that are prescribed by doctors who have profit-sharing agreements with the hospital. The law was made to ensure that referrals are made for medical reasons only, without financial motives. However, according to the lawsuit, Halifax had agreements with its doctors that gave them a financial incentive to generate hospital revenues.

The whistleblower was recently interviewed in an Orlando Sentinel article. She claims neurosurgeons at Halifax allegedly received illegal kickbacks tied to their performance. The whistleblower claims a similar pattern existed with six of the hospital’s oncologists. The suit also alleges one surgeon performed spinal fusion surgeries that were not medically necessary.

To read more from the whistleblower in an Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Halifax Denies All Claims.

Halifax denies all of the DOJ’s allegations. The hospital has filed two motions to dismiss the case. However, both have been denied. According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the case is set for trial in November 2013. Click here to read the entire article from The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Whistleblowers Who Report Fraud and False Claims Against the Government Stand to Receive Large Rewards.

Since the Halifax whistleblower filed her action under a federal law, she is entitled to recoup fifteen percent (15%) to twenty-five percent (25%) of the damages. Similarly, individuals working in the health care industry, whether for hospitals, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities. Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government.

In a two-part blog, I explain types of false claims, the reward programs for coming forward with a false claim, who can file a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit and what is needed to be a successful whistleblower. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicaid and Medicare Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website.

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


What do you think of this qui tam/whistleblower lawsuit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Swisher, Skyler. “Justice Department Seeks up to $600 Million in Lawsuit Against Halifax.” The Daytona Beach News Journal. (June 3, 2013). From:

Jameson, Marni. “Halifax Hospial Whistleblower at Forefront of $200M Alleged Fraud.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 15, 2013). From:

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. 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.

Use Caution in USMLE Step Exam Preparation

CTH Blog LabelBy Catherine T. Hollis, J.D., The Health Law Firm and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Bulletin of Information outlines several examples of conduct that is deemed to be irregular behavior.  On February 27, 2014, the USMLE posted an Announcement listing the types of alleged irregular behavior recently reviewed by the Committee for Individualized Review (CIR).  Some of the cases reviewed involved individuals who were accused of soliciting unauthorized access to examination materials or communicating about specific test items, cases, or answers with other examinees.  This particular type of irregular behavior seems to be increasingly alleged against individuals who have participated in online forum discussions requesting assistance with examination preparation.

Click here to read the entire February 27, 2014, USMLE Announcement.

Do Not Seek Specific Examination Materials or Attempt to Communicate With Other Examinees.

The USMLE is taking a hard line stance on enforcing its irregular behavior policies concerning soliciting test materials and communicating about specific test items.  We have recently seen a number of individuals accused of engaging in irregular behavior because of posts on forum websites that appear to be solicitations for specific examination materials or cases.  Some examples of these posts include:

–    Joining in requests from others for information on recent test questions after another individual’s post requesting Step 2 Clinical Skills  (CS) cases;
–    Requesting that others provide information about some of the cases at a specific test center;
–    Suggesting approaching examinees as they leave the exam center to ask about the exam; and
–    Requesting a list of CS cases for a specific test center.

Know the Rules.

All USMLE applicants are required to be familiar with the USMLE’s Bulletin of Information.  By signing a Step Exam application, an applicant is certifying that he or she has read and is familiar with all information contained in the Bulletin. You will still be held responsible for this whether you read it or not.

According to the Bulletin, irregular behavior includes any action that subverts or attempts to subvert the examination process.  As noted above, the Bulletin contains a non-exhaustive list of examples of conduct that is deemed to be irregular behavior.

Click here to read our previous blog about irregular behavior.

Irregular Behavior Has Serious Potential Consequences.

If an examinee is found to have engaged in irregular behavior, the CIR will impose sanctions.  These sanctions can include an annotation on an individual’s USMLE transcript, invalidation of scores, a report to the Federation of State Medical Boards, and even a bar from taking future USMLE examinations.

Appropriate Test Preparation.

Examinees can adequately prepare for the USMLE Step exams without the need to seek further assistance that might cross the line into irregular behavior.  On April 4, 2014, the USMLE posted an Announcement on its website with information about materials available from the USMLE, the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and third parties. From the USMLE website, examinees can access free orientation and practice materials, including:

–    Informational materials on the overall USMLE program and content descriptions for each of the USMLE examinations;
–    Tutorials that illustrate the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), Step 3 multiple-choice software and the Step 3 computer-based case simulation (CCS) Primum® software;
–    Sample multiple-choice test questions with answer keys for each Step exam;
–    Sample Step 3 CCS cases with feedback; and
–    Orientation materials for Step 2 CS.

Examinees may also, for a fee, take advantage of the self-assessment services offered by the NBME.  These services are designed to familiarize examinees with USMLE questions and provide feedback on the examinee’s areas of strength and weakness.

There are also a variety of commercial test preparation materials and courses that claim to prepare examinees for USMLE Step exams.  These courses are not affiliated with or sanctioned by the USMLE program, but may be helpful to you.

Click here to read the entire April 4, 2014, USMLE Announcement.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to medical students, residents, interns and fellows in academic disputes, graduate medical education (GME) hearings, contract negotiations, license applications, board certification applications and hearings, credential hearings, and civil and administrative litigations.

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


Have you ever come across these online forums? Have you ever posted in these forums? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


“USMLE Takes Action Against Individuals Found to Have Engaged in Irregular Behavior.” USMLE. (February 27, 2014). From:

“Use Caution in Selecting Review Courses.” USMLE. (April 4, 2014). From:

“USMLE 2014 Bulletin of Information.” USMLE. (2013). From:

About the Authors:  Catherine T. Hollis is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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. 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.

Florida Doctor Arrested for Drug Sales and Other Criminal Charges

Drug trafficking charges against a medical doctor are not a new concept, especially in Florida. Recent pill mill busts throughout the state have resulted in an omnipresent DEA, always on the lookout for illegal drug sales by pharmacies, pharmacists, pain management clinics and physicians. However, the recent arrest of a Central Florida doctor extends beyond the run of the mill “pill mill” bust, as the accusations in this case involve sex with a minor and delivering a controlled substance to a minor.

According to Florida Today, this Central Florida doctor was arrested Tuesday following a raid by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This is his second arrest after he was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in August.

Tuesday’s arrest resulted from evidence of the doctor’s sexual relationship with a high school student. The doctor was arrested in 2009 after being caught during a traffic stop with bags of marijuana in his car and allegedly having a sexual relationship with the 16-year-old passenger. Although charges were not filed after the girl recanted her evidence and claimed the marijuana was hers, that didn’t put an end to a steady stream of younger girls going into the clinic. According to residents of the area surrounding the clinic, girls were frequently seen going to see the doctor dressed in revealing attire. Aside from teenage patients, residents reported often seeing a line out to the street for people waiting to get into the clinic, a possible indicator of drug trafficking.

Although his medical license has been suspended, this Florida doctor has yet to receive broader drug trafficking charges, despite his huge prescription distribution numbers. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this doctor prescribed 250,000 oxycodone pills in the first eight months of 2011. Compared to the entire state of California, which had 300,000 oxycodone prescriptions in the last six months of 2010, it is evident that this Florida doctor had a major painkiller operation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is calling him one of the worst offenders in the state of Florida. Upon further investigation, this doctor and anyone who may have assisted him in the drug trafficking of oxycodone may be charged for this offense.

While the possibility of drug trafficking charges is enough to scare any physician, other criminal charges can be equally damaging, especially depending on how the accused individuals plea to the charges. A health professional’s plea of nolo contendere, which may seem like the safe route, is actually treated the same as a plea of guilty for all purposes. There are ways to defend criminal charges (like the ones against the aforementioned Florida doctor) that can result in a more favorable outcome (e.g., attempting to obtain pre-trial diversion, pre-trial intervention or drug court), but legal advice should be sought from an attorney who frequently represents health care providers before any actions are pursued. To learn more about criminal charges against doctors and other health professionals see this recent post or visit our website at

In Treatment: Physicians and the Professionals Resource Network (PRN)

In an industry so concerned with serving others, physicians and other health professionals sometimes find that they are the ones being pushed towards a treatment program. According to a recent study, alcohol abuse is the most common reason for enrolling in a physician health program. Other reasons for treatment included opioid, stimulant and sedative abuse. However, not all physicians and health professionals that are referred to a health program are in need of rehabilitation services.

The Florida Department of Health’s Impaired Practitioners Program is administered by the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) and the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN). IPN is responsible for all nurses and works with and through the Florida Board of Nursing. The Florida Board of Medicine and all other professional licensing boards in the DOH have contracted with and use the services provided by Professionals Resource Network (PRN).

We routinely work with physicians who are accused by employers, hospitals, competitors, terminated employees, or supervisors in graduate medical education (GME) programs of impairment due to drug or alcohol abuse, of mental impairment, of being a “disruptive physician” or of sexual boundary issues.

Our firm has extensive experience in representing physicians and other professionals accused of drug abuse, alcohol impairment, mental impairment and sexual boundary issue, as well as in dealing with the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), its advantages and disadvantages, its contracts, its personnel, and its policies and procedures.

We are also quite familiar with the interactions between PRN and the Board of Medicine. We have had a great deal of experience in working with the different psychiatrists, certified addictions professionals (CAPs) and evaluators which PRN routinely employs to perform its initial evaluations on physicians.

Our clients routinely include physicians and other health professionals who are alleged to be impaired because of drug abuse, alcohol abuse or mental or physical impairments. We routinely are consulted by physicians who have a DUI conviction, who have a positive result on a drug or alcohol test or who are accused of addiction or theft of drugs because of discrepancies in drug inventories, or for any other number of reasons.

We routinely consult with, advise and defend physicians facing all of the foregoing types of problems. It is crucial that the physician obtain qualified legal representation and advice immediately before speaking to hospital administrators or medical staff leaders about the matter, before giving a urinalysis sample, before reporting to PRN and before going for an evaluation by a psychiatrist or a certified addictions professional (CAP).

Furthermore, these types of allegations made against a physician are extremely serious because they are usually treated by the Department of Health as “Priority 1” or “Fast Track” offenses. This means that the charges against the physician will usually be automatically considered for an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO) by the Department of Health. The investigation will be “fast and dirty” with a requirement that the DOH investigator have the entire investigation completed and the report in Tallahassee within 45 days. Then, unless a qualified, experienced attorney is able to immediately produce reliable documentation and other evidence showing the physician is not impaired and is not a threat to patient health or safety, the Surgeon General (formerly the Secretary of the Department of Health) will issue an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO). This suspends the physician’s license until all proceedings are completed and finalized (which often takes a year or more). The physician will be unable to work as a physician during any period when his or her license is suspended and, even if he or she has a license in another jurisdiction, since the suspension is a public record that is widely published and other jurisdictions are notified, he or she may find the license in the other states is also suspended.

However, even where the physician may actually have committed the offense, there are a number of administrative and procedural measures which an experienced health care attorney, one familiar with Board of Medicine and PRN cases, may be able to use to avoid a suspension. This will also prevent the matter from becoming public until much later in the process.

For the innocent physician or health professional, an experienced attorney familiar with such matters may be able to obtain additional drug testing, polygraph (lie detector) testing, scientific evidence, expert witnesses, evaluations by certified addictions professionals, character references, or other evidence which shows innocence.

PRN does have some advantages for the truly impaired physician. It provides an avenue of rehabilitation, monitoring and treatment for a truly impaired physician. It is an invaluable tool to assist a physician with a real problem to retain his ability to practice. Some physicians should not be practicing except through PRN. However, PRN also has some serious disadvantages and may, among other things, cause the physician to lose clinical privileges in a hospital; lose an employment position; require the physician to enter into long term inpatient rehabilitation; cause the physician to undertake extremely expensive treatment counseling and therapy; and impose very onerous burdens of time and money on the physician, as well as job limitations. Additionally, PRN routinely relies on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its particular philosophy of coping with substance abuse, even though there may be competing schools of thought on the subject, some of which are equally or more effective.

In many cases, the physician who is the victim of a termination action by an employer, a complaint by a hospital or a complaint against his or her professional license involving allegations of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or impairment, may view PRN as an easy way to avoid discipline. This is a complete fallacy. Such an apparent easy way out should be avoided at all costs.

If the physician is not truly an impaired provider or addicted to drugs or alcohol, there may be other alternatives that do not involve discipline. PRN is not “easy” and this is not an easy way out.

It is extremely important that before you “self-report” to PRN you contact an experienced health care attorney for advice.
If the physician is not truly an impaired provider or addicted to drugs or alcohol, there may be other alternatives that do not involve discipline.

It is extremely important that before you agree to go to the initial evaluation by a physician (or sometimes a psychologist or mental health counselor) specializing in addictionology (as PRN always requires), obtain legal advice.

Before you give any blood, urine, hair samples or other drug or alcohol testing, you should contact us for advice. We have access to the same or similar testing labs as PRN. We can arrange to have you tested first so that you will know whether or not you should have any concerns. For example, did you know that the use of certain prohibited drugs (including cocaine) will leave a residue in your hair which can be detected for months or longer after use? Are you aware that there are now tests being used which can tell if you have had one regular size alcoholic beverage within the past thirty (30) days? There are even tests being used now to test health care professionals for the illicit use of anesthetic gases such as Aldan.

We are consulted by just as many physicians who want to get out of the PRN Program after they agreed to enter it without proper legal advice. Even though at the time it seemed like a good idea, or the physician incorrectly thought there was no choice in the matter, it turns out to be a big mistake for that person. In most cases, it is not possible to leave the PRN Program after agreeing to it without giving up your medical license. And this can have some extremely adverse consequences for a physician, including a report to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), exclusion from the Medicare and Medicaid Programs and debarment from all federal government contracting.

We are told that 60 day, 90 day, and longer periods of inpatient drug or alcohol treatment may be required before the physician can return to work. Physicians accepted into PRN usually must sign a five year contract agreeing to monitoring, weekly counseling meetings, regular psychiatric visits, random urinalysis testing (with a mandatory call in every day of your life for the five year contract period), mandatory notification of all employers and hospitals where you have clinical privileges that you are in PRN, a strict prohibition on drinking any alcoholic beverage or taking any medication (even over the counter medications) without the prior approval of PRN, possible loss of your privilege to prescribe or administer narcotics, a possible requirement that you only work under the supervision of another physician, or other possible requirements.

The bottom line is: If you are accused of drug impairment, alcohol impairment, sexual boundary issues, sexual misconduct, or of being mentally or physically impaired, immediately contact an attorney experienced with PRN and Board of Medicine matters before doing anything else. Don’t risk losing your livelihood by taking the apparent only way out. There may be other options available for you. For more information about PRN and other legal matters concerning health professionals, visit

Florida Pharmacy Allegedly the Cause of Eye Infection Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has allegedly traced a rare fungal infection to an Ocala pharmacy, according to media reports. As reported, Franck’s Compounding Lab is believed to be at least partially responsible for spreading a rare fungal eye infection to over 30 patients across the U.S.

The CDC reports that eye drops and injections traced back to the lab caused the infections. These ophthalmic products contained multiple fungal and bacterial species, according to the CDC. The products have now been recalled, but were in use for over a year before the recall. The CDC has also issued a warning to avoid any product labeled sterile from Franck’s.

The patients impacted by the contaminated products had all undergone some type of eye procedure in which the Franck’s products were used. 23 patients have allegedly suffered some vision loss as a result of the infection.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has stated that it cannot divulge if Franck’s or any other pharmacy is being investigated at this time. If the pharmacy is believed to pose an immediate threat to patient safety, the DOH could issue an emergency suspension order (ESO) to immediately suspend the pharmacy’s license.

Franck’s has released a statement saying that the pharmacy is fully cooperating with the DOH and FDA. Franck’s says it is currently cooperating to conduct product recalls and will assist in post-recall inspections to prevent future occurrences.

This is not the first time that this Central Florida pharmacy has made headlines. In 2009, the pharmacy was blamed for the deaths of over twenty polo horses in south Florida. This was also allegedly caused by a contaminated compound. Because of this case, the FDA tried to stop Franck’s from compounding veterinary products.

However, Franck’s won in U.S. District Court when United States v. Franck’s Lab, Inc. was decided in December 2011. In this case, the federal court ruled that the FDA does not have the authority to regulate the practice of pharmacists compounding veterinary prescriptions from bulk substances. The decision in favor of the pharmacy can be found here.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits. It’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources Include:

Associated Press. “CDC Links Eye Infections to Troubled Florida Pharmacy.” Fox (May 04, 2012). From

CBS News Staff. “Rare Fungal Eye Infections Tied to Fla. Pharmacy, CDC Warns.” CBS News. (May 04, 2012). From:

Medina, Carlos E. “Eye Infections Linked to Ocala’s Franck’s Compounding Lab.” The Gainesville Sun. (May 03, 2012) From

United States v. Franck’s Lab, Inc., No. 5:10-cv-147-Oc-32TBS (M.D. Fla., Sept. 12, 2011).

WFTV. “Ocala Pharmacy Blamed for Dozens of People Suffering Vision Loss.” (May 04, 2012). From

VA Physicians and Health Professionals Should Fight Allegations of Substandard Care in Peer Review Matters

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

I have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  My representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary actions, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.

If a complaint involving allegations of lack of clinical competence or skill is made, it is extremely important for the physician or nurse practitioner to retain the services of an experienced health lawyer to represent him or her immediately.  This is not the time to seek the cheapest attorney you can find.  You need skilled representation by an advocate who knows medical terminology, understands medical issues and procedures, knows physicians, and has experience with fair hearings.

You Have Rights.

VA Handbook 1100.19, Credentialing and Privileging, requires that the VA hospital afford you due process of law and fundamental fairness at every step of the process in any clinical privileges action.  This includes timely advance notice of the specific allegations made against you, the evidence that is to be used against you, legal representation, advance notice of witnesses and documents that may be introduced against you, the opportunity to prepare a defense to the allegations, the right to cross examine witnesses, the right to introduce evidence (documents and witnesses, including expert witnesses) in your defense, a neutral and unbiased hearing panel, and other such rights.  Attorneys who are not familiar with such hearings may be unaware of your rights or how to properly exercise and safeguard them.

How to Take Care of Your License.

Don’t seek legal advice from your colleagues, from your accountant or from an attorney who does not specialize in such matters. We don’t recommend shopping around for the cheapest attorney you can find.  Please do not hire a personal injury attorney, a civil litigation attorney, and employment law attorney or any other attorney without health law experience.  Your professional life, career and medical license are at stake.  You are in the fight of your life.  Treat it as such.

If you were diagnosed with a brain tumor, would you attempt to perform your own brain surgery?  Would you shop around to find the cheapest neurosurgeon to perform the surgery?  Or would you look for the best?  Yet, physicians routinely believe they can represent themselves in such matters.  In our experience, this simply is not the case.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney Before You Do Anything.

Far too frequently we are contacted by physicians after the investigation has been completed, after the hearing has been held and after the physician’s clinical privileges have been revoked.  Except for an appeal on narrow grounds, little can be done.

If the VA revokes your clinical privileges, by regulation, this will be reported to the NPDB and to every state in which you have a license.  The NPDB report remains on your file for 50 years.  Any time in the future you apply for clinical privileges, for a medical license or for medical malpractice insurance, this report will come up and cause you serious problems.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain employment or to obtain clinical privileges in any hospital or institution with such a NPDB report on your file.  Additionally, any state in which you hold a license will also open an investigation against your medical license.

NPDB reports can be mitigated by filing an explanatory rebuttal (as is your right) or by filing a request for a Secretarial Review (appeal).  We can do this for you.  However, it is best to prevent a NPDB report from being filed to begin with.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Veterans Administration (VA) Physician Representation and Military Physician Representation.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurse and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  Representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.

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

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. 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.

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