By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
The Florida Department of Health’s Quarterly Performance Report (QPR) for the Third Quarter of Fiscal Year 2020-2021, was recently released. It provides information and statistics on actions involving licensed health professionals through March 2021.
Scope of the Florida DOH’s Control.
First, note that Florida’s Department of Health regulates 22 health care practitioner boards and four health professional councils. This makes it one of the largest such organizations in the country. Second, this also means that the practice of health care in Florida is one of the most heavily regulated anywhere in the U.S., with each professional board, as well as the Department of Health, having specific Florida statutes governing their professions, as well as the different boards each enacting different sets of administrative rules regulating those professions.
The Quarterly Performance Report contains financial and statistical information concerning licensed health professionals.
Key Emphasis on Unlicensed Practice of Health Care Professions.
The key emphasis of this report is the Department of Health’s ongoing efforts to reduce and eliminate the unlicensed practice (UP) of health care professions in the state. This is often referred to generically as the “unlicensed practice of medicine,” but it applies to any health profession for which a license in Florida is required, for example, massage therapy.
A large Number of Health Care Professionals in Florida.
The Report points out that the Department of Health issued 29,651 professional licenses to new applicants just in the Third Quarter of the fiscal year, from January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021.
The Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) division of the Department of Health issued 102 cease and desist orders to unlicensed individuals whose unregulated and illegal activities were reported to it. It referred 98 complaints to law enforcement agencies for potential criminal violations.
The unlicensed practice of a health profession in Florida is a felony.
It would be interesting to imagine how many additional applicants there might have been for licensed and how many additional complaints and prosecutions for unlicensed practice there might have been if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t been in full bloom. The QPR shows overall enforcement support down for the Fiscal Year 2020-2021, undoubtedly because of this.
Which Professions Have the Most Unlicensed Violations?
Although the QPR does not discuss this, from my own personal experience, the ere are three top runners: massage therapy, nursing, and dentistry; note, however, that this is my opinion, only.
It seems to me that there are many cases of mistaken unlicensed practice brought against massage therapists because of mistakes in identity by investigators. We have experienced cases where investigators arrest several different individuals of foreign origin who happen to be present at a massage establishment and accuse them of practicing there without a license when that person was only there visiting a friend or relative and did not touch any client. Often the visitor and even the licensed professionals there will speak little or no English, therefore being unable to clear up any confusion.
Dentistry is another profession where there is a great deal of unlicensed practice. Often this arises when an individual was a dentist in a foreign county and relocates to the U.S., but is unable to obtain a license. They may set up shop in a home or garage and hold themselves out to a certain group speaking the same foreign language, as able to provide skilled dental services. To me, the number of unlicensed practice cases I have encountered in this profession is largely due to the absence of qualified licensed dentists providing care in our communities, especially to the indigent and immigrant communities.
Charges of unlicensed practice of nursing often arise because of nurses who may have been trained abroad failing to make sure that everyone they work with refers to them as “medical assistants” or whatever other role they are filling. It is very common in doctors’ offices and medical practices to refer to anyone who assists the doctor in any way as “the nurse.” One must be careful if one is not a licensed nurse to correct this mistitling whenever it occurs. We have had multiple cases of a doctor’s competitor or a disgruntled patient filing a complaint that the doctor’s medical assistant was holding himself out to be a nurse when they were not.
To Read the entire DOH Third Quarterly Performance Report for 2020-2021, click here:
Remember the Mission of the Florida Department of Health; It is Not to Help YOU.
The QPR emphasizes the same thing you will hear at every professional board meeting if you attend it. That is, the mission of the Florida Department of Health is to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida and to protect the public. It is not to advocate for or help any individual licensed health professional.
That is one of the reasons I continually tell licensed health professionals that if you want advice on what to do or how to do it legally, don’t call and ask the Department of Health.
First, there is no individual who is authorized to give you advice on what to do or not to do on behalf of any profession, board, or council. Second, there is no individual who is authorized to make decisions on behalf of any professional board or council. A professional board speaks when it meets, discusses an issue, and votes on that issue. That is how decisions are made; not by what one employee may think.
You may send all of your complaints and other hate mail to me at one of the addresses given below.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Matters and Investigations.
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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.
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