You’ve Been Accused of Impairment or Misconduct, What Happens Now?

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

In an industry that revolves around helping others, physicians and other health professionals sometimes find that they are the ones being pushed toward a treatment program. Long hours, heavy workloads, and stress among health care professionals can sometimes lead to unsafe, unprofessional behavior and impairment allegations.

We routinely work with nurses, and other health professionals who are accused by employers, hospitals, competitors, or terminated employees of impairment due to drug or alcohol abuse, or mental impairment, of being a “disruptive physician” or of sexual boundary issues. However, not all nurses and health professionals who are referred to a health program are in actual need of rehabilitation services.


What is the Impaired Practitioners Program?

The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) Impaired Practitioners Program (IPN), Section 456.067, Florida Statutes, is administered by the Intervention Project for Nurses or “IPN” (for nurses and nurse practitioners) and by the Professionals Resource Network or “PRN” (for physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and all other health professionals). IPN is responsible for all nurses and works with and through the Florida Board of Nursing. PRN works with and through the Florida Board of Medicine, Board of Dentistry, Board of Pharmacy, and other Department of Health Professional Boards.


You Report Yourself to IPN; What Happens Now?

These types of allegations discussed above made against a nurse or other health professional are extremely serious because they are usually treated by the DOH as “Priority 1” or “Fast Track” offenses. This means that the charges against the individual will usually be automatically considered for an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO) issued by the Florida Surgeon General at the request of the Department of Health. Unless a qualified, experienced health care attorney is able to immediately produce reliable documentation and evidence showing the health professional is not impaired, the Surgeon General will usually issue an ESO. Click here to read one of my prior blogs to learn more.

Even in cases where the individual may actually have committed an offense, there are a number of administrative and procedural measures that may be used to avoid a suspended license. For the innocent health professional, an experienced attorney familiar with such matters may be able to obtain additional drug testing, polygraph (lie detector) testing, medical examinations, scientific evidence, expert witnesses, evaluations by certified addictions professionals, character references, or other evidence which may help to show innocence and lack of impairment.


Call an Attorney Immediately, Before Making Any Decisions or Calls!

If you are accused of wrongdoing, especially accusations involving drug or alcohol abuse or impairment, even if you are threatened with being reported to the DOH or the Board of Nursing, then it may be much better to defend yourself and fight such charges instead of trying to “take the easy way out.” This is especially true if you are being falsely accused. There are many problems that you can avoid by having good legal advice before you make a stupid mistake. We are often consulted and retained by clients when, after they have made the mistake of talking to the wrong people about the wrong things, they are in a situation they could have avoided.

Our firm has extensive experience in representing nurses, physicians, and other professionals accused of drug abuse, alcohol impairment, mental impairment, and sexual boundary issue, as well as in dealing with the IPN and the PRN, their advantages and disadvantages, their contracts, their policies and procedures, and their requirements.

The bottom line is: if you are accused of drug impairment, alcohol impairment, drug diversion, sexual boundary issues, sexual misconduct, or of being mentally or physically impaired, immediately contact an attorney experienced with IPN and PRN and with the Board of Nursing, Board of Medicine, Board of Dentistry, Board of Pharmacy, and other professional boards. Don’t risk losing your livelihood by just taking the apparently easy way out without checking into it. There may be other options available for you, especially if you are innocent and not impaired.

To read one of my prior blogs about the recent changes to Florida’s Impaired Practitioners Program, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters Involving IPN.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses, physicians, dentists, and other health professionals in matters involving PRN or IPN. Our attorneys also represent health providers in Department of Health investigations, before professional boards, in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Masterson, Les. “Physician wellness, quality of care go hand-in-hand, analysis finds.” Healthworks Collective. (September 10, 2018). Web.

Maria Panagioti, Keith Geraghty, Judith Johnson. “Association Between Physician Burnout and Patient Safety, Professionalism, and Patient Satisfaction.” Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). (September 4, 2018). Web.

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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com 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 and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents May Surprise You at Florida Board of Nursing Meeting

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M. Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

At several recent Florida Board meetings, after hearings at which disciplinary cases were considered by the Board, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents approached the health professional. Even in instances where the nurse was represented by an attorney and the attorney was there, the DEA agents confronted the professional involved.

What Were the DEA Agents Trying to Do?

In the cases where The Health Law Firm’s attorneys were there representing clients, the professional received some type of discipline on his or her license. Some of these were Settlement Agreements. The DEA Agent approached the professional and urged the professional to sign a voluntary relinquishment of DEA registration.

It seems that this is happening to professionals where there is some type of serious or long-term discipline is being taken against their licenses, such as long-term probation, suspension or revocation. Also, if the charges against the health professional involved, drugs, over-prescribing, abuse of narcotics, operation of a “pill mill,” selling or illegally dispensing or prescribing narcotics, drug diversion or abuse, being impaired from use of drugs, and other similar misconduct. These are often grounds for the revocation, suspension or revocation of the DEA number.

This action by DEA agents has occurred at Board of Medicine meetings and hearings, Board of Osteopathic Medicine meetings and hearings, Board of Dentistry meetings and hearing and Board of Pharmacy meetings and hearings. If you are a professional who has a DEA registration and number, you are, apparently, fair game.

Don’t Be Surprised; Be Prepared and Don’t Make a Rash Decision.

It is unusual to see federal agents of this type “cruising” state professional board meetings like we have seen lately. But, it seems to make sense, from the DEA’s point of view. If you can take several minutes and convince, surprise or intimidate a health professional into relinquishing his or her DEA registration voluntarily, then you may save the government hundreds of hours of time and thousands of dollars in expenses in having to investigate and have a separate administrative hearing (which the health professional may win), if he or she voluntarily relinquishes the DEA registration.

Immediately consult with an experienced health law attorney who has dealt with the DEA before.

Remember Your Rights; Yes, You Have Rights!

Yes, you do have rights, Constitutional rights. Use them! That is what they are there for.

You have the right to consult with counsel before making a decision. Don’t believe it if a DEA agents tells you that you don’t.

You have the right not to sign any forms or make any statements. Don’t sign anything. Don’t make any statements except for getting the agent’s card and telling them you will have your attorney contact them.

You have the right to take time to consider the matter and consult with others. You do not have to make a decision right away.

The Consequences of Voluntary Relinquishment are Serious and Long-Lasting.

Your voluntary relinquishment are serious and long lasting. It will be treated the same as a revocation of your DEA number. We have consulted with physicians and pharmacists who have never been able to get it back after they relinquished it.

You will probably be terminated from any health insurance panels you are on if this happens.

You will probably have action taken against your clinical privileges if you have clinical privileges at any hospital, nursing home or ambulatory surgical center (ASC).

You may be terminated from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

There are many other consequences that may result.

Therefore, you and your attorney should be aware that this may happen and you and your attorney should be prepared if it does happen.

For more tips on how to prepare, click here to read my prior blog.

Don’t Wait Too Late; Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney Early.

Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. Few cases are won on appeal. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare and you have requested a formal hearing so that you may actually dispute the facts being alleged against you.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing nurses, nurse practitioners, and CRNAs in investigations and at Board of Nursing hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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