The Texas Board Disciplinary Process – Steps That Every Physician Should Know
The medical profession has been aptly described as one of the most primordial and important professions in the world. And this is not really surprising, considering that this profession involves people’s lives and safety. Hence, states and medical boards have passed on numerous rules and regulations in order to keep this high standard at an optimum level.
However, it is likewise an unfortunate fact that there are physicians who, despite having functioned within the bounds of law and their profession – have been lodged with complaints and sanctions that are simply without merit.
With this in mind, it is important that one is able to retain the services of an excellent Texas medical malpractice employer who will make sure that everything remains legally feasible. And with this help, the physician will be able to protect his rights accordingly and he will be able to perform his functions as efficiently as he should.
It is likewise advisable that every physician knows the disciplining process – in order to have a clear picture as to the procedures that he will have to undergo in the unfortunate event that he will be subjected to such sanctions. Here are parts of the disciplining process that every physician should know of:
The Initiation Process
The discipline process is initiated by filing a complaint, report or letter to the Texas Medical Board, stating therein the grounds as to why the physician should be sanctioned accordingly. This can be done through:
- A letter or self-report from the physician himself.
- A complaint lodged by a patient, a co-worker, a hospital, pharmacy, a judicial agency or an angry spouse.
- Adverse peer review determinations.
- Multiple malpractice claims having been filed against the physician.
- The filing of criminal charges or the criminal conviction of the physician in a separate proceeding.
The Investigation Phase
Once a complaint or a cause of action from the abovementioned grounds has been found, an investigation into the alleged misconduct of the physician or his violations of the Texas Medical Malpractice Act will then be undertaken.
The investigation of any alleged violations will be initiated by the Staff of the Board. The physician will then be given notice of the complaint through a certified letter issued by the Board’s Manager of Investigations, who is an attorney for the board who will determine the existence of probable cause in order to subject him to further investigation and will subject him to the disciplinary process as provided under the Texas Medical Practice Act.
In the said letter, the physician will be required to answer a Medical Malpractice Questionnaire (MPQ) and he will be required to follow a subpoena requiring submission of relevant patient records. As a reply to the said letter, the affected physician will also be required to provide a narrative or a detailed explanation with regards the circumstances in the complaint that has been lodged against him, and as to why he should not be sanctioned in accordance with the law.
Upon the initiation of the investigation, the physician will then be directly contacted either personally or through phone. However, if the physician has already hired an attorney – the Board must instead contact the latter for it is prohibited from talking directly communicating with the physician in the absence of his lawyer. On the other hand, if the physician is planning to hire a lawyer – he may likewise declare his intention to do so to the Board so that a follow up call to his new lawyer will then just be made. It must be noted, though, that in case of the latter, the physician must be able to get a lawyer as early as possible to avoid being misconstrued as intentionally delaying and hiding from the Board proceedings and investigation.
Hence, it is advisable that a physician hire an attorney as soon as he gets hold of information that a complaint has already been initiated against him – for the purpose of avoiding complications and inconvenience that any hassles that may come with the proceedings.
In this phase, the Board’s investigators will then be gathering evidence pertinent to the allegations that have been mentioned in the complaint. They will talk to witnesses, obtain records and documents, and perform other activities in order to determine the propriety of the complaint. The physician concerned or his lawyer, as the case may be, will then be contacted on a periodic basis for clarification and more information.
Proceedings Before The ISC
Once material evidence has been gathered – An Informal Settlement Conference/Show Compliance (ISC) Hearing will then be undertaken accordingly.
In the ISH, proceedings will begin with an opening statement from the Board attorney, the latter presenting its evidence and theory of the case. After this, the physician’s lawyer will then present his defense or mitigating circumstances as a reply. In here, the physician will be subject to questioning from each panel of the Board. Afterwards, each party will then be accorded the right to present his closing arguments.
The panel members of the Board will then decide within 180 days as to whether or not the physician did commit the allegations against him. The Board, represented by its attorney, will then inform the physician of the decision in writing and make a formal offer to him within one month after the hearing – and he will have 20 days to either accept or reject the offer. If the physician rejects the offer, formal charges will then be filed before the SOAH.
It must be noted, however, that if the alleged misconduct or violation is very apparent, or is severe, or if his continued exercise of his profession is construed as a continuing threat to public safety, health or welfare – then the Board may seek for an Emergency Suspension or file the appropriate charges directly to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
Trial Before The SOAH
In this stage of the process, matters of law are decided. This process is akin to a civil trial and is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge who will decide as to whether or not the physician should be held liable for violation/s of the Texas Medical Malpractice Act.
However, since this stage of the process will involve complicated legal procedures and will involve serious questions of law and finding of fact – it is suggested that an experienced lawyer is hired by the affected physician. This is for the purpose of ensuring that he is able to avail of all the rights accorded to him by law.
After the judgment has been made by the judge – the decision will then be remanded to the Board for its enforcement. This will involve the imposition of penalty or a licensure action. But if the physician or the Board does not agree with the findings of the SOAH, or if the Board does not follow the decision rendered by the judge, an appeal may be filed to the District Court or even beyond, as the case may be.
Indeed, the Medical Disciplinary Process is a very serious and complicated matter that must never be taken for granted. Hence, if you have been charged with any violation of the said law, it would be to your advantage if you hired the services of an experienced lawyer who will be able to provide you with all the necessary legal assistance that you will need. After all, you deserve it.