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New York Physician Assistant Disciplinary Hearing Defense Lawyer

If you are a physician assistant (PA) facing misconduct investigations, your professional license and reputation may be at risk. Brill Legal Group is dedicated to protecting the rights of New York PAs in all types of disciplinary proceedings. Our seasoned defense lawyers have more than 15 years of experience representing registered PAs before the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) in the State of New York. When your livelihood is on the line, you can count on our legal team to prepare an effective and aggressive defense on your behalf.

Working as a Physician Assistant in New York

Physician assistants (PAs) are healthcare professionals who are engaged in the practice of medicine and who collaborate with physicians and other healthcare providers. As of May 2021, New York State has 13,670 PAs, second only to California. The New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area has the nation’s highest number of employed PAs, with 12,550 professionals.

PAs help prevent and treat illnesses and injuries by offering a wide array of healthcare services while working together with a physician. Their work may consist of carrying out physical exams, ordering and interpreting tests, performing illnesses diagnosis, devising treatment plans, prescribing medications, conducting research, and providing assistance in surgery.

What is the OPMC?

The Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) is a branch of New York State’s Department of Health. The office has broad regulatory powers and is tasked with imposing professional discipline on PAs accused of misconduct.

The OPMC and the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct (board) are in charge of investigating and judging complaints filed against physicians and PAs. The complaints are filed by the public, healthcare professionals, and institutions. If a patient files a complaint accusing you of negligence, for example, the OPMC will launch an investigation.

Under state law, healthcare facilities, including health maintenance organizations, are required to report disciplinary actions that they have implemented against medical professionals, as well as any other incidents of potential misconduct. The law also mandates that all healthcare professionals report colleagues whom they think have committed acts of misconduct. All complaints are lodged with the OPMC and can cover any type of misconduct, ranging from guaranteeing a cure to abandoning a patient who requires care. 

PAs who are believed to have issues with alcohol, drugs or mental illness may be reported to the Committee on Physicians’ Health of the Medical Society of the State of NY (the committee). It is not necessary that the PA’s ability to practice be impaired.

If you receive a letter from the OPMC accusing you of misconduct, you are at risk of losing your medical license or facing other forms of disciplinary action that can adversely affect your career. Once OPMC allegations become public, they can harm your professional reputation. If the office moves forward with formal charges, you may need to defend yourself at a disciplinary hearing.  

Cases Resulting in Disciplinary Action

The board can take disciplinary action against the misconduct of physicians. Penalties for misconduct range from extra training and community service to license revocation and suspension.

The types of cases that give rise to disciplinary action are those in which the PA failed to adequately treat the patient. As a result, the PA may be deemed incompetent and may agree to relinquish the license.

Another case requiring disciplinary action is one in which the PA was found to have prescribed drugs to patients without performing required exams. In such a scenario, the PA’s license could be revoked.

Types of Professional Misconduct

A PA may receive an OPMC letter for a wide range of reasons that fall under the umbrella of professional misconduct. The agency’s definition of misconduct is broad and covers complaints related to negligence, medical malpractice, violations, alleged sexual harassment, coworker relations, discrimination, and other employment matters.

A PA’s behavior does not have to affect a patient directly for it to be the subject of an OPMC investigation. For example, committing a drunk driving offense or failing to pay child support on time can trigger an OPMC probe. While the list below is not exhaustive, it includes some common types of professional misconduct that PAs may be investigated and disciplined for in New York:

  • Substance abuse
  • Practicing under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Criminal accusations or convictions
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Being psychologically or morally unfit
  • Inappropriate online postings
  • HIPAA violations
  • Practicing out of the profession’s scope
  • Breaching boundaries with patients
  • Negligence or incompetence
  • False statements on license renewal applications
  • Disciplinary actions in other states
  • Inappropriate prescriptions
  • Financial indiscretion

OPMC Investigation Process

If you are the target of an OPMC investigation for misconduct, you may be wondering what to expect. The disciplinary process in New York is complex and involves multiple steps.

  • Investigation

Once a complaint of professional misconduct is filed against a New York physician assistant, the OPMC will launch an investigation into the allegations. The office will notify the PA about the open investigation via a letter.

  • Interviews

The OPMC will conduct interviews to collect more information about the alleged misconduct. The board will interview the PA as well as their coworkers and patients. They may also request documents such as patient records.

  • Committee Recommendations

The case is referred to a committee if the investigation produces sufficient evidence of misconduct. The committee may then recommend a disciplinary hearing. Other possible outcomes may be further investigation, non-disciplinary warnings, or a dismissal.

If the board decides to proceed with a disciplinary hearing, formal charges are filed against the PA. The committee may decide to make the charges public. If the PA is believed to present a serious and imminent risk to the public, the committee may request a temporary suspension of their license before a hearing.

  • Disciplinary Hearing

If the case proceeds to the hearing stage, a hearing committee of two doctors and a layperson is appointed. The hearing is overseen by an administrative law judge. However, committee members will make the final decision on whether a PA is guilty of misconduct and decide on appropriate penalties.

Many OPMC cases are resolved via an application for a consent order before a disciplinary hearing occurs. An application for a consent order is similar to a plea bargain and involves the PA admitting wrongdoing but avoiding harsh penalties.

  • Penalties

A PA who is found guilty of professional misconduct can face a variety of disciplinary actions. The board can determine what penalties are appropriate for the misconduct that was committed. 

The consequences can range from warnings to the permanent loss of a license. Penalties may include a letter of reprimand, probation, fines, community service, or retraining. In serious cases of misconduct, a PA may have their medical license revoked, suspended, or limited.

  • Appeal

In some situations, it may be possible to appeal a hearing committee decision. However, the process may be a challenging one. Once an appeal is filed with the board, a hearing will be held in which the case will be considered again by the Administrative Review Board.

A point to note is that New York law also allows the OPMC director to file an appeal. This means that if a PA does not face any penalties after an investigation, a director who disagrees with the hearing committee’s decision has the right to file their own appeal for an administrative review.

The Right to Legal Counsel

PAs are expected to cooperate fully with OPMC investigations, but you do not have to go through the process alone. In fact, you should not speak with any disciplinary authorities before seeking legal advice. You have the right to have a defense lawyer present at any time during the interview or investigation.

Some PAs believe they have nothing to hide and think no harm can result from being interviewed without consulting an attorney. However, it is generally unwise to underestimate investigators and agree to questioning with the odds stacked against you.

Anything you say to an investigator can be used against you. Additionally, the parameters of the interview may be wider than what you thought. Not only are OPMC investigators experienced, but they can also obtain large amounts of information from your past. In the process of answering questions, you may end up saying things that investigators will use as evidence for new charges.

At the Brill Legal Group, our New York disciplinary hearing lawyers guide clients on what to expect. We will ensure you are prepared for the interview, understand the investigation process, and do not say anything incriminating. Working with legal counsel who is experienced with PA disciplinary hearings allows you to devise an effective plan to present your case.

Don’t Wait to Contact a New York Physician Assistant Disciplinary Hearing Defense Lawyer

It is important to contact a defense lawyer as soon as you find out you have been targeted for an OPMC investigation. Being proactive can mean the difference between losing your professional license or emerging from the disciplinary process unscathed.

You should still contact an attorney even if you have already undergone disciplinary proceedings. Your rights may have been violated during the investigation or the disciplinary hearing itself, or you may believe your medical license was improperly suspended.

If you are a physician assistant who is in danger of losing your license, you must consult an attorney immediately. A lawyer who is experienced in administrative hearings and licensing issues can provide you with an effective defense that will ensure your livelihood as a PA remains intact.

Call Brill Legal Group for a consultation with a New York physician assistant disciplinary hearing defense lawyer. We understand what is at stake when your career is on the line. Our legal team will provide you with the aggressive and sophisticated representation you need.

Peter Brill and his group are very professional and caring attornies. They are willing to explain everything in detail, give you options and never pressure you for an immediate decision. They know the law and always give you insights to all possible outcomes. I am very grateful the Brill Legal Group represented me.

- L.V.