If you hold a valid Connecticut physician's license and are facing an accusation of wrongdoing, you need to be proactive. Your license to practice medicine may be in jeopardy. After years of study and hard work, a formal complaint from a patient, another healthcare practitioner, or a hospital can derail your career. A complaint can lead to an investigation by the state of Connecticut and possible disciplinary action — including a potential loss of licensure — so you must take any allegations seriously. Even if you think the complaint is groundless, you cannot ignore it. You should defend yourself, and to do that, you need an experienced law firm to help you navigate the confusing state disciplinary process.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can help. The team has vast experience defending doctors, surgeons, and other licensed professionals who face allegations of misconduct. An attorney with the Professional License Defense Team can review your situation, answer your questions, explain what happens next, go over your options, and work with you to pursue the most favorable resolution of the case. Experience matters and the Lento Law Firm is ready to advocate on your behalf, regardless of where you are in Connecticut. From Stamford to Hartford to Plainfield, as well as nationwide, the Lento Law Firm is your best choice for assistance. Call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.
Physician Licensing in Connecticut
Connecticut's Department of Public Health handles the licensing process for physicians, and the department's Practitioner Licensing and Investigations Section deals with any complaints that may trigger the disciplinary process. When a complaint is filed against a physician or surgeon, the DPH's interest is administrative, meaning it does not act within the civil or criminal court system. The DPH's interest only involves licensing. Unless fraud is involved, the department will not handle complaints regarding patient bills. The department will not deal with complaints about personality conflicts or long wait times at a medical office, either. In addition, the DPH will not award monetary damages to someone who pursues a complaint. If the department takes any action, that action will only be against a physician's license to practice medicine. And that is a doctor's most valuable asset.
Complaints Against Physicians in Connecticut
Connecticut law allows individuals, hospitals, and healthcare practitioners to file complaints against physicians and surgeons, although the process for doing so differs depending on the identity of the complaining party.
A complaint may accuse a medical licensee of any number of misdeeds. These are the most common:
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs;
- Alteration of medical records;
- Distribution of controlled substances for other than medicinal purposes;
- Engaging in certain medical activities, such as anesthesia, without accreditation;
- Failure to comply with medical education mandates;
- Failure to maintain professional liability insurance;
- Failure to provide the department with health care provider profile information;
- Failure to report any disciplinary action in another jurisdiction;
- Inadequate supervision of a physician assistant;
- Loss of motor skills or physical illness;
- Mental illness;
- Misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact regarding medical licensure;
- Negligent, illegal, or incompetent conduct in the practice of medicine;
- Practicing medicine while under a suspended license;
- Sexual misconduct; and
- Unlicensed practice of medicine or aiding the unlicensed practice of medicine.
A patient or other individual can file a voluntary complaint with the DPH by filling out a specialized form, signing it in front of a notary, and submitting it by mail, email, or fax. The form must be filed within 30 days of when the individual learned of the alleged wrongdoing. Note that the DPH takes complaints against physicians seriously, and if a complaint is filed within 31 days, it won't be ignored. The individual can check a box on the form to indicate whether the complaint involves the quality of care, sexual contact with a patient, substance abuse, the unlicensed practice of medicine, unsanitary conditions, the failure to release patient records, insurance fraud, or another unspecified concern. The document gives the complainant a chance to explain the matter in detail and add photos and supporting documents. A patient must also sign an attached medical records release so the department can obtain his or her private medical information if necessary.
Healthcare professionals and hospitals are obligated under Connecticut law to file a complaint when they have information that a physician is, or maybe, unable to practice medicine with reasonable safety or skill. The professional or hospital must file a specialized form with the department no later than 30 days after learning of the alleged problem. These entities must file the mandatory complaint if a physician is impaired due to a physical illness or the loss of motor skills, abusing drugs or alcohol, or distributing or prescribing controlled substances for other than legitimate medical purposes. A complaint is also mandatory if a physician is engaging in illegal or negligent conduct in a medical practice, is misrepresenting important facts regarding a medical license, or violating any state law concerning physician licensure.
If someone has filed a complaint against you, or you think they will, you should consult with an experienced attorney immediately. Don't wait to see what happens because your career, your income, and your reputation may be on the line. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can guide you through the disciplinary process.
What is at Risk When a Complaint is Filed Against a Connecticut Physician?
When a complaint is filed and, after the adjudicatory process, a physician or surgeon is found to have committed an act of wrongdoing, he or she may receive one of the following penalties:
- a monetary penalty;
- a letter of reprimand or censure;
- probationary status with certain restrictions and/or an order for further professional education;
- limitations on the medical practice;
- license suspension; or
- license revocation.
Not every incident of wrongdoing will result in a license suspension or revocation, but you cannot become complacent. Each penalty is serious. The state of Connecticut must choose the best course of action to protect the public, and you have to choose the best course of action to protect your license. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can help you. They understand what's at stake.
In addition to a penalty, a doctor will face public scrutiny. Disciplinary actions are matters of public record and are listed on the DPH's website. They are also in the department's quarterly regulatory reports, as well as on the state's license search webpage. Further, the Federation of State Medical Boards maintains, behind a paywall, a nationwide database of disciplinary actions, as well as a second database for the public's use at no cost. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through its National Practitioner Data Bank, also has a nationwide database. Disciplinary actions are often reported in the local newspaper as well, and given today's social media environment, news tends to spread quickly.
What Happens After a Complaint is Filed Against a Connecticut Physician?
When the department receives a complaint form, it will notify the complaining party of receipt in writing and, if the matter is within its jurisdiction, determine whether an investigation is warranted. The department uses an investigation to find out whether it has cause to issue a statement of charges and begin disciplinary proceedings against the physician. When the DPH decides to move forward, an investigation must be completed within 18 months of the date of the complaint's filing.
The investigation is confidential, and no one is allowed to reveal any information about it to a third party unless the physician under review requests an open investigation. At the end of the 18-month period, the record of the investigation becomes public. However, if the DPH determines during the 18-month period that it does not have enough evidence to institute a proceeding against the doctor, the complaint and the record of the investigation stay confidential. So, if nothing comes of the complaint, no one will ever know it was even filed. However, in the event, the DPH is satisfied that the investigation provided it with cause to issue a statement of charges and start proceedings, the record of the proceedings will be public in most cases.
A physician or surgeon who is the subject of a complaint will be notified and given a chance to respond to the allegations. Investigators will review relevant records, interview witnesses, and may seek an expert opinion from a doctor who has the same specialty as the physician under investigation. The physician under review can challenge this opinion during the investigatory process. The DPH uses all of this information to determine whether it will issue a statement of charges.
What Happens After a Statement of Charges is Filed Against a Connecticut Physician?
If the DPH decides a complaint is valid, it will issue a statement of charges against a physician and submit that document to the Connecticut Medical Examining Board. The board has 60 days, generally, to send the charges to a three-person panel that will preside at a hearing on the complaint. The proceeding will be conducted according to Connecticut's Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (UAPA) and the DPH's Rules of Practice.
The board will give the physician or surgeon written notice of the hearing. The doctor has 14 days to file an answer to the allegations. The answer must admit or deny the allegations and set forth any defenses. If you receive a hearing notice, you should contact a reputable law firm and seek assistance going forward. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can advise you, handle the preparation of the answer and other legal documents, and represent you at the hearing. It's always best to have prepared representation at your side.
What Happens at a Disciplinary Hearing for a Connecticut Physician?
During the hearing, the panel will listen to the testimony and arguments of the parties and review their evidence. The physician who is the subject of the hearing is allowed to cross-examine witnesses and present a defense. A hearing can be an intense, stressful experience, and it is best to stay calm while you are in front of the panel because the panel members can order disruptive people to leave the room. In fact, the Connecticut DPH has a specific provision about this in the Rules of Practice, so that just goes to show that stress-induced outbursts happen frequently. After all, there is a lot on the line. The hearing is a crucial step in the disciplinary process, and if you have received a hearing notice, you should not plan to attend alone. You need a trustworthy lawyer who has your interests at heart and will keep you informed and calm every step of the way. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is ready, willing, and able to help you.
After the hearing is concluded, the panel will issue a written proposed final decision which has to be forwarded to the board within, generally, 120 days of the date of the hearing notice. The proposed final decision must contain the reasons for the decision and findings of facts and conclusions of law on each issue that is necessary to the decision. The proposed final decision must also cite the specific statutory or regulatory law provisions on which the panel based its decision. The panel will mail the proposed final decision to the parties.
If a proposed final decision is unfavorable, a few more steps can be taken in the fight to preserve your medical license. A physician will have the chance to file several types of legal papers that challenge the proposed final decision and request an oral argument session before the panel. Connecticut's UAPA and the DPH's Rules of Practice allow this. You have to make your challenge within 21 days of the mailing of the proposed final decision. If you want to file a legal brief or ask for an oral argument to present your position, you have to do so within 35 days of the mailing of the decision.
You may end up with a favorable proposed final decision after taking these steps, and your license will have been saved. But there is always the chance that the proposed final decision stays the same and your license remains in jeopardy. If that's the case, the decision moves on to the board.
The board has to review the proposed final decision and, within generally 90 days, either adopt it, modify it or send it back to the panel with instructions. If the panel gets the decision back, the members have to either undertake a further review of the matter or hear more evidence. The panel will issue another proposed final decision if this happens.
When the board adopts or modifies a proposed final decision, it then issues a written final decision. The final decision must list the necessary findings of fact and conclusions of law. The findings of fact must be based on the evidence in the record, nothing more. The board will send a copy of the final decision to each party or his or her attorney by certified or registered mail. In addition, the final decision becomes public and can be viewed by anyone who wants to see it.
The hearing and the processes surrounding the proposed and final decisions are, without a doubt, complex and confusing. No one wants to make a mistake when a license is in question, so it's best to have competent legal counsel handle the matter.
What Can a Connecticut Physician Do to Fight a Finding of Wrongdoing?
There are many cases where a physician or surgeon is found to have been in the right following a hearing. But there are also many instances where someone has been found to have committed wrongdoing in the practice of medicine. A doctor who receives a final decision that validates the complaint and the accusations can take more action to save his or her license, career, and reputation. There is more fighting to do.
A physician can file a petition for reconsideration of the final decision with the board. This petition must be filed within 15 days of either the mailing of the decision or the personal delivery thereof. A reconsideration petition can seek more review of the matter for several reasons. The petition can allege that there is an error of fact or law that needs to be corrected or that important new evidence has come to light. The reconsideration petition can also claim review is needed for other good causes. The board has 25 days from its receipt of the petition to decide whether reconsideration is warranted. If the board does not act on the petition within that time period, the reconsideration request is considered denied.
In addition, regardless of whether a petition for reconsideration has been filed, the board may decide on its own to reconsider the final decision. The board has to make this decision within 40 days, running from either the mailing of the decision or the personal delivery thereof.
If the board decides to reconsider the decision, whether by granting a physician's petition or by its own choice, it has to conduct, within a reasonable time, any proceedings necessary to issue a new decision modifying, reversing, or affirming the final decision. The board has to issue its new decision no later than 90 days following the date on which it decided to make reconsideration. If the board does not issue a new decision in that time period, the original final decision remains in effect.
If the final decision is unfavorable, a physician or surgeon can appeal to the Connecticut Superior Court. This appeal moves the matter out of the administrative system and into the civil court system. The court will not hold a jury trial and will instead rule based on the record of the matter, oral argument, and legal documents discussing the physician's position. If you are going to appeal to the Superior Court, the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team knows what to do. The team understands how important your license is and will strive to reach the most favorable outcome possible.
What Medical Practices Does the Lento Law Firm Serve?
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can represent you in a disciplinary case regardless of whether you are a solo medical practitioner or a member of a small practice. The team can also represent you if you work within a large healthcare system such as Eastern Connecticut Health Network, Hartford HealthCare, Nuvance Health, Stamford Health, or Yale New Haven Health.
In addition, the Professional License Defense Team will work to defend you in a disciplinary matter regardless of your medical specialty. The team can defend general practitioners, as well as physicians who specialize in cardiology, endocrinology, general surgery, infectious diseases, internal medicine, oncology, pulmonology, urology, and more. The team covers all the bases.
Areas of Connecticut Where the Lento Law Firm Can Help You
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can handle cases throughout the entire state of Connecticut. They are ready to work in Fairfield County, Hartford County, Litchfield County, Middlesex County, New Haven County, New London County, Tolland County, and Windham County. The team can serve a physician in Bridgeport, Greenwich, Groton, Middletown, New Britain, New Haven, New London, New Milford, Norwich, Torrington, Waterbury, or any other city or town.
Retain The Lento Law Firm for Professional License Defense in Connecticut
No one wants to be accused of wrongdoing, and no one wants their ability to practice medicine called into question. But sometimes circumstances arise, and a physician or surgeon finds themselves in a fight to retain their license. And when that happens, you should not take any chances. You've worked too long and too hard to take any accusations lightly. You need to defend yourself to the best of your ability because your career and livelihood are at stake. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.