Professional Discipline for Physicians/OPMC/OPD FAQ by Attorneys Jordan Fensterman and Michael Kelton (516) 328-2300.

1. What is the Office of Professional Medical Conduct ("OPMC")?

OPMC is the arm of the New York State Department of Health which is responsible for investigating/prosecuting complaints brought against physicians.

2. Who can make a complaint to OPMC?

Anyone. Disgruntled patients, family members of patients, insurance companies, disgruntled current or former employees, jealous competitors, hospitals, and state agencies are the most frequent sources of OPMC complaints.

3. How many complaints must be made about a physician before OPMC begins an investigation?

One. A single complaint will trigger a surface level analysis of the situation in question. Under the law, the OPMC is required to look into each and every complaint that is filed.

4. Who are the people at OPMC who investigate complaints?

OPMC investigators are generally healthcare professionals such as registered nurses or individuals with investigatory backgrounds such as former police officers and insurance investigators.

5. What penalties may be imposed against a physician if OPMC determines that he is guilty of professional misconduct?

In the least severe cases (where the violation is deemed to be "minor" or "technical" in nature), the penalty may be as small as an Administrative Warning (i.e., a written notice which outlines the problems that have been found and recommendations for a remedial course of action). An administrative warning is non-disciplinary in nature and is not published anywhere online.

If things evolve to the point where a Hearing Committee finds the physician guilty of professional misconduct, the penalties become more severe and will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank and reflected on the individual's Physician Profile on the Department of Health's website. The least severe penalty when one is found guilty of professional misconduct is a Censure and Reprimand (i.e., a severe warning that is published for the world to see). A censure and Reprimand may also include the imposition of required community service (up to 500 hours) and continuing medical education (CME) classes. A Hearing Committee may also decide that probation is necessary. Probation includes certain limitations/restrictions being placed on a practitioner's ability to practice medicine. Probation may be imposed for a set period of time, or it may last until certain conditions have been met by the practitioner. The next level of penalty for more serious professional misconduct is a suspension of a practitioner's medical license. When a practitioner's license is suspended, he or she is not allowed to practice medicine for the duration of the suspension. A suspension may be for a certain length of time, or it may be for an indefinite period of time lasting up until criterion laid out by the Hearing Committee are satisfied. For the most serious misconduct, OPMC has the power to permanently revoke the physician's medical license. In very serious instances of professional misconduct, fines up to $10,000.00 per violation may also be imposed.

Next Page