Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC)
OPMC and the Board of Professional Medical Conduct (board) are responsible for investigating and adjudicating complaints against physicians, physician assistants, and specialist assistants. The board is composed of two-thirds physicians, and one-third lay persons, including physician assistants.
When complaints are filed with OPMC, there is a procedure in-place to filter out any complaints that lack foundation or are based on issues beyond the jurisdiction of OPMC and the board.
Complaints are primarily filed by the public, including patients, family and friends. However, health facilities must report internal disciplinary action, and other possible misconduct, and licensed health professionals have a duty to report possible instances of misconduct. When misconduct concerns a physician affiliated with a hospital, complaints can be made to the facility’s professional practice committee, who then reports it to OPMC. When misconduct concerns a physician who is not affiliated with a hospital, complaints are filed with the county medical society. Misconduct can include negligence; incompetence; alcohol or drug impairment*; abandoning or neglecting a patient in need of immediate care; refusing to provide medical care because of a patient's race, creed, color, or national origin; performing professional services not authorized by the patient; willfully harassing, abusing, or intimidating a patient; ordering excessive tests or treatments; permitting unlicensed persons to perform activities that require a license; practicing with a suspended or inactive license; revealing personal information without consent of the patient; and/or failing to maintain a patient records.
*Practitioners suspected of having problems with alcohol, drugs or who are suffering with a mental illness, but whose ability to practice is not impaired can be referred to the Committee on Physician’s Health of the Medical Society of the State of New York. This committee can recommend treatment programs where participation is confidential and does not get reported to OPMC. However, if a physician’s ability to practice is impaired, the physician must be reported to OPMC.
Poor communication skills, unfavorable attitude, and “bedside manner” are not misconduct. Additionally, complaints regarding fees or office practice issues do not fall within the jurisdiction of the board.Summary of the process
Once a complaint is filed, it is reviewed by OPMC investigative and medical staff. If possible misconduct is present an investigation is opened, and interviews are conducted to gather more information. Physicians must cooperate fully with investigations, including during interviews and with document production. It is important to know that physicians can have legal counsel present during an interview or any time during the investigatory process. If the investigation produces sufficient evidence of misconduct, the case is presented to a committee made up of two physicians and one lay person. The committee can recommend to the Director any of the following: a hearing, additional investigation, a dismissal, or non-disciplinary warnings. If the board believes the physician under investigation poses an imminent threat to the public, then the committee can request that the director temporarily suspend a physician’s license. If there is sufficient evidence of misconduct, or a temporary suspension is ordered, charges are filed against the physician and a hearing is held.
The board has wide authority to mete out discipline when it believes a physician is guilty of misconduct. Authorized actions of the board include revocation, suspension or limitations placed on your medical license, censure or reprimand, fines and/or community service.Protecting your Rights
OPMC is not required to inform a physician of his or her rights. Therefore, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you believe that you may be the subject of an OPMC investigation.
Alternatively, if you have already been subject to disciplinary proceedings – and feel your rights were violated during the process, investigation, and/or proceeding itself, including if you feel your license was improperly revoked or suspended, you should contact an attorney to discuss how to properly assert your rights.
If you live and/or practice on Long Island, in either Nassau or Suffolk county, or in New York City, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and believe you may be subject to an OPMC investigation, are in the middle of an investigation, or have had disciplinary action taken against you, you should contact an attorney to better protect your career and rights.