Last Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his "State of the State" agenda, in which he discussed his legislative aims for the upcoming year. Governor Cuomo targeted the state's system for holding doctors accountable for mistakes and misdeeds. He called for the state health commissioner to have more power to suspend a physicians's license if there is a risk to the public and to acknowledge when the state Office for Professional Medical Conduct is investigating a doctor. The governor also stated that if a doctor has been issued a warning for a “minor and technical violation,” this should be disclosed as well. Finally, he proposed that doctors renew their medical licenses or risk losing them. These remarks represent significant proposed changes to how doctors are currently disciplined in New York state.
Advocates had been voicing frustration with how doctor discipline has been handled in the state for some time now. Last year, an investigation conducted by the New York Post revealed that doctors who lost medical privileges in New York and New Jersey were simply crossing the river and continuing to practice. Specifically, it found that 14 doctors from New Jersey who had lost their licenses to practice came to New York and were able to practice for significant periods of time due to the procedures in place by the state medical board. New York's medical board allowed the doctors anywhere from a few weeks to 14 months of practice before stepping in to stop them.
At the time of the reporting, the Post found many doctors practicing in both states, despite the fact that their licenses had been pulled from the neighboring state for very troubling conduct. This included a gynecologist/plastic surgeon who lost his medical license in New York after facing 16 allegations of misconduct, including gross incompetence and negligence. More than a dozen women had filed medical malpractice suits against the doctor during a six-year period.
Governor Cuomo's office also took issue with the length of time it took for matters to be resolved by the state's Office for Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC). Officials noted that in 2018, a full OPMC investigation took an average of 307 days because of due process procedural rights, which could potentially expose the doctor to many more potential victims.
The head of the Medical Society of the State of New York told members that he planned to meet with state officials to learn more about the proposed changes. Governor Cuomo stated: “These sweeping proposals will help ensure patients have access to critical information they need to make informed decisions about their healthcare and give state health regulators more tools to investigate and penalize providers for dangerous, unethical or illegal behavior.”
Medical Malpractice Representation
While it is heartening that Governor Cuomo is targeting the systems put in place to protect the public from doctors' errors, it highlights the fact that all patients can be at risk for medical malpractice. If you think you or a loved one may have suffered due to a medical error, contact our office.