Veterans File Suit After Dentist’s Unsanitary Habits Risked Exposure to Deadly Viruses

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 1, 2017, a dentist working at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center in Wisconsin engaged in un-sterile practices that could have exposed patients to deadly viruses. Tomas Schiller’s actions caused patients emotional distress, a proposed class action claimed in Wisconsin federal court. The suit involves six veterans who received dental work from Schiller at the Tomah VA Medical Center between October 2016 and October 2017.

Alleged Violations.

According to the six veterans involved, the dentist violated infection control standards established by the American Dental Association (ADA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the Department of Veterans Affairs, putting his patients in danger. The patients underwent blood testing to determine if they had been infected with hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV from the alleged misconduct and suffered “severe emotional distress” while awaiting the results, the suit says.

He allegedly used un-sterile dental devices that he attempted to disinfect with a product often used to clean floors, reused single-use devices on multiple patients, didn’t wash his hands or wear protective equipment and sometimes slept at his desk during work hours.

Turning the Other Cheek.

According to the suit, a dental assistant noticed the alleged misconduct and told at least two supervisors who neglected to do anything. Additionally, several other employees knew of his actions, but managers indicated on a professional evaluation form in 2016 that they had “no concerns regarding competency,” according to the complaint. Managers eventually confronted Schiller about his behavior that fall, at which point he admitted that he believed using and reusing the unsterile devices was “common practice,” according to the suit.

The Patients.

After the alleged misconduct was revealed, the medical center sent patients a letter informing patients that they were at risk of having been infected with deadly viruses, the suit says. They then underwent blood testing, but patients who had received dental services within the past six months had to wait another six months to undergo testing to ensure the viruses would be detectable, the complaint notes.

All of the patients who had blood work done tested negative for the viruses, although the waiting period was emotionally painful, the suit says. The patients allege negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent training, supervision and retention.

To read the complaint in full, click here.

In 2013, there was a similar case of an Oklahoma dentist who exposed 7,000 patients to HIV due to unsanitary conditions and violations. Click here to read my prior blog on this case.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in the Representation of Dentists and Other Health Professionals.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents dentists, dental technicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of dentistry hearings and other legal matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com

Sources:

Graf, Rachel. “Dentist’s Unsanitary Habits Put Vets At Risk, Suit Says.” Law360. (November 1, 2017). Web.
“Dentist’s Unsanitary Habits Put Vets At Risk.” Lexis Nexis. (November 1, 2017). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for dentists, dentist defense attorney, legal representation for American Dental Association (ADA) investigations, legal representation for criminal matters for health professionals, dentist licensure defense attorney, legal representation for licensure defense, legal representation for dental facilities, legal representation for Department of Health (DOH) investigations, legal representation for U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) investigations, legal representation for veterans, veteran defense attorney, health law defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, legal counsel for dentists, dental law attorney, dental law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, The Health Law Firm reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Florida Dental Receptionist Charged With Stealing Thousands of Dollars From Patients

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On October 20, 2017, a receptionist at a Deltona dental clinic was arrested on charges she stole thousands of dollars in cash payments from the business’ customers since the beginning of 2016. Lucina Rodriguez was charged with two counts of grand theft in the case, which involved 30 missing bank deposits totaling more than $18,000 in cash. Rodriguez allegedly collected the cash payments from customers at Dental Care of Deltona, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

The Alleged Theft. 

According to Volusia County sheriffs’ detectives, Rodriguez pocketed the cash deposits that were supposed to be taken to the bank. She also collected pre-payments but didn’t give receipts and failed to make a record of any payment in the patient’s file. The missing money would go undetected until months later, when the patient returned for the procedure, and the loss was written off as a “paperwork error.” In one case, a patient came to the clinic to cancel a procedure and request a refund of her $400 pre-payment. The clinic staff searched through her file and found no record of any pre-payment.

As detectives conducted interviews and inspected records, it became clear that she was the common link in the missing deposits.

From January 2016 to September 2017, she made close to $15,000 in cash deposits to her personal bank accounts. After she was fired on September 19, 2017, money stopped disappearing from the dental clinic.

The Consequences.

Rodriguez was charged with one count of grand theft ($10,000-$20,000) for the stolen cash deposits and an additional count of grand theft ($300-$5,000) for stealing the $400 pre-payment one victim wanted refunded. To read the press release in full from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, click here.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a health professional has stolen from an employer. To learn more on how to stop employee embezzlement, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals in Criminal Matters and Professional Licensing Matters.

If you have been arrested, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced attorney who can advise you on the criminal proceeding, your rights and how it may affect you. Most important to a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist or other health professional are what consequences may follow this. Consequences may include loss or suspension of hospital privileges, loss or suspension of your professional license, exclusion from the Medicare Program, termination from the state Medicaid Program, termination from health care insurance panels and other severe consequences.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Sources:

“Deltona dental clinic worker charged with stealing $18,000.” The Daytona Beach News Journal. (October 20, 2017). Web.

Padró Ocasio, Bianca. “Dental clinic employee stole thousands of dollars from patients, authorities say.” Orlando Sentinel. (October 20, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for health care professionals, criminal defense attorney for health care professionals, legal representation for criminal matters against health professionals, licensure defense attorney, legal representation for employee embezzlement, legal representation for employee theft, dental defense attorney, legal representation for dentists, legal representation for dental receptionists, legal representation for dental clinics and facilities, defense attorney for dentists, health law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Embezzling Administrator of Pediatric Clinic Faces Health Care Fraud Sentencing

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

An administrator of a Louisiana pediatric clinic has recently pleaded guilty in a health care fraud case. She faces up to 10 years in prison and over $200,000 in fines. The charges allege embezzling more than $500,000 of the clinic’s money and diverting it to her personal account, from approximately August through September of 2014. She allegedly used this massive amount of money to purchase luxury items for herself including jewelry, custom artwork and a motorcycle. Much of the money came from reimbursement the clinic received from the state’s Medicaid program.

The Investigation.

The administrator was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The investigation disclosed that the administrator used a business credit card to charge approximately half a million dollars in personal charges. To pay the credit card bills, teh administrator used money from the clinic’s bank accounts, which included its Medicaid reimbursements. She maintained her front by hiding the monthly statement from the clinic and disguising payments. Her sentencing is set for September 7, 2017.

Embezzlement by Employees Should Be Reported to Law Enforcement and Prosecuted.

We have been consulted by health care practices who have had employees embezzle from them. These should always be reported to law enforcement and prosecuted. Employees that do this will also falsify claims to Medicare, medicaid and health insurers, multiplying your problems.

To read an article I published on embezzlement by health care employees, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in accusations of disruptive behavior, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Louisiana Woman Pleads Guilty in Health Care Fraud Case.” The Eagle. B.H. Media Group Inc., (01 June 2017). Web.

“Louisiana Woman Pleads Guilty in Health Care Fraud Case.” The Washington Times. The Washington Times. (01 June 2017). Web.

McKnight, Laura. “Marrero Pediatric-clinic Administrator Pleads Guilty to over $536K in Health-care Fraud.” NOLA.com. (31 May 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for health care embezzlement, legal representation for allegations of health care embezzlement, legal representation for health care employment issues, employment law defense attorney, legal representation for employment conflicts, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for work place investigations, legal representation for investigations against health care professionals, health care fraud attorney, health care fraud defense attorney, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, legal representation for HHS investigations, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for health care fraud investigations

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

The 20 Major Mistakes Physicians Make After Being Notified of a Department of Health Investigation

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The investigation of a complaint which could lead to the revocation of a physician’s license to practice, usually starts with a simple letter from the Department of Health (DOH). This is a very serious legal matter and it should be treated as such by the physician who receives it. Yet, in many cases, attorneys are consulted by physicians after the entire investigation is over and the damage is already done. Often, the mistakes that have been made severely compromise an attorney’s ability to achieve a favorable result for the physician.

These are the ten biggest mistakes we see in the physician cases we are called upon to defend after a Department of Health investigation of them is commenced:

1. Contacting the Department of Health (DOH) investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral interview.

2. Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH investigator to do so.

3. Providing a copy of their curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator because the investigator requested them to do so.

4. Believing that if they “just explain it” the investigation will be closed and the case dropped.

5. Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena, when there is a subpoena, and there are valid grounds to do so (e.g., patient does not want records released, patient privacy).

6. Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient medical record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed.

7. Delegating the task of providing a complete copy of the patient medical record to office staff, resulting in an incomplete or partial copy being provided.

8. Failing to keep an exact copy of any document, letter or statement provided to the investigator.

9. Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in the medical or health care matters being investigated.

10. Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and, if the truth is known, this will result in the matter being dismissed.

11. Failing to check to see if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend them in this investigation.

12. Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six or eight months (or even years in some instances) that the matter has “gone away.”

13. Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to advocate for getting it dismissed.

14. Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.

15. Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of the Board of Medicine for a decision.

16. Taking legal advice from their non-lawyer colleagues regarding what they should do in defending themselves in the investigation.

17. Attempting to defend themselves without the assistance of an attorney.

18. Believing that, because they know someone on (or previously on) the Board of Medicine, with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.

19. Providing copies of medical records to the DOH Investigator and signing a “Certificate of Completeness” so that the DOH can use these against them in its future disciplinary proceedings against them.

20. Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them and to communicate with the DOH investigator for them.

The key to a successful outcome in all of these cases is to obtain the assistance of a health care lawyer who is experienced in appearing before the Board of Medicine in such cases and does so on a regular basis.

To learn more about how The Health Law Firm can assist you if you are being investigated by the DOH, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Physicians.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to osteopathic physicians in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.  To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for Department of Health (DOH) investigations, DOH attorney, DOH investigation attorney, DOH defense attorney, Legal representation for DOH complaints, legal representation for licensure issues, legal representation for health care professionals, DOH complaint attorney, legal representation for Board of Medicine investigations, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine investigation attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, legal representation for Board of Medicine complaints, legal representation for licensure issues, legal representation for physicians, Board of Medicine complaint attorney, health law attorney, health law defense attorney, legal representation for physicians, doctor attorney, legal representation for complaints against physicians, The Health Law Firm, Florida health law defense attorney, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Jury Awards $4.4 Million To Chicago Anesthesiologist Defrauded By Business Associate

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On June 9, 2017, a jury in Illinois awarded a Chicago-area anesthesiologist nearly $4.4 million. The jury unanimously agreed that his business associate defrauded him on a revenue sharing agreement and fraudulently reported his earnings to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The jury found that Dr. Martin R. Hall, owner of Keystone Orthopedic Specialists SC (Keystone), stuck Dr. Nicholas Angelopoulos with unwarranted expenses throughout the course of their business dealings. The jury ultimately agreed in favor of Dr. Angelopoulos on all five counts, including two breach of contract counts, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and violation of IRS code.

 

A Sour Business Deal.

According to Dr. Angelopoulos, when he began to question Dr. Hall’s business expenditures, Dr. Hall would not provide sufficient documentation for the purchases. Dr. Angelopoulos also claimed he was not receiving credit for all of his billings. Additionally, over the course of their three-year working relationship, Dr. Angelopoulos claimed that Dr. Hall made payments to his family members, including his wife and his sister, without disclosing it to the other business associates.

In 2008 after Dr. Angelopoulos left Keystone, Dr. Hall came to him with a hand-written tabulation of more than $150,000 Dr. Angelopoulos allegedly owed to Keystone. Dr. Angelopoulos rejected the amount saying it was false.

Fraudulent Reports to the IRS.

In response to the rejection, Dr. Hall then allegedly reported a payment of $159,577.45 to Dr. Angelopoulos in tax documents filed with the IRS. Dr. Hall claimed that it was for the alleged outstanding debt plus an alleged bonus, which Dr. Angelopoulos claimed he never received, according to court documents. Because of this, in 2011 the IRS came after Dr. Angelopoulos for taxes on Dr. Hall’s reported payment, settling the taxable amount at about $120,000.

In the end, jurors agreed with Dr. Angelopoulos that these numbers were inaccurately reported by Dr. Hill in the first place. Additionally, the jury rejected Dr. Hall’s counterclaim arguing that Dr. Angelopoulos still owed him the money.

To view the court document’s in this case, click here.

To read an article I wrote on how to prevent employee embezzlement which was featured in Medical Economics, click here.

To learn more about complex business litigation and examples of how The Health Law Firm can help you, click here.

 

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Business Transactions and Contracts.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for physicians, dentists, and the owners of medical practices. We represent owners, shareholders and employees in shareholder disputes, contract litigation, complex healthcare transactions and complex business litigation. This includes psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We also represent health facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include disputes with health insurers, defense of audits, litigation of overpayment demands, reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings. Our attorneys litigate in state courts, federal courts, state administrative hearings and federal administrative hearings. We represent plaintiffs and defendants in complex litigation matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Source:

Simpson, Dave. “Jury Awards $4.4M To Doc Defrauded By Associate.” Law360. (June 7, 2017). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Keywords: Florida health law attorney, medical practice shareholder dispute lawyer, partnership break-up attorney, health law defense attorney, complex business litigation attorney, legal representation for contract negotiations, legal representation for health mergers and acquisitions, DOJ Antitrust Division lawyer, legal representation for complex business litigation, legal representation for contract disputes, legal representation for complex health care litigation, health care litigation attorney, complex litigation lawyer, medical practice ownership litigation, medical clinic employemnt dispute lawyer, legal counsel for health care business transactions, legal representation for health care contracts, contract negotiations lawyer, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Makes Changes to Florida Impaired Practitioners Program

indest1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On May 31, 2017, Florida Governor, Rick Scott, signed into law House Bill 229 (Ch. 2017-41, Laws of Florida), which made changes to the statutory basis for Florida’s impaired practitioner programs. The impaired practitioner program for nurses in Florida is the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN), which is a for-profit corporation, The impaired practitioner program for doctors, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, and all other licensed health professionals is the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), a non-profit corporation.

The program, as envisioned in the statute, is designed to assist health care practitioners who are impaired as a result of the misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or of a mental or physical condition, which could affect the ability to practice with skill and safety.

Revisions to the Program.

The new law requires DOH to establish terms and conditions of the program by contract, provides contract terms, requires DOH to refer practitioners to consultants and revises grounds for refusing to issue or renew license, certificate, or registration in health care professions.

A significant change in the program involved a licensee’s duty to report colleagues that have or are suspected of having an impairment. The new law creates an exception to the mandatory reporting of an impairment to the DOH. The new revision will allow a licensee who knows that a person is unable to practice with reasonable skill and safety due to an impairment, to report such information to the consultant, rather than DOH. Both the core licensure statute and individual practice acts are amended to include this language.

Be sure to check Florida’s DOH website regularly for news and updates, here.

To learn more about how The Health Law Firm can help you with matters involving the DOH, click here.

If You Are Instructed to Contact IPN or PRN, Call an Attorney First.

If you are ever instructed by your employer or anyone else to report yourself to the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) or to the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), consult with an experienced health law attorney first. There are many problems that you can avoid by having good legal advice before you make a stupid mistake. We are often consulted and retained by clients when after they have made mistakes in talking to the wrong people about the wrong things and are in a situation they could have avoided.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. We represent impaired physicians and other health professionals in Professional Resource Network (PRN) and disruptive physician matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Sources:

“Changes to Florida Reporting for Impaired Practitioners.” Holland & Knight LLP. (June 7, 2017). Web.

Mckown, Mia. “Changes to Florida Reporting for Impaired Practitioners.” Lexology. (June 7, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for impaired physicians, Legal representation for Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) attorney, Professionals Resource Network (PRN) defense legal counsel, DOH investigation defense attorney, legal representation for investigations against health care professionals, legal representation for Florida DOH investigations, Florida DOH representation, DOH complaint defense, legal representation for DOH complaint, Florida impaired practitioners program, legal representation for PRN matters, legal representation for IPN matters, legal representation for disruptive physician issues, health law defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, changes to Florida impaired practitioners program, legal representation for health care investigations, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

20 Tips Plus a Bonus for Physicians Negotiating Their Own Employment Contracts

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

At The Health Law Firm, we often receive calls from physicians and health professionals about reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, voiding contracts, getting out of contracts and litigating various contract provisions. Physicians and other health professionals should understand the common language and terms found in employment contracts for professionals so they can recognize mistakes commonly when negotiating them.

Our comments here are meant to provide general tips we have learned from our experience. However, please remember, every situation is different and there are exceptions to every rule. I have added a “bonus tip” here, because of recent problems our clients have had.

“Bonus Tip;” The Prime Directive.

My primary tip, and I would say it is the most important, is to know the persons and parties with whom you are contracting and be sure the contract contains that information. Make sure you know the complete name and residence address of the principal person with whom you are dealing. Then be sure you know the complete information on any business entity with which you are dealing, including state of incorporation (or organization), shareholders (or “owners” or members), and address of its main headquarters (principal place of business). If other business entities are the shareholders, owners or members of the entity for which you will be working, you need to find out the same information for each of them. Make sure they are all authorized to do business in your state and have the appropriate licenses that your state requires.

In Florida, any medical business that is not actually 100% owned by Florida licensed physicians or health professionals must have a Health Care Clinic license issued by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Dental practices and optometry practices cannot be owned by anyone who is not licensed to practice dentistry in the state of Florida. Some unscrupulous business people attempt to skirt the law by setting up phoney or “straw man” owners that are physicians or dentists. This is illegal, a felony in many cases, so be cautious. My advice would be not to sign up with a business entity that has been created solely for the purpose of contracting with you and which has no assets. This has been a real problem, lately.

20 More Tips.

The following are a few tips for any physician who is involved in negotiating his or her own employment agreement.

1. There is no such thing as a “standard physician employment agreement.”

2. Everything is negotiable.

3. Be sure the wording of the contract represents exactly the agreement you made. If it is different or not specified, the language in the contract will govern in any future dispute.

4. Be sure that every blank in the contract is completed and filled in before you sign.

5. Be sure that every Exhibit, Addendum or Schedule referred to in the contract is completed and attached before you sign.

6. Shun “legal” advice from your peers and, especially, from the accountants and representatives of your future employer. Misinformation about legal issues abounds. Just because one court may have decided a legal issue a certain way in one case in one state does not mean a different court would not reach a different decision, even in the same state or county. Every set of facts and circumstances, every contract and every case are different.

7. Obtain and review copies of every document referred to in the agreement. These are considered part of the agreement. These may include the practice’s policies and procedures, the employee handbook, a code of conduct, sexual harassment policy, compliance agreements, etc. Keep these in a file with a copy of your contract.

8. Carefully consider clauses that allow the employer to terminate the agreement without cause on a 30 day, 60 day, 90 day or 180 day notice. With such a clause in your contract, you no longer have a one year or two year agreement. Instead, you have a 30 day, 60 day, 90 day or 180 day contract. Can you find another job and relocate in 30 days or 60 days?

9. If there is a “for cause” termination provision in the contract, be sure to include a “cure” provision. This is a provision which requires the employer to provide you written notice of any deficiency or breach and allows you a certain period of time (usually anywhere from 10 to 30 days) to cure it.

10. Ensure the contract is clear throughout that you are an employee and not an independent contractor. Employees receive far more benefits and have more protections under the law than do independent contractors. If you sign on as an independent contractor, you will be assuming many expenses and liabilities that the employer would ordinarily be required to assume.

11. A promise to make you a “partner” or “shareholder” in the practice after a certain period of time will not be enforceable unless all of the terms are specified in order for a court to enforce it. (Price, timing, percentage of ownership, method of payment of the buy-in, etc.). Think of an option to purchase a house. Unless all of the terms for a binding contract are set forth in writing and agreed to by the parties, it will not be enforceable.

12. If you sign the agreement, be prepared to honor it. Do not sign an agreement thinking that there may be certain provisions that won’t be enforceable or that you won’t be required to follow in the future. Assume that every part of the contract is enforceable.

13. Restrictive covenants (sometimes referred to as covenants not to compete) are enforceable in Florida. Although there are many exceptions and defenses that can be used to defeat or prevent the enforcement of a restrictive covenant, unless you have the money set aside to finance litigation, expect to honor it if it is in the agreement. As an employee, your negotiation strategy should be to: a) have it removed completely, or b) reduce the period of time and reduce the geographic area as low as possible. Also, it should be worded so as to only apply to the office or location in which you work and to the medical subspecialty or type of practice in which you will work.

14. Avoid assuming any obligation to pay the premium for tail coverage for professional liability (medical malpractice) insurance, especially if the employer terminates the employment. If you are not able to negotiate this away completely: a) reduce the percentage you agree to pay to 50% or have it reduced 25% for each year you are in the practice, and b) insert a provision that if you maintain the same insurance company or obtain retroactive coverage, this will be substituted for tail coverage.

15. Visit the practice, hospital and area at least three (3) times before signing. One of these visits should be without the knowledge of the potential employer when you can tour the geographic area and, perhaps, the hospitals on your own.

16. Contact any physicians you know or have met in the past who live in the area or any surrounding areas. They may be able to provide you information regarding your potential employer, hospital or city that may affect your decision.

17. Do your “due diligence” before agreeing. Ask to see actual billing and collections figures and income statements. Talk to other associates. If your compensation will be based on productivity, speak with another physician who is similarly compensated about how his/her compensation is computed. Visit any hospital, nursing home or other facility where you will have privileges or see patients. Discuss the quality of the equipment and stuff with other physicians and physicians in surrounding communities.

18. Do not buy a permanent residence (house or condominium) during your first two years of employment with a new practice in a new location. Rent or rent with an option to purchase. This will give you much more flexibility if the employment situation does not work out to your expectations.

19. If you receive a signing bonus, put it in the bank in a CD or money market to use as needed in connection with tips 14 and 15 above. This may be your personal “golden parachute” if you need to leave a bad situation.

20. Do not start working until you have a copy of the employment agreement. A draft copy if not sufficient. A copy signed by you but not by the employer is not sufficient. The most common problem we see when there is a physician employment dispute is that the employee does not have a copy of the contract that is signed by the employer.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in Negotiating and Evaluating Physician and Health Professional’s Business Transactions.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment suppliers (DME), medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in start or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant (covenants not to compete), Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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