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Florida’s regulators slow to act on malpractice claims

On Behalf of Cronin & Maxwell

Your health is important. When we are sick or injured, it affects every area of our lives – work, family, general quality of life and our finances. No one goes to the doctor thinking that the professional, who spent years in school and who is certified by their state, will harm them.

We assume that the Department of Health is monitoring complaints and acting on them. Otherwise the physician would not be able to practice medicine or conduct surgery. We think they are competent.

A recent investigation by the Sun Sentinel revealed an entirely different picture about the practices of the Florida Department of Health. The findings are chilling.

Investigation reveals Florida is lax with discipline

The Sun Sentinel investigation examined publically available records including state data and disciplinary cases. They also conducted patient interviews. What they discovered was that the Florida Department of Health is slow to act on accusations of malpractice. Here are just a few of the findings:

  • The state law requires the board to charge a physician within six months after a complaint has been filed. The average time is actually twice as long.
  • The average prosecution takes over two years. The law states cases are supposed to be expedited if they take over a year.
  • The state rarely uses its ability to suspend a physician’s license while cases are prosecuted meaning they can continue practicing for years.
  • The state is supposed to investigate doctors who have settled more than three malpractice claims of $50,000. While the law has triggered 1,500 investigations, very few have led to discipline.

In general, Florida has a backlog of over 400 cases of medical malpractice.

State continues to settle cases

In order to clear up the backlog, the state has a practice of settling cases. Physicians, some with multiple charges and a previous history of complaints, can agree to pay fines and take a few education courses instead of facing the charges. In the end, they keep their licenses and continue practicing.

Given the outcome of this investigation, it is vitally important to conduct a thorough check on the background of any physician you choose. Assuming they are competent because they advertise locally and claim to be “the best” is no guarantee they know what they are doing.

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