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New Jersey Medical Licensing and State Board Actions during the COVID-19 emergency.

As with everything, the COVID-19 emergency has affected the state boards that oversee the licensing of practitioners and conduct disciplinary actions. Below is a summary of the formal guidance that has been issued, as well as practical lessons learned, during this time.

Licensing

On April 17, 2020, New Jersey began a program to enlist foreign-licensed physicians to apply for a temporary emergency license to practice medicine in New Jersey. The temporary license will not extend beyond the current public health emergency. New Jersey is the first state in the country to implement this kind of program. Physicians who are licensed in a foreign country but living in the United States can apply to the program through the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. The criteria for eligible candidates includes:

· Being in good standing;

· Having engaged in the clinical practice of medicine for at least five years;

· Having not been out of practice for more than five years;

· Having no disciplinary or criminal histories that preclude them from the program; and

· Providing copies of relevant documents to support their application, including their medical license, and information about their education and professional experience.

This adds to the efforts the state has already implemented regarding licensing for healthcare workers. On March 19, 2020, Governor Murphy signed legislation (A3862) to allow professional and occupational licensing boards to expedite licensure of out-of-state professionals. On April 6, 2020, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 115, which allows certain retirees to return to public employment

Disciplinary Actions on Hold

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, it is unclear when state Boards will begin meeting again. Further, most state Boards are presently working with limited staff to handle non-emergent matters. Therefore, currently scheduled matters are being adjourned indefinitely.

State board actions are also affected by Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 127, issued on April 14, 2020, extending certain deadlines associated with rulemaking. EO 127 takes into consideration certain Executive Branch departments and agencies that remain subject to statutory deadlines imposed by the Administrative Procedure Act that require issuance, rejection, approval or modification of initial decisions, which includes state boards handling disciplinary actions. Typically, after a contested hearing, the statute provides 45 days after a hearing is concluded for a recommended report and decision to be issued. The state board, upon a review of the record submitted by the administrative law judge, then has another 45 days to adopt, reject or modify the recommended report and decision after receipt of such recommendations. EO 127 suspends these timelines by ordering that “[i]n any contested case…any pending deadline for filing of a recommended report and decision pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52:14B-10(c); and any pending deadline for adopting, rejecting or modifying a recommended report and decision, shall be extended by the number of days of the Public Health Emergency declared in Executive Order No. 103 (2020) plus an additional 90 days.”

Other Practical Considerations

Although the Board of Medical Examiners is not currently inclined to consider requests to reinstate currently suspended physicians, there are opportunities to assist those who have had state board action taken against them. For example, a medical practitioner who is currently ordered to pay monetary installments for purposes of paying a fine, restitution or fees, may be able to secure from the state board a postponement of that payment during the COVID-19 emergency based on financial hardship imposed by exceptional circumstances.

We are closely monitoring legal developments related to the COVID-19 crisis. If you have any questions about the bill or how the COVID-19 crisis may impact you or your health care facility, please contact us for a consultation.

For forty years, the lawyers at Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski, P.C., have represented doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, as well as hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities.

If your matter involves a medical licensing issue or state board action, please contact Brandon D. Minde at bminde@dughihewit.com. If your matter involves other COVID-19 legal issues or concerns, please contact Craig A. Domalewski at cdomalewski@dughihewit.com.

The information is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based upon particular circumstances. Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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