ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — On Sunday, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo released a number of proposals he expects to announce during his 2021 State of the State Address on Monday.
One of those proposals is to modernize the Department of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct through a set of comprehensive reforms. The Governor will introduce legislation to ensure that the Office has adequate tools for the effective investigation and discipline of state-licensed physicians, physician assistants, and specialist assistants. Access to up-to-date information about professional license status and investigations will increase public safety and strengthen transparency between the medical community and their patients. The Governor will also enact renewal requirements for licensed medical professions to streamline oversight.
“Now more than ever, New Yorkers must have the highest confidence and trust in their health care providers,” Cuomo said. “The health care community has been nothing short of heroic in their work to protect us from the threat of COVID, yet we have unfortunately continued to see certain instances of unscrupulous behavior. By implementing these common-sense reforms, we’re not only strengthening penalties against bad actors, but we’re improving the ability of investigators to root them out.”
The Governor will introduce legislation to update the Public Health Law to strengthen disciplinary actions for misconduct resulting in better misconduct enforcement and increased patient safety. In addition, the Governor will propose reforms to the investigation and hearing processes to ensure that the Office can act swiftly to hold physicians accountable, confirm investigations, and keep patients safe.
Secondly, the Governor will propose specific renewal requirements to maintain state licensure to practice. Currently, physicians licensed in New York remain licensed for life, even if they move out-of-state. Enacting renewal requirements will reduce the number of resources the state devotes to investigating bad actors who have not resided or practiced in New York in some time, but still hold an active state license.
This proposal builds on Governor Cuomo’s continued work to ensure the health and safety of all New Yorkers. In 2018, the Governor signed legislation to allow the Department of Health to suspend the license of any physician charged with a felony, if it were deemed that their continued licensure posed a risk to the health of the people of New York. While the change allowed the Department of Health to act more quickly to protect patients, the current law prohibits public confirmation of an investigation which has historically left the public with limited information.
The legislation will bolster transparency by ensuring public access to up-to-date information on all state licensed professionals and ongoing investigations when appropriate. A targeted effort will also be made to provide the public with information and resources should they be concerned about the professional conduct of a health care provider.