(a) The board may independently initiate disciplinary proceedings as well as initiate disciplinary proceedings based on information received from medical peer review committees, physicians, podiatrists, hospital administrators, professional societies and others.
The board may initiate investigations as to professional incompetence or other reasons for which a licensed physician or podiatrist may be adjudged unqualified based upon criminal convictions; complaints by citizens, pharmacists, physicians, podiatrists, peer review committees, hospital administrators, professional societies or others; or unfavorable outcomes arising out of medical professional liability. The board shall initiate an investigation if it receives notice that three or more judgments, or any combination of judgments and settlements resulting in five or more unfavorable outcomes arising from medical professional liability have been rendered or made against the physician or podiatrist within a five-year period. The board may not consider any judgments or settlements as conclusive evidence of professional incompetence or conclusive lack of qualification to practice.
(b) Upon request of the board, any medical peer review committee in this state shall report any information that may relate to the practice or performance of any physician or podiatrist known to that medical peer review committee. Copies of the requests for information from a medical peer review committee may be provided to the subject physician or podiatrist if, in the discretion of the board, the provision of such copies will not jeopardize the board’s investigation. In the event that copies are provided, the subject physician or podiatrist is allowed fifteen days to comment on the requested information and such comments must be considered by the board.
The chief executive officer of every hospital shall, within sixty days after the completion of the hospital’s formal disciplinary procedure and also within sixty days after the commencement of and again after the conclusion of any resulting legal action, report in writing to the board the name of any member of the medical staff or any other physician or podiatrist practicing in the hospital whose hospital privileges have been revoked, restricted, reduced or terminated for any cause, including resignation, together with all pertinent information relating to such action. The chief executive officer shall also report any other formal disciplinary action taken against any physician or podiatrist by the hospital upon the recommendation of its medical staff relating to professional ethics, medical incompetence, medical professional liability, moral turpitude or drug or alcohol abuse. Temporary suspension for failure to maintain records on a timely basis or failure to attend staff or section meetings need not be reported. Voluntary cessation of hospital privileges for reasons unrelated to professional competence or ethics need not be reported.
Any managed care organization operating in this state which provides a formal peer review process shall report in writing to the board, within sixty days after the completion of any formal peer review process and also within sixty days after the commencement of and again after the conclusion of any resulting legal action, the name of any physician or podiatrist whose credentialing has been revoked or not renewed by the managed care organization. The managed care organization shall also report in writing to the board any other disciplinary action taken against a physician or podiatrist relating to professional ethics, professional liability, moral turpitude or drug or alcohol abuse within sixty days after completion of a formal peer review process which results in the action taken by the managed care organization. For purposes of this subsection, “managed care organization” means a plan that establishes, operates or maintains a network of health care providers who have entered into agreements with and been credentialed by the plan to provide health care services to enrollees or insureds to whom the plan has the ultimate obligation to arrange for the provision of or payment for health care services through organizational arrangements for ongoing quality assurance, utilization review programs or dispute resolutions.
Any professional society in this state comprised primarily of physicians or podiatrists which takes formal disciplinary action against a member relating to professional ethics, professional incompetence, medical professional liability, moral turpitude or drug or alcohol abuse shall report in writing to the board within sixty days of a final decision the name of the member, together with all pertinent information relating to the action.
Every person, partnership, corporation, association, insurance company, professional society or other organization providing professional liability insurance to a physician or podiatrist in this state, including the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management, shall submit to the board the following information within thirty days from any judgment or settlement of a civil or medical professional liability action excepting product liability actions: The name of the insured; the date of any judgment or settlement; whether any appeal has been taken on the judgment and, if so, by which party; the amount of any settlement or judgment against the insured; and other information required by the board.
Within thirty days from the entry of an order by a court in a medical professional liability action or other civil action in which a physician or podiatrist licensed by the board is determined to have rendered health care services below the applicable standard of care, the clerk of the court in which the order was entered shall forward a certified copy of the order to the board.
Within thirty days after a person known to be a physician or podiatrist licensed or otherwise lawfully practicing medicine and surgery or podiatry in this state or applying to be licensed is convicted of a felony under the laws of this state or of any crime under the laws of this state involving alcohol or drugs in any way, including any controlled substance under state or federal law, the clerk of the court of record in which the conviction was entered shall forward to the board a certified true and correct abstract of record of the convicting court. The abstract shall include the name and address of the physician or podiatrist or applicant, the nature of the offense committed and the final judgment and sentence of the court.
Upon a determination of the board that there is probable cause to believe that any person, partnership, corporation, association, insurance company, professional society or other organization has failed or refused to make a report required by this subsection, the board shall provide written notice to the alleged violator stating the nature of the alleged violation and the time and place at which the alleged violator shall appear to show good cause why a civil penalty should not be imposed. The hearing shall be conducted in accordance with article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code. After reviewing the record of the hearing, if the board determines that a violation of this subsection has occurred, the board shall assess a civil penalty of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000 against the violator. The board shall notify any person so assessed of the assessment in writing and the notice shall specify the reasons for the assessment. If the violator fails to pay the amount of the assessment to the board within thirty days, the Attorney General may institute a civil action in the circuit court of Kanawha County to recover the amount of the assessment. In any civil action, the court’s review of the board’s action shall be conducted in accordance with section four, article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code. Notwithstanding any other provision of this article to the contrary, when there are conflicting views by recognized experts as to whether any alleged conduct breaches an applicable standard of care, the evidence must be clear and convincing before the board may find that the physician or podiatrist has demonstrated a lack of professional competence to practice with a reasonable degree of skill and safety for patients.
Any person may report to the board relevant facts about the conduct of any physician or podiatrist in this state which in the opinion of that person amounts to medical professional liability or professional incompetence.
The board shall provide forms for filing reports pursuant to this section. Reports submitted in other forms shall be accepted by the board.
The filing of a report with the board pursuant to any provision of this article, any investigation by the board or any disposition of a case by the board does not preclude any action by a hospital, other health care facility or professional society comprised primarily of physicians or podiatrists to suspend, restrict or revoke the privileges or membership of the physician or podiatrist.
(c) The board may deny an application for license or other authorization to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry in this state and may discipline a physician or podiatrist licensed or otherwise lawfully practicing in this state who, after a hearing, has been adjudged by the board as unqualified due to any of the following reasons:
(1) Attempting to obtain, obtaining, renewing or attempting to renew a license to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry by bribery, fraudulent misrepresentation or through known error of the board;
(2) Being found guilty of a crime in any jurisdiction, which offense is a felony, involves moral turpitude or directly relates to the practice of medicine. Any plea of nolo contendere is a conviction for the purposes of this subdivision;
(3) False or deceptive advertising;
(4) Aiding, assisting, procuring or advising any unauthorized person to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry contrary to law;
(5) Making or filing a report that the person knows to be false; intentionally or negligently failing to file a report or record required by state or federal law; willfully impeding or obstructing the filing of a report or record required by state or federal law; or inducing another person to do any of the foregoing. The reports and records covered in this subdivision mean only those that are signed in the capacity as a licensed physician or podiatrist;
(6) Requesting, receiving or paying directly or indirectly a payment, rebate, refund, commission, credit or other form of profit or valuable consideration for the referral of patients to any person or entity in connection with providing medical or other health care services or clinical laboratory services, supplies of any kind, drugs, medication or any other medical goods, services or devices used in connection with medical or other health care services;
(7) Unprofessional conduct by any physician or podiatrist in referring a patient to any clinical laboratory or pharmacy in which the physician or podiatrist has a proprietary interest unless the physician or podiatrist discloses in writing such interest to the patient. The written disclosure shall indicate that the patient may choose any clinical laboratory for purposes of having any laboratory work or assignment performed or any pharmacy for purposes of purchasing any prescribed drug or any other medical goods or devices used in connection with medical or other health care services;
As used in this subdivision, “proprietary interest” does not include an ownership interest in a building in which space is leased to a clinical laboratory or pharmacy at the prevailing rate under a lease arrangement that is not conditional upon the income or gross receipts of the clinical laboratory or pharmacy;
(8) Exercising influence within a patient-physician relationship for the purpose of engaging a patient in sexual activity;
(9) Making a deceptive, untrue or fraudulent representation in the practice of medicine and surgery or podiatry;
(10) Soliciting patients, either personally or by an agent, through the use of fraud, intimidation or undue influence;
(11) Failing to keep written records justifying the course of treatment of a patient, including, but not limited to, patient histories, examination and test results and treatment rendered, if any;
(12) Exercising influence on a patient in such a way as to exploit the patient for financial gain of the physician or podiatrist or of a third party. Any influence includes, but is not limited to, the promotion or sale of services, goods, appliances or drugs;
(13) Prescribing, dispensing, administering, mixing or otherwise preparing a prescription drug, including any controlled substance under state or federal law, other than in good faith and in a therapeutic manner in accordance with accepted medical standards and in the course of the physician’s or podiatrist’s professional practice. A physician who discharges his or her professional obligation to relieve the pain and suffering and promote the dignity and autonomy of dying patients in his or her care and, in so doing, exceeds the average dosage of a pain relieving controlled substance, as defined in Schedules II and III of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act, does not violate this article;
(14) Performing any procedure or prescribing any therapy that, by the accepted standards of medical practice in the community, would constitute experimentation on human subjects without first obtaining full, informed and written consent;
(15) Practicing or offering to practice beyond the scope permitted by law or accepting and performing professional responsibilities that the person knows or has reason to know he or she is not competent to perform;
(16) Delegating professional responsibilities to a person when the physician or podiatrist delegating the responsibilities knows or has reason to know that the person is not qualified by training, experience or licensure to perform them;
(17) Violating any provision of this article or a rule or order of the board or failing to comply with a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum issued by the board;
(18) Conspiring with any other person to commit an act or committing an act that would tend to coerce, intimidate or preclude another physician or podiatrist from lawfully advertising his or her services;
(19) Gross negligence in the use and control of prescription forms;
(20) Professional incompetence;
(21) The inability to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry with reasonable skill and safety due to physical or mental impairment, including deterioration through the aging process, loss of motor skill or abuse of drugs or alcohol. A physician or podiatrist adversely affected under this subdivision shall be afforded an opportunity at reasonable intervals to demonstrate that he or she may resume the competent practice of medicine and surgery or podiatry with reasonable skill and safety to patients. In any proceeding under this subdivision, neither the record of proceedings nor any orders entered by the board shall be used against the physician or podiatrist in any other proceeding; or
(22) Knowingly failing to report to the board any act of gross misconduct committed by another licensee of the board.
(d) The board shall deny any application for a license or other authorization to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry in this state to any applicant who, and shall revoke the license of any physician or podiatrist licensed or otherwise lawfully practicing within this state who, is found guilty by any court of competent jurisdiction of any felony involving prescribing, selling, administering, dispensing, mixing or otherwise preparing any prescription drug, including any controlled substance under state or federal law, for other than generally accepted therapeutic purposes. Presentation to the board of a certified copy of the guilty verdict or plea rendered in the court is sufficient proof thereof for the purposes of this article. A plea of nolo contendere has the same effect as a verdict or plea of guilt. Upon application of a physician that has had his or her license revoked because of a drug related felony conviction, upon completion of any sentence of confinement, parole, probation or other court-ordered supervision and full satisfaction of any fines, judgments or other fees imposed by the sentencing court, the board may issue the applicant a new license upon a finding that the physician is, except for the underlying conviction, otherwise qualified to practice medicine: Provided, That the board may place whatever terms, conditions or limitations it deems appropriate upon a physician licensed pursuant to this subsection.
(e) The board may refer any cases coming to its attention to an appropriate committee of an appropriate professional organization for investigation and report. Except for complaints related to obtaining initial licensure to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry in this state by bribery or fraudulent misrepresentation, any complaint filed more than two years after the complainant knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, of the existence of grounds for the complaint shall be dismissed: Provided, That in cases of conduct alleged to be part of a pattern of similar misconduct or professional incapacity that, if continued, would pose risks of a serious or substantial nature to the physician’s or podiatrist’s current patients, the investigating body may conduct a limited investigation related to the physician’s or podiatrist’s current capacity and qualification to practice and may recommend conditions, restrictions or limitations on the physician’s or podiatrist’s license to practice that it considers necessary for the protection of the public. Any report shall contain recommendations for any necessary disciplinary measures and shall be filed with the board within ninety days of any referral. The recommendations shall be considered by the board and the case may be further investigated by the board. The board after full investigation shall take whatever action it considers appropriate, as provided in this section.
(f) The investigating body, as provided in subsection (e) of this section, may request and the board under any circumstances may require a physician or podiatrist or person applying for licensure or other authorization to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry in this state to submit to a physical or mental examination by a physician or physicians approved by the board. A physician or podiatrist submitting to an examination has the right, at his or her expense, to designate another physician to be present at the examination and make an independent report to the investigating body or the board. The expense of the examination shall be paid by the board. Any individual who applies for or accepts the privilege of practicing medicine and surgery or podiatry in this state is considered to have given his or her consent to submit to all examinations when requested to do so in writing by the board and to have waived all objections to the admissibility of the testimony or examination report of any examining physician on the ground that the testimony or report is privileged communication. If a person fails or refuses to submit to an examination under circumstances which the board finds are not beyond his or her control, failure or refusal is prima facie evidence of his or her inability to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry competently and in compliance with the standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice.
(g) In addition to any other investigators it employs, the board may appoint one or more licensed physicians to act for it in investigating the conduct or competence of a physician.
(h) In every disciplinary or licensure denial action, the board shall furnish the physician or podiatrist or applicant with written notice setting out with particularity the reasons for its action. Disciplinary and licensure denial hearings shall be conducted in accordance with article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code. However, hearings shall be heard upon sworn testimony and the rules of evidence for trial courts of record in this state shall apply to all hearings. A transcript of all hearings under this section shall be made, and the respondent may obtain a copy of the transcript at his or her expense. The physician or podiatrist has the right to defend against any charge by the introduction of evidence, the right to be represented by counsel, the right to present and cross-examine witnesses and the right to have subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum issued on his or her behalf for the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents. The board shall make all its final actions public. The order shall contain the terms of all action taken by the board.
(i) In disciplinary actions in which probable cause has been found by the board, the board shall, within twenty days of the date of service of the written notice of charges or sixty days prior to the date of the scheduled hearing, whichever is sooner, provide the respondent with the complete identity, address and telephone number of any person known to the board with knowledge about the facts of any of the charges; provide a copy of any statements in the possession of or under the control of the board; provide a list of proposed witnesses with addresses and telephone numbers, with a brief summary of his or her anticipated testimony; provide disclosure of any trial expert pursuant to the requirements of Rule 26(b)(4) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure; provide inspection and copying of the results of any reports of physical and mental examinations or scientific tests or experiments; and provide a list and copy of any proposed exhibit to be used at the hearing: Provided, That the board shall not be required to furnish or produce any materials which contain opinion work product information or would be a violation of the attorney-client privilege. Within twenty days of the date of service of the written notice of charges, the board shall disclose any exculpatory evidence with a continuing duty to do so throughout the disciplinary process. Within thirty days of receipt of the board’s mandatory discovery, the respondent shall provide the board with the complete identity, address and telephone number of any person known to the respondent with knowledge about the facts of any of the charges; provide a list of proposed witnesses with addresses and telephone numbers, to be called at hearing, with a brief summary of his or her anticipated testimony; provide disclosure of any trial expert pursuant to the requirements of Rule 26(b)(4) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure; provide inspection and copying of the results of any reports of physical and mental examinations or scientific tests or experiments; and provide a list and copy of any proposed exhibit to be used at the hearing.
(j) Whenever it finds any person unqualified because of any of the grounds set forth in subsection (c) of this section, the board may enter an order imposing one or more of the following:
(1) Deny his or her application for a license or other authorization to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry;
(2) Administer a public reprimand;
(3) Suspend, limit or restrict his or her license or other authorization to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry for not more than five years, including limiting the practice of that person to, or by the exclusion of, one or more areas of practice, including limitations on practice privileges;
(4) Revoke his or her license or other authorization to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry or to prescribe or dispense controlled substances for any period of time, including for the life of the licensee, that the board may find to be reasonable and necessary according to evidence presented in a hearing before the board or its designee;
(5) Require him or her to submit to care, counseling or treatment designated by the board as a condition for initial or continued licensure or renewal of licensure or other authorization to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry;
(6) Require him or her to participate in a program of education prescribed by the board;
(7) Require him or her to practice under the direction of a physician or podiatrist designated by the board for a specified period of time; and
(8) Assess a civil fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000.
(k) Notwithstanding the provisions of section eight, article one of this chapter, if the board determines the evidence in its possession indicates that a physician’s or podiatrist’s continuation in practice or unrestricted practice constitutes an immediate danger to the public, the board may take any of the actions provided in subsection (j) of this section on a temporary basis and without a hearing if institution of proceedings for a hearing before the board are initiated simultaneously with the temporary action and begin within fifteen days of the action. The board shall render its decision within five days of the conclusion of a hearing under this subsection.
(l) Any person against whom disciplinary action is taken pursuant to this article has the right to judicial review as provided in articles five and six, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code: Provided, That a circuit judge may also remand the matter to the board if it appears from competent evidence presented to it in support of a motion for remand that there is newly discovered evidence of such a character as ought to produce an opposite result at a second hearing on the merits before the board and:
(1) The evidence appears to have been discovered since the board hearing; and
(2) The physician or podiatrist exercised due diligence in asserting his or her evidence and that due diligence would not have secured the newly discovered evidence prior to the appeal.
A person may not practice medicine and surgery or podiatry or deliver health care services in violation of any disciplinary order revoking, suspending or limiting his or her license while any appeal is pending. Within sixty days, the board shall report its final action regarding restriction, limitation, suspension or revocation of the license of a physician or podiatrist, limitation on practice privileges or other disciplinary action against any physician or podiatrist to all appropriate state agencies, appropriate licensed health facilities and hospitals, insurance companies or associations writing medical malpractice insurance in this state, the American Medical Association, the American Podiatry Association, professional societies of physicians or podiatrists in the state and any entity responsible for the fiscal administration of Medicare and Medicaid.
(m) Any person against whom disciplinary action has been taken under this article shall, at reasonable intervals, be afforded an opportunity to demonstrate that he or she can resume the practice of medicine and surgery or podiatry on a general or limited basis. At the conclusion of a suspension, limitation or restriction period the physician or podiatrist may resume practice if the board has so ordered.
(n) Any entity, organization or person, including the board, any member of the board, its agents or employees and any entity or organization or its members referred to in this article, any insurer, its agents or employees, a medical peer review committee and a hospital governing board, its members or any committee appointed by it acting without malice and without gross negligence in making any report or other information available to the board or a medical peer review committee pursuant to law and any person acting without malice and without gross negligence who assists in the organization, investigation or preparation of any such report or information or assists the board or a hospital governing body or any committee in carrying out any of its duties or functions provided by law is immune from civil or criminal liability, except that the unlawful disclosure of confidential information possessed by the board is a misdemeanor as provided in this article.
(o) A physician or podiatrist may request in writing to the board a limitation on or the surrendering of his or her license to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry or other appropriate sanction as provided in this section. The board may grant the request and, if it considers it appropriate, may waive the commencement or continuation of other proceedings under this section. A physician or podiatrist whose license is limited or surrendered or against whom other action is taken under this subsection may, at reasonable intervals, petition for removal of any restriction or limitation on or for reinstatement of his or her license to practice medicine and surgery or podiatry.
(p) In every case considered by the board under this article regarding discipline or licensure, whether initiated by the board or upon complaint or information from any person or organization, the board shall make a preliminary determination as to whether probable cause exists to substantiate charges of disqualification due to any reason set forth in subsection (c) of this section. If probable cause is found to exist, all proceedings on the charges shall be open to the public who are entitled to all reports, records and nondeliberative materials introduced at the hearing, including the record of the final action taken: Provided, That any medical records, which were introduced at the hearing and which pertain to a person who has not expressly waived his or her right to the confidentiality of the records, may not be open to the public nor is the public entitled to the records.
(q) If the board receives notice that a physician or podiatrist has been subjected to disciplinary action or has had his or her credentials suspended or revoked by the board, a hospital or a professional society, as defined in subsection (b) of this section, for three or more incidents during a five-year period, the board shall require the physician or podiatrist to practice under the direction of a physician or podiatrist designated by the board for a specified period of time to be established by the board.
(r) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this article, the board may, at any time, on its own motion, or upon motion by the complainant, or upon motion by the physician or podiatrist, or by stipulation of the parties, refer the matter to mediation. The board shall obtain a list from the West Virginia State Bar’s mediator referral service of certified mediators with expertise in professional disciplinary matters. The board and the physician or podiatrist may choose a mediator from that list. If the board and the physician or podiatrist are unable to agree on a mediator, the board shall designate a mediator from the list by neutral rotation. The mediation shall not be considered a proceeding open to the public and any reports and records introduced at the mediation shall not become part of the public record. The mediator and all participants in the mediation shall maintain and preserve the confidentiality of all mediation proceedings and records. The mediator may not be subpoenaed or called to testify or otherwise be subject to process requiring disclosure of confidential information in any proceeding relating to or arising out of the disciplinary or licensure matter mediated: Provided, That any confidentiality agreement and any written agreement made and signed by the parties as a result of mediation may be used in any proceedings subsequently instituted to enforce the written agreement. The agreements may be used in other proceedings if the parties agree in writing.
(s) A physician licensed under this article may not be disciplined for providing expedited partner therapy in accordance with article four-f, chapter sixteen of this code.
(t) Whenever the board receives credible information that a licensee of the board is engaging or has engaged in criminal activity or the commitment of a crime under state or federal law, the board shall report the information, to the extent that sensitive or confidential information may be publicly disclosed under law, to the appropriate state or federal law-enforcement authority and/or prosecuting authority. This duty exists in addition to and is distinct from the reporting required under federal law for reporting actions relating to health care providers to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.