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Credentials Committee

 


Credentials Committee

Florida’s Administrative Procedure Act is intended to assure administrative fairness and a level playing field in the resolution of disputes with the state’s regulatory agencies.

The Act encourages meaningful advance disclosure of agency procedures and requirements. In the area of professional licensure this is accomplished through rule making and specific notice requirements. Unfortunately, the practical operations of the Board of Medicine’s Credentials Committee are not very well defined by administrative rule or statute. Consequently, the risk to the unprepared applicant can be significant.

The physician applicant is frequently invited to appear before the Credentials Committee in response to specific licensure inquiries or issues raised by the committee. The applicant’s “testimony” is received under oath, recorded and can and frequently is used against him in the determination of licensure issues.

The Board of Medicine is represented by its own legal counsel. The proceedings, unlike a probable cause panel, are open to the public, and depending upon the length and nature of the agenda, there can be a considerable audience.

After being chastised by at least one appellate court, the Committee now makes a more sincere effort to provide applicants with a reasonable notice of the issues to be addressed at the hearing. Historically, unnoticed issues have "spontaneously" developed during the hearing process which can place licensure applicants in the untenable position of responding to them without adequate preparation.

An applicant’s attempt to assume the dual roles of “witness” and “advocate” can easily result in the needless compromise of both. Protestations over a lack of adequate notice can be misinterpreted as evasiveness or procrastination and the “boundaries” between the licensee and the committee can be almost non-existent in this setting. The ambiance of a Credentials Committee hearing can range from friendly, casual and informative to prosecutorial.

A practical aspect of Credentials Committee action is that once the committee makes a recommendation with respect to licensure, the actual review of that recommendation by the full board may be limited. The Board of Medicine has on occasion refused to consider additional testimony or input in its review of the committee’s recommendations even in instances when the information offered did not exist at the time of the Credentials Committee’s decision.

In some instances, the Board’s review of the Credentials Committee’s recommendations can transpire in a matter of two or three minutes and accordingly the possibility of “rubber stamp approval” of the committee’s recommendations cannot be lightly dismissed. Unlike participants on a Probable Cause Panel, Credential Committee members can and do vote on the same recommendation as members of the full Board. Accordingly, it can not be presumed that a licensee will automatically have a full second bite at the apple before the full Board in the event of a less than favorable Credentials Committee recommendation. There can be considerable inertia to overcome in such instances.

Although every case is unique, Credentials Committee proceedings can be a critical stage in the licensure process. Appropriate preparation and vigilant participation during committee proceedings by the licensee and /or his counsel are essential.