Doctors and other health professionals in California can be disciplined or lose their licenses for criminal conduct such as possession of illegal drugs even if they complete a pretrial treatment program and have the case erased from their record, under a ruling that has now become final.
The state Supreme Court unanimously refused Wednesday to take up a physician’s appeal of a ruling that said a licensing agency, such as the California Medical Board, can rely on arrest records as evidence that a license-holder committed professional misconduct, even if the underlying criminal case no longer exists.
That ruling, by a San Francisco appellate panel, is now a binding precedent for all trial courts in California. Besides doctors, it applies to other licensed medical professionals such as nurses and pharmacists.
The case involved a Southern California physician, Brandon Erdle, who was arrested in September 2013 on suspicion of possessing cocaine. His lawyer, Mitchell Green, said Erdle was actually arrested for an unrelated minor crime and was carrying bags with small amounts of the drug that he was about to drop into a medical disposal unit.
The case never went to trial, and the drug charge was dismissed in January 2016 after Erdle went through a treatment program known as pretrial diversion. In the meantime the Medical Board, citing his arrest report, accused Erdle of unprofessional conduct, then issued him a public reprimand in 2016 and placed him on probation.
East Meadow, N.Y.-based Nassau Health Care Corp. officials expect to pass a resolution March 8 barring East Meadow-based Nassau University Medical Center officials from traveling to the Cayman Islands twice a year and charging the hospital for expenses incurred on the trip, according to Newsday.
George Tsunis, chairman of the board of Nassau Health Care Corp., which operates NUMC, told the publication the proposal is part of a series of resolutions to cut costs at NUMC, prevent corruption and make the public more aware of executives’ actions.
Nassau Health Care Corp. created a limited liability company, called NHCC LTD, in the Cayman Islands for tax purposes to self-insure for malpractice and general liability claims, according to the report. Company officials must meet outside the U.S. at least once a year to maintain the Cayman Islands location. NUMC’s CEO, COO, and CFO were all named to NHCC LTD’s board, and previously traveled to the islands for two weeks out of the fiscal year to discuss the company’s financial and operational activities.
Under the proposal, two NUMC executives will meet once a year for one day at an offshore location, such as a Canadian airport, to discuss the company’s activities.
The series of resolutions also calls for a reduction in the use of outside legal firms to handle internal legal issues, and to enact anti-nepotism disclosure requirements for hospital trustees, among other initiatives.
Nassau Health Care Corp. officials did not disclose how much the organization would save as a result of the proposed changes, Newsday reports.
Mr. Tsunis said as a safety-net hospital, NUMC should adhere to federal expense guidelines and not use taxpayer money to fund executives’ trips.
“[The proposed resolutions are] essential for credibility. The taxpayers of Nassau County need to be assured that we are protecting their tax dollars and operating at the highest ethical levels,” Mr. Tsunis told Newsday.