What licensees should know
Have you been notified that a complaint has been filed against you? Have you been cited during a facility inspection? You should know your rights and understand how the disciplinary process works. The Health Licensing Office (HLO) and the volunteer citizen boards overseen by the HLO are required by state law to uphold regulations meant to protect the health, safety and rights of consumers.
The HLO conducts inspections and investigations, and licensees who violate Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) or Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) are subject to discipline. If there is reasonable cause to believe a statute or administrative rule has been violated, the HLO proceeds with an investigation. The HLO must also open an investigation on every complaint received. For some professions, the HLO notifies or consults with the board or a board chair before an investigation is underway.
An assigned HLO investigator and, in some cases, a subject matter expert (SME), will prepare detailed reports describing the events that took place and collect evidence. In cases where it is determined that the allegations are unfounded, the HLO will send a letter notifying the licensee or authorization holder. If the evidence does not support the facts of the complaint allegation, the investigation is terminated.
If the investigation finds that a violation of the statutes or administrative rules exists, the HLO may take it to an Enforcement Committee or the board for expert review and recommendations. A Notice of Intent to Impose Disciplinary Action (NOI) will be prepared and sent to the licensee or authorization holder who violated the law.
In some cases it can take several months to investigate the case and prepare the NOI.
Investigative protocol for all boards1
This investigative protocol is intended to provide an overview of the investigative process and the general responsibilities of the Health Licensing Office (HLO) staff with regards to investigations conducted by the HLO. It is not an ordered list. It does not limit or supersede any authorities under Oregon Revised Statutes 676.560 to 676.625 and 676.992.
1) Assign a file number regardless of information available or reasonable cause.
2) Conduct initial review of complaint and determine jurisdiction:
- Identify priority of case.
- Determine if the complaint contains sufficient cause to begin investigation or if additional information is needed contact complainant for additional information.2
3) Assign case to investigator.
4) Conduct investigation.3 The following elements of investigation and their order will be determined on a case by case basis (an investigation generally has these elements and general flow however, flexibility will be needed as the investigative process may change according to allegations and information obtained):
- Gather evidence
- Request / Subpoena records
- Notify licensee of investigation
- Consult with a subject matter expert if necessary
- Conduct interviews
5) Depending on case, the investigative report may be reviewed by the applicable Board.4
Following the investigation, the authorization holder who was investigated is notified that the investigation is closed or that a Notice of Intent is issued.
1Implemented June 1, 2019.
2 For complaints related to Direct Entry Midwifery, take complaint to the Board of Direct Entry Midwifery (DEM) pursuant to ORS 676.608(12)(a), (b) and (c) for consultation on this step.
3 Consult with DEM Board throughout investigation pursuant to ORS 676.608(12)(b) and (c).
4 Bring investigative report to DEM Board to determine if notice will be issued.
Notice of disciplinary action
When allegations are substantiated, a NOI and Notice of Right to Request a Hearing will be sent to the licensee. The NOI includes the violation(s), proposed disciplinary action and the rights of the licensee. Proposed discipline is just that — what HLO proposes as discipline to address alleged violations based on the evidence and the specific related state law and/or administrative rule.
For any violation(s), disciplinary actions may include fines up to $5,000 and suspension or revocation of a practitioner's authorization to practice and up to $5,000 for the cost of disciplinary proceedings.
Responding to an NOI and disputing an HLO action
If you receive a NOI from the HLO you should not ignore it. All NOIs come with a Notice of Right to Request a Hearing.
If you receive a NOI, you must respond within the time designated if you would like to contest the allegations or negotiate a settlement. In most cases, a licensee has 30 days to request a hearing, and the hearing request must be in writing. Hearings are held before an independent administrative law judge through the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Failure to respond to a NOI by requesting a hearing is considered a default of your rights, and the HLO may proceed with disciplinary action. A NOI that is not responded to within the allotted time will result in the HLO issuing a final order imposing discipline.
Once a final order is issued, the findings from an investigation can be requested by completing and submitting a public records request form. In some situations details of an investigation cannot be disclosed to the public.