Temporary medical licenses: What are the red flags and why do these doctors keep getting hired?

ORLANDO, Fla. — A former chair of the Florida Board of Medicine is reacting to a 9 Investigation, exposing how hundreds of physicians are working statewide on what are supposed to be temporary medical licenses.

9 Investigates dug into this story back in February, after a local woman sued several of these types of doctors following the death of her husband.

Now, we’ve learned the man who used to oversee the rules for Florida health care providers tried to change the process years ago, but faced pushback.

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Since we started looking into this almost 6 months ago, no one from the current board of medicine, department of health or the surgeon general would go on the record about whether these types of licenses need a time limit, or if the definition of critical need should change.

9 Investigates uncovered that the law was created to help staff medical professionals in correctional facilities, county health departments, and VA clinics, but it also allows hundreds of doctors to work on temporary licenses almost anywhere in the entire state.

“It was a surprise,” Dr. Stephen Rosenberg said about the area of critical need licenses. “Most of the physicians I’ve interacted with over the years have gone through medical schools, residency, passed exams, and it was somewhat surprising and disappointing to find out there are physicians who can get a license without the same standards.”

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Dr. Stephen Rosenberg was a two-time chair of the Florida Board of Medicine, serving a total of a decade overseeing the rules and discipline for doctors and other medical staff. It was during that time he discovered not all doctors carry the same credentials.

“I don’t think most of the physicians in the state of Florida are aware there are doctors who can practice in Florida without meeting the normal credentials,” Dr. Rosenberg said.

Instead of a full medical license, the temporary area of critical need licenses, also known as ACN, means the physician did not complete a required residency in Florida, and instead became licensed in another United States jurisdiction with lower standards.

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9 Investigates found there are more than 900 of these license-holders working all over the state, including in busy parts of our biggest cities: Miami, Tampa and Orlando, many given approval due to a low income population.

“One of the things we noticed, is many of these physicians are working in areas with no shortage of physicians at all,” Dr. Rosenberg said. “But they are often employed by business entities that are for-profit, and appear to be able to hire these physicians for considerably less money than a normally licensed physician.”

In addition, Dr. Rosenberg says he questions the types of services being offered by these physicians. We found some ACN-licensed doctors offering things like Botox and other cosmetic procedures in clinics deemed to be in an area of critical need.

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“I think the fact that some of these physicians are working where there’s no shortage of doctors, or providing services that are not medically necessary, is an item the legislature should address,” Dr. Rosenberg said.

You can search your doctor’s education information, the type of license they hold and whether they have ever been disciplined here.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.