How the Complaint Committee Investigates a Case
The Complaint Committee consists of the medical coordinator, the chief of medical investigations, and two board members; it meets at least twice a month. Examining each complaint, the committee decides if the case involves possible violations of the Medical Practice Act, then recommends that the case be either opened or not opened.
When opening a case, the committee may specify what it wants done in the investigation. Here the chief of medical investigations takes over. He oversees investigations in DRE’s two offices, in Springfield and Chicago. The appropriate unit’s supervisor assigns the case to an investigator and together they draw up an outline of the investigation. The investigator then gathers and examines records and other documents, interviews respondents and witnesses, and does whatever else is needed. If, during his investigation, the investigator has a medical question, he asks the medical coordinator.
At the end of his study, the investigator summarizes the material he has gathered for the medical coordinator. The medical coordinator in turn reviews the file summary and writes his recommendations to the Complaint Committee. Any of several things can happen to the case at this point.
The Complaint Committee may close the case for insufficient evidence (the full Medical Disciplinary Board must concur); ask for futher investigation; give the case to the chief regulatory officer (the department’s prosecuting attorney) for possible disciplinary or legal action; refer the case to an outside professional agency, such as the Chicago Medical Society; ask the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute; or decide with the prosecutor to call the doctor in for an informal conference.
At the informal conference, the doctor and his attorney meet with DRE’s attorney and one board member who is also on the Complaint Committee. DRE reviews the doctor’s compliance with department directives, gathers additional information, and discusses the issues with the doctor, who can submit documents and make an oral statement. The conference can result in any of four recommendations to the board: close the case, investigate further, enter into a consent order with the doctor, or refer the matter for a formal hearing or for prosecution. Formal hearings are held before the full Medical Disciplinary Board; a department-appointed hearing officer presides. Both the accused person and the complainant can present evidence. If the director of DRE feels the doctor’s continued practice might endanger others, he can temporarily suspend the doctor’s license, pending the hearing results.
The board writes to the doctor with its findings and conclusions. He can ask for a rehearing within 20 days. If he doesn’t, the DRE director can act on the board’s recommendations. The director cannot take any disciplinary action unless the board directs him to. If he is dissatisfied with the board’s decision for example, if he thinks the doctor’s license should be suspended to protect the public when the board has recommended no suspension the director can order a rehearing by the board or other examiners (II 4449) . This is a basic outline of how DRE handles complaints against physicians; it is basically how the department handled the Sonnenberg case.