Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), a division of Texas Health and Human Services, handles the licensing of paramedics and the license and certification process for EMT-Paramedics, Advanced EMs, EMTs-Basic, and Emergency Care Attendants.
As a result, the EMS Compliance Unit of DSHS receives and investigates all complaints concerning EMS personnel, including licensed paramedics who have allegedly violated the rules and laws they must follow. Unfortunately, these rules and laws can be complicated, and the loss of your paramedic license can leave you without a job. As a result, you may need to contact a Texas paramedic license defense lawyer for assistance if you receive notice of a complaint against your license.
How DSHS Handles Complaints Against Paramedics
When DSHS receives a complaint against a paramedic, DSHS staff take the following initial steps:
- They determine whether DSHS has jurisdiction to act in that the complaint concerns licensed EMS personnel, and
- They review the complaint to decide if it alleges a violation of Tex. Health and Safety Code § 773 and/or EMS Rules, 25 Tex. Admin. Code § 157.
- DSHS also acknowledges to the complainant that they have received the complaint and a name and contact number for a DSHS staff member.
Next, if DSHS determines that the complaint meets the above conditions, it opens a formal investigation and assigns the complaint to an investigator. Typically, the investigator will ask the paramedic who is the subject of the complaint for more information and may conduct on-site visits in some circumstances. When the investigator completes the investigation, the Enforcement Review Committee (ERC) reviews the case. ERC then determines if a violation occurred, in which case DSHS substantiates the complaint and, if so, what disciplinary action DSHS will take.
Common Complaints Against Paramedics
While DSHS receives many complaints against paramedics and other EMS personnel, some are more common than others. Some typical complaints before DSHS may include:
- Patient care issues
- Violations of EMS personnel protocols
- Practicing with expired licenses
- Drug diversion
- Drug or alcohol use while on duty
- Criminal conduct
- Failure to document or maintain patient care reports, including treatment and medication administration
- Engaging in unprofessional conduct with the capacity to endanger the public
- Reckless operation of emergency vehicles
Additionally, 25 Tex. Admin. Code § 157.36(b) lists 50 specific grounds for which DSHS may suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a paramedic’s license or reprimand a licensed paramedic. These grounds include everything from abandoning patients to refusing to provide information to DSHS when requested.
Potential Disciplinary Actions Against Paramedics
DSHS can take different types of disciplinary action against paramedics, depending on the severity of the behavior and any history of discipline. Potential disciplinary actions may include:
- Plan of correction or internal remediation, as the violation does not warrant formal disciplinary action
- Suspension or probated suspension of license
- Refuse to renew a license
- Revocation of license
To the extent that DSHS places a paramedic on probation, Tex. Health and Safety Code § 773.061 permits DSHS to order the license holder to regularly report to DSHS on matters related to the probation or limit practice to areas prescribed by DSHS. DSHS also can require the license holder to continue or review professional education until the individual reaches a degree of proficiency satisfactory to DSHS in the areas related to the probation.
DSHS also may impose an emergency suspension of a paramedic’s license without a hearing in certain circumstances. Typically, DSHS does not take this action unless there is reasonable cause to believe that a license holder’s conduct is a danger to the public’s health and safety. An emergency suspension can be separate from and in addition to the disciplinary action that DSHS ultimately takes in a case.
Appealing a Disciplinary Action by DSHS
License holders are entitled to appeal disciplinary actions taken against them by DSHS. Under Tex. Health and Safety Code § 773.061, administrative appeals are governed by the Texas Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Tex. Govt. Code § 2001. Under the APA, state agencies such as DSHS may conduct informal conferences with a license holder to resolve the matter via agreed settlement, consent order, or stipulation. If they do not resolve the matter by agreement, the license holder has the right to a contested administrative hearing at the State Office of Hearings and Appeals (SOAH). SOAH assigns an administrative law judge (ALJ), who hears the case and recommends a decision to the state agency. The state agency then issues a final decision. If the license holder still disagrees with that decision, they can further appeal it within 30 days by filing suit in court.
Get Help Defending Your Paramedic License Today
A complaint can significantly affect your career and your ability to support yourself. Disciplinary action against you may result in the suspension or revocation of your license. However, you may avoid these damaging consequences with the right type of defense from the outset of your case. Contact the paramedic license defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP, so that we can begin investigating your case. You can call our office at (512) 515-9518 or visit us online to get more information about the services we can offer you.