QUESTION: We have just received an application for Medical Staff appointment from a physician who has a history of alcohol abuse that caused him to lose his license. While his license has been reinstated, how should we deal with the fact that at one point in time he lost his license?
ANSWER: First check your Medical Staff Bylaws. Many bylaws have threshold eligibility criteria that not only require that an applicant possess a current, unrestricted license, but also require that an applicant have never had his or her license to practice revoked or suspended by any state licensing agency. Such an eligibility criterion would render this physician ineligible to apply for appointment.
However, that does not end the inquiry. Most bylaws also have a process that may be followed to obtain a waiver of the threshold eligibility criteria. If the physician wants to attempt to qualify for a waiver, he or she should be required to request a waiver in writing and provide the MEC with such information as the MEC may require to determine whether granting a waiver is in the best interest of the hospital and the community it serves.
The MEC should be reasonable and keep in mind that past alcohol or drug use is protected by the ADA. However, that does not alter the fact that the burden remains on the applicant to satisfy the hospital’s eligibility criteria and, if requesting a waiver, to establish a reasonable basis for the requested waiver. Whether a waiver is granted is discretionary, the burden remains on the applicant, and an application is incomplete and should not be processed unless the waiver has been granted.