Department of Consumer Affairs Further Extends Series of Licensing Waivers Pertaining to the Medical Board of California During State of Emergency and Prioritizes Complaints Against Licensees Who Divert COVID-19 Vaccines

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By Ellen Williams

In December 2020 and January 2021, Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Director, Kimberly Kirchmeyer, issued a series of orders extending the deadlines for licensing waivers issued as a result of Governor Newsom’s March 30, 2020 State of Emergency proclamation in California, and the corresponding Executive Order N-39-20, issued as a result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. [25:2 CRLR 35]. The following is a summary of waivers as they apply to the Medical Board of California (MBC).

  • Examination Deadlines: Effective January 26, 2021, as it applies to physicians and surgeons, DCA-21-107 waives Title 16, Section 1306, subdivision (a)(4) of the California Code of Regulations to the extent that it requires applicants to retake or pass the Step 3 United States Medical Licensing Examination within one year. Applicants who would have otherwise been required to complete the exam between February 1 and April 1, 2021, must now take the exam within 18 months from the notification of their results by the Medical Board of California.
  • Postgraduate Training Completion: Effective December 15, 2020, DCA-20-93 and DCA-20-100, extend the deadline from October 31, 2020 to March 31, 2021, for all medical residents who were enrolled in an approved postgraduate training program in California in 2020 to obtain a postgraduate training license from MBC.  The order clarifies that medical residents must still complete all other postgraduate training requirements during the extension period, including completing all applications and submitting supporting forms to MBC.  If a resident physician does not obtain a license by March 31, 2021 (unless further extended), or the Board denies the application, the resident must stop all clinical training in California. This temporary waiver does not extend the time a resident can practice medicine in a postgraduate training program beyond the 39-month licensing exemption in the Business and Professions Code sections 2064.5, subdivision (b) and 2065, subdivision (d). With respect to individuals who completed at least 36 months of approved postgraduate training outside of California, were enrolled in an approved postgraduate training program in California on July 1, 2020, and who are required to obtain a physician’s and surgeon’s license from the Medical Board of California within 90 days to continue the practice of medicine pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 2065, subdivision (h), DCA-20-94 extends the compliance deadline to March 31, 2021.  If the individual fails to obtain a license on or before March 31, 2021, or the Board denies the application, the individual must cease all clinical training in California until a physician and surgeon license is issued.
  • License Renewal Requirements: Effective December 15, 2020, DCA-20-89 and DCA-20-90 temporarily waive, for physicians and surgeons whose active licenses expire between January 1, 2021, and February 28, 2021, any statutory or regulatory requirement that they take and pass an examination in order to renew a medical license and any requirement that they demonstrate compliance with any continuing education requirements in order to renew a license. The order clarifies that the waiver does not apply to continuing education, training, or examinations required pursuant to a disciplinary order against a license. Licensees must satisfy any waived renewal requirements within six months of the order unless further extended. The extension for this Department of Consumer Affairs waiver will expire at the end of February 2021.
  • License Reactivation or Restoration: Effective December 15, 2020, DCA-20-91 temporarily waives statutory and regulatory requirements to allow physicians and surgeons who have recently retired, suspended, or surrendered their licenses within the past five years to voluntarily return to practice, including continuing education requirements, and licensing fees. The waiver does not apply to any license that was surrendered or revoked following disciplinary action or any individual who retired, inactivated, or canceled their license following a disciplinary proceeding. A license reactivated or restored pursuant to this waiver is valid until July 1, 2021, or when the State of Emergency ends, whichever is sooner. Individuals reactivating their licenses under this exemption must still comply with any other reactivation or restoration requirements, including submitting required forms or written notices to MBC to reactivate or restore the license.  Those interested in renewing their license and joining the fight against COVID-19 may apply with California Health Corps. The Emergency Medical Services Authority is currently granting individual waivers that allow providers who are licensed in another state to work in California during the declared COVID-19 emergency. Out-of-state medical professionals may request a waiver via email.
  • Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, and Nurse-Midwife Supervision: Effective January 26, 2021, as another means of meeting the need for COVID-19 response, DCA-21-108 extends several orders suspending supervision requirements for physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse-midwives by 60 days, until April 9, 2021, unless further extended.

On January 16, 2021, in response to the new California Department of Public Health guidance on vaccine prioritization issued on January 7, 2021, the Medical Board of California announced that it will prioritize complaints against licensees who engage in diversion of COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine administration supplies provided by the federal government for financial gain in violation of federal and state guidance. The Board will simultaneously observe its investigative priorities established in the Business and Professions Code Section 2220.05. This notice does not specify what level of priority will be given to COVID-19 vaccine diverters.

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