“To be the healthiest state in the nation”
That’s the stated ‘vision’ of the Florida Department of Health according to their website. Lofty and impressive goal.
The agency’s ‘mission’ (according to its website) is to “protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida.” More nice words.
So how does that comport with the Department’s repeated and reckless delays in disciplining those healthcare providers who sexually assault patients and engage in other sexual misconduct.
An easy and effective way to promote public health is to quickly take away the tools that predators use to hurt others. The use of an emergency restriction Order is a remedy that is available while a full investigation into the misconduct is underway. However, the Department of Health often fails to swiftly employ this tool.
What do police do when they first catch a criminal? Snatch his or her gun or knife.
That is what we would expect the Department of Health to do as well: promptly take away whatever means sex offenders use to get close to and hurt their victims.
But that is not happening. Consider:
— Parkland pediatrician Michael Mizrachy was arrested on January 12 for having child sex images – after being investigated since June of last year.
He still has an active medical license in good standing.
— Dr. Stewart Bitman was arrested on January 26 for reportedly sending sexually explicit pictures to a child.
He still has a medical license in good standing FL DOH MQA Search Portal | License Verification For Practitioner Details (state.fl.us)
— Mental health therapist Fernando Gautier was arrested for raping a 14 year old in November 2020.
He still has a active license in good standing.
–Physical therapist Akepe Ntube was charged with felony sexual battery on a female patient in Lee County last July.
He still has an active license in good standing.
–Massage Envy massage therapist Jose Grajales was charged with battery on female client in Palm Beach County last September following an allegation he touched his client’s vagina without her consent during a massage appointment. He entered a ‘no contest’ plea and agreed to surrender his license more than a month ago.
Grajales Plea Deal
He still has an active massage license in good standing.
What does this slowness to suspend or revoke licenses of abusive health care professionals mean?
It means there is a hidden danger to the unsuspecting public. These individuals are able to continue to practice medicine (or other healthcare practices) and command the trust of patients that are not aware of their criminal charges. One might say — what does it matter — These professionals typically lose their employment. But what’s to stop them from gaining new employment, becoming self-employed, or venturing into environments like home health care, health care via apps, or telemedicine. Not all of these criminal cases made headlines news. So, this is information the public needs to know.
The solution, which the Department eventually gets around to in most cases, is an Emergency Order by the DOH restricting these licenses, pending a final hearing. But that takes far too long. Sometimes many months.
“To be the healthiest state in the nation” is an admirable goal.
But if the Florida Department of Health is serious about their work, they’ll take an obvious, simple and should-be-quick move to warn the public about predators and make it harder for predators to get access to more victims.