As part of the State of California’s ongoing battle against the spread of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the formation of the California Health Corps, a measure designed to dramatically expand the health care workforce and staff the additional hospital beds necessary to treat COVID-19 patients.  The breadth of the health corps encompasses nearly all professional licensees, including:

–          Physicians, including residents

–          Pharmacists

–          Dentists

–          Nurse practitioners

–          Physical assistants

–          Nurses (RNs, LVNs, and CNAs), including nursing students

–          All behavioral health professionals

–          Respiratory therapists

–          Paramedics, EMTS, medical assistants, and more

According to the information provided by the state, participants will be paid and given malpractice insurance.  Details about deployment are still vague, but the state has indicated that it will try to match the geographic preferences of applicants.

However, the requirements for participation in the Health Corps may exclude professional licensees with any measure of discipline.  The state’s guidance so far indicates only that those eligible must “have no negative licensure/certification actions”.  It is unclear whether this means currently or historically—in other words, whether probation or a reproval/reprimand from ten years ago would preclude a licensee from joining the Health Corps today, or whether the disciplinary action must be ongoing.  It is also unclear what the definition of “actions” is, at this stage.  For example, licensees who have been cited previously by a state agency, but informed that the action was not disciplinary, could be eligible or ineligible depending on how this requirement is interpreted.

The final, most pressing question is how the state will interpret the presence of an ongoing disciplinary action, such as an Accusation, or investigation against a licensee.  If the state will accept licensees with Accusations as part of the Health Corps, it would be prudent to explore this option immediately if possible.

Right now, California is calling for professionals to register through an online sign up.  When licensees follow the online signup, questions are asked about the status of the responder’s license, such as whether or not it is good standing and “free of adverse actions and restrictions”.  If you are eligible and interested in signing up for the California Health Corps, you should discuss your options with an experienced licensing attorney to determine how this question should be answered, depending on the facts of your licensing and/or disciplinary history.

This article was written March 31, 2020, and all information contained within may be rendered obsolete by the rapid pace of change in California due to COVID-19.