Texas Register Preamble

The Texas Medical Board (Board) adopts on an emergency basis amendments to 22 TAC §§187.2(6), 187.6 and 187.16, relating to Definitions; Appearances Personally or by Representative; and Informal Show Compliance (ISC) Information and Notices, respectively, effective immediately upon filing.

The emergency amendment to §187.2(6) adds a definition of "appear/appearance." The amendments to §187.6 and §187.16 are conforming amendments to incorporate consistent usage of the term "appear" and "appearance."

There is currently a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in certain areas of Texas. Further, Governor Abbott stated on June 23, 2020, "[u]nless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home." Thus, the emergency amendments are necessary to facilitate safe continuity of operations of the Texas Medical Board with respect to resolution of complaint investigations. These complaint investigations and disciplinary process comprise essential functions of the Board. The Board currently has approximately 175 cases postponed. The emergency amendments will provide the Board with the ability to implement maximum safety measures mitigating against the spread of COVID-19.

Pursuant to §2001.034 and §2001.036(a)(2) of the Texas Government Code, the emergency amendments are adopted on an emergency basis and with an expedited effective date because an imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare requires adoption on fewer than 30 days' notice. The emergency amendments will eliminate potential unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 for agency staff, gubernatorial appointees (including physicians and other health professionals), complainants (including patients and/or family members), licensees, and their representatives when addressing complaints through Informal Show Compliance Proceedings and Settlement Conferences (ISC).

In order to comply with public health officials' recommendations about how to protect against the spread of COVID-19, the emergency rules provide a means of providing maximum safety measures (virtually eliminating potential exposure) when conducting statutorily required ISCs regarding alleged violations of the Medical Practice Act and other applicable laws. In addition, the rules eliminate unnecessary expenditure of state funds during a time of decreased state revenue. The rules also provide adequate means for licensees and their representatives to respond to and address alleged violations of laws regarding the practice of medicine through the statutory ISC process.

Under §2001.034 of the Texas Government Code, the emergency rule may not be in effect for more than 180 days.

The emergency rule amendments are adopted under the authority of the Texas Occupations Code, §153.001, which provides authority for the Board to recommend and adopt rules and bylaws as necessary to: govern its own proceedings; perform its duties; regulate the practice of medicine; and enforce this subtitle.

Other statutes affected by this rule are Chapters 151 and 164 of the Texas Occupations Code.

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