APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION
515 N.E.2d 705, 161 Ill. App. 3d 827, 113 Ill. Dec. 720
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur C. Dunne, Judge, presiding. 1987.IL.1442
JUSTICE CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court. O'CONNOR and MANNING, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE CAMPBELL
Plaintiffs, Raymond W. Wineblad and Thomas J. Jones, filed an action for declaratory and injunctive relief against defendant, the Department of Registration and Education (the Department), alleging that an amendment to the statutory licensing requirements for physician's assistants enacted after plaintiffs had become licensed in 1977 was unconstitutional. The amended statute required plaintiffs to take an additional certifying examination as a condition of retaining their licenses as physician's assistants. The Department's motion for summary judgment was granted and plaintiffs appeal from that order contending that the ruling by the trial court violated their constitutional due process and equal protection rights.
Plaintiffs were physician's assistants licensed pursuant to the Physician's Assistants Practice Act (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 111, par. 4751 et seq.), which became effective on July 1, 1976. Under the Act, a physician's assistant is defined as any person, not a physician, who is certified to perform medical procedures under the supervision of persons licensed to practice medicine in the State of Illinois. The plaintiffs passed the initial written examination offered by the Department for the certification of physician's assistants and were licensed in November 1976. Since becoming licensed, plaintiffs have been employed as physician's assistants to orthopedic physicians.
On September 20, 1977, the Illinois legislature amended the Act to require physician's assistants to hold a valid certificate issued by the National Commission on Certification of Physician's Assistants . To obtain a valid certificate from the NCCPA, applicants are required to successfully complete its national certifying examination. The NCCPA has administered a national certifying examination for physician's assistants since 1975. NCCPA certification requires that physician's assistants earn 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and reexamination every six years. Pursuant to the provisions of the amended Act, the Department amended its rules and informed plaintiffs by letter dated February 3, 1982, that those persons certified as physician's assistants prior to the amended legislation were required to pass the NCCPA written certifying examination prior to March 31, 1982. Subsequently, the renewal date for all licenses issued under the Act was changed to March 1, 1984, and licensees were given to that date to successfully complete the NCCPA certifying examination.
The written examination administered by the NCCPA tests core skills minimally required by all physician's assistants. In addition, examinees may take a proficiency component examination in either primary care medicine or surgery, but passage of the component examinations is not required to become certified. As of March 1, 1984, plaintiffs, who had not taken the NCCPA certifying examination, filed an action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. In their complaint, plaintiffs alleged that the Department's requirement that they take the NCCPA examination was illegal, void and unconstitutional since they were already certified as physician's assistants. Plaintiffs contend that retroactive application of the rule requiring them to take the examination is unfair in that it requires them to develop knowledge in areas of medicine in which they have never practiced. Plaintiffs stated that they would be willing to take a certifying examination administered by the National Board for Certification of Orthopedic Physician's Assistants.
The trial court granted plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order. Following the hearing on the Department's motion for summary judgment on December 5, 1984, the trial court granted the motion, finding no violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights occurred where retroactive application of the rule requiring the examination was reasonably related to the public health, safety and welfare. At plaintiffs' request, the trial court granted a stay of the enforcement of its order until November 1, 1985, when the NCCPA certifying examination would next be administered.
Plaintiffs first argue on appeal that retroactive application of the amended statute requiring them to pass the NCCPA certifying examination violated their constitutional due process rights. While plaintiffs recognize the authority of the Department to change the requirements for issuance of a license and to retest licensed physician's assistants, they contend that the content of such an examination should be tailored to their specialty area of orthopedic medicine.
Section 10 of the Act, as amended, provides for the criteria necessary before the Department may issue a physician's assistant certificate, as follows:
"Upon the satisfactory completion of application and examination procedures and compliance with the applicable rules and regulations of the Department of Registration and Education, the Department shall issue a physician's assistant certificate to the qualifying applicant who currently holds a valid certificate issued by the National Commission on Certification of Physician's Assistants." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 111, par. 4761.)
The Act further provides that renewal of the certificate requires, inter alia, "the individual's continuing to fulfill all of the requirements for issuance of a certificate under this ...