Nov. 2, 2018
Dear Regulated Members,
This week, the Minister of Health introduced Bill 21, “An Act to Protect Patients.” The bill has wide legislative support and is likely to be passed soon and when approved will take effect 1 April 2019.
Bill 21 amends the Health Professions Act governing physicians and the other regulated health professionals. It includes a number of changes. The following are three of those proposed changes:
- First, a Hearing Tribunal that finds a regulated member guilty of sexual abuse of a patient (as defined in the bill) must cancel the member’s practice permit and registration, or suspend it when a regulated member is found guilty of sexual misconduct (as defined in the bill).
- Second, any record of discipline or criminal conviction or conditions placed on a practice permit related to sexual abuse or misconduct must be published and for an indefinite period.
- And third, a Patient Relations Program is to be created by each regulator, including a fund to provide treatment or counselling to patients affected by sexual abuse or misconduct by regulated health professionals.
There are other changes, and many details will be specified in regulations to be developed. The College will provide more information as it becomes available.
The College supports this initiative. The protection of Albertans is of paramount importance to all health professionals, and to Albertans. College Council, last May, endorsed action to seek higher penalties in cases of serious sexual abuse and misconduct, including seeking cancellation of a registered member’s practice permit. The College was consulted by Alberta Health in the development of Bill 21 and that input was taken into account. The proposed legislation gives the College new tools to increase transparency and to address serious cases of sexual misconduct and abuse. While this will directly impact only a very small number of physicians, it sends a message that the College takes these issues seriously, and it will help maintain public confidence in the profession.
The College emphasizes that the vast majority of Alberta doctors treat their patients with respect and professionalism, and there is no reason to change how you practise medicine. However, there is a heightened awareness and concern around the power imbalance between health professionals and patients that this proposed legislation addresses.
If you have questions or want more information, please call our office at 780-423-4764 or 1-800-561-3899. Additional information will be provided as the implications of this proposed legislation is better known.
Scott A. McLeod, MD, CCFP, FCFP
Kate Wood, QC