Principles & Framework
Approved: June 25, 2008
Revised: June, 2014
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (the “College”), through direction from the Council, attempts whenever possible to manage any concerns about a physician’s health outside of the complaints process. This is possible because the Physician Health Monitoring Committee (the “PHMC”), a subcommittee of the Competence Committee, has Rules which establish the authority to manage health issues in a quality assurance manner. The PHMC has also established policies which guide the actions of the responsible Assistant Registrar (the “Assistant Registrar”).
The College is responsible for ensuring that its members are not suffering from any medical condition that could interfere with their ability to practice medicine safely. Public safety is paramount, and the College provides support and direction to physicians so that their health conditions can be managed and they can continue to practice safely.
Physicians often worry that if something comes to the attention of the PHMC, this will automatically result in loss of the ability to practice or that their personal health information will be made available to the public or to all College staff.
The principles under which the PHMC operates include the following:
- The Assistant Registrar provides direction and support, but does not provide directly any form of treatment.
- The Assistant Registrar strongly encourages the physician’s right to access all available resources, including the Physician and Family Support Program operated by the Alberta Medical Association (the “PFSP”) and the Case Coordination function of the PFSP.
- The Assistant Registrar will work collaboratively with physicians to manage health conditions to ensure safe, continuing practice.
- Evidence and expert opinion will be used when determining the course of action.
- Most physicians manage their health conditions in a way that the impact on the practice and care of patients is minimized.
- The physician’s personal health information is kept strictly confidential at all times. Specific information about who has access to this information, and under which circumstances, can be found in the related document Physicians’ Personal Health Information.
Physicians may come to the attention of the College in a variety of ways. At the time of registration and annual renewal, physicians are asked about their health issues. Physicians may also self-report significant health issues at any time. On occasion, colleagues or other health professionals will bring a physician to the attention of the Assistant Registrar when they are concerned about the impact of a physician’s health on their medical practice.
The approach of the Assistant Registrar is first to assess the potential risk to patients, and should the physician be perceived to have significant impairment or to lack capacity, voluntarily withdrawal from practice may be requested until there is a full assessment of health issues and risk to patients. On rare occasions it may be necessary to refer the matter to the Complaints Director for consideration of the use of provisions in Section 118 of the Health Professions Act, if the physician will not voluntarily withdraw and there is reason to believe that there is a lack of capacity to care safely for patients.
If there is no immediate risk to patients, an assessment of the health issues may involve any of the following: meeting with the Assistant Registrar, reports from treating physicians, independent assessment and/or reports from the work place. These reports then form the basis of any ongoing requirements to monitor the physician’s health and ensure that they are compliant to treatment recommendations and remain safe to practice.
There may be limitations placed on the practice of the physicians to ensure they remain healthy. If these limitations solely relate to the health of the physician they are kept confidential, but if they are solely related to practice, they can be included on the physician’s practice permit. These conditions could include such things as: limitations to night call, restriction on the type and number of patients seen, or restrictions of the practice type or location.