At its September 21, 2016, meeting, Council approved for circulation amendments to the Registration Regulation. If approved by government, these amendments would add a “good character” requirement, as well as provisions for non-practising status, mandatory active status for new registrants, and elimination of the Academic Certificate of Registration. Council also approved circulation of amendments to the College by-laws that would reduce the annual fee for non-practising members of the College to half of that paid by practising members.
The College proposes the following amendments to the Registration Regulation (O.Reg. 837/93) as amended under the Optometry Act, 1991.
In a February 8, 2016 decision, the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB) confirmed the Registration Committee’s decision to refuse to issue a Certificate of Registration to an applicant. In its decision, HPARB noted that the College’s Registration Regulation did not have a “good character” clause upon which the Committee could rely in this case. HPARB recommended “that the College take immediate steps to ensure that the College is provided the regulatory tools to properly ensure the public interest and attainment of its legislative objectives. This would include setting standards of conduct for applicants that mirror the standards of conduct for registrants.”
At its September 30, 2015 meeting, College Council approved a policy requiring that all applicants be of “good character.” To ensure enforceability, the College was advised to add this requirement to the Regulation. The amendment being circulated here will add the requirement to the Regulation.
The College currently allows members who have left practice temporarily to change their status to non-practising. However, the process for how these members would return to practice was not clearly defined. On January 20, 2016, Council approved a policy that sets out the process for non-practising members to return to active practice . As with the good character provision, the process would be more enforceable if added to the Regulation rather than simply set out in policy. An amendment to add “non-practising status” to the Regulation is included in this circulation.
Council asked the Registration Committee to consider reducing the fees paid by non-practising members. The Committee reviewed what other regulatory colleges charge their non-practising or inactive members, if they have such a category. Of the colleges that had such a category, many charge these members half the fee charged to an active member. At its April 2016 meeting, Council approved for circulation the proposed Regulation amendments with respect to good character and non-practising status and proposed a by-law amendment to reduce the annual fee for non-practising members to half of that charged to active members.
In preparing for the circulation of the proposed amendments to the Regulation, staff turned to other colleges that had a non-practising or inactive category, to better understand how the inactive fee was applied administratively.* The College sent out a survey to which eight colleges, which have inactive status, responded.
Of the eight colleges, the College found that some charge the pro-rated difference between the active and inactive fee for members who wish to change from inactive to active in the middle of a registration year. However, most of the colleges do not refund the difference for members who change from active to inactive in the middle of a registration year. Some only allow members to change their status (in either direction) at annual renewal time.
Of the eight colleges that responded to the survey, only one allows new registrants to begin their membership with the college with inactive status but it is not encouraged. The other seven colleges require new registrants to practise a minimum of one year before being eligible for inactive status.
The College has struggled with this issue for a number of years. For example, in the past, the College has issued a certificate of registration that is activated on a certain day, but some of these non-practising members do not have professional liability insurance and do not intend to practise in Ontario; that is, their initial registration status is non-practising. In many cases these are new registrants who have not yet arranged a practice location. Also, with labour mobility provisions in place, there is no longer a reason for new registrants to begin their membership with the College as inactive in the event that they want to move to Ontario to practise someday.
Accordingly, to be consistent with other colleges in not assigning inactive status to new members, a new provision was added to section 8 of the draft amendments. This provision will only allow initial registration as active. Adding this provision will ensure that all new registrants are in active practice upon registration and as close as possible to the time that their competencies have been assessed. In the public interest, it makes sense to register only members who intend to practise in Ontario following the issuance of a Certificate of Registration.
The academic requirements needed to issue an Academic Certificate of Registration, described in s. 5. (1) 3. of the Registration Regulation (O.Reg. 837/93) as amended under the Optometry Act, 1991, are as follows:
“5. (1) 3. The applicant must have one of the following academic qualifications:
i. Successful completion of a course in optometry at a university, if the course, at the time the applicant commenced it, was accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education or another accrediting body approved by the Council, together with the award of a degree of doctor of optometry from that university,
ii. Successful completion of a course in optometry at a university in the United Kingdom, together with the award of a degree from that university, and current or past membership in the British College of Optometrists,
iii. Successful completion of a course outside of Ontario, other than one mentioned in subparagraphs I or ii that the Registration Committee, having considered the rest of the applicant’s qualifications, determines is acceptable . . .”
Council believes that this clause could be considered discriminatory. It equates an optometry degree from the United Kingdom (UK) and current or past membership in the British College of Optometrists to a degree from an ACOE school, but does not consider degrees from other countries in a similar way. In addition, Council believes that the public may not be sufficiently protected when applicants for an Academic Certificate of Registration are not required to successfully challenge the approved entry-to-practice exam (currently Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry (CACO)). Holders of Academic Certificates of Registration teach optometry students and see patients at the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science (WOVS). Successful completion of the exam is a requirement of all applicants for a General Certificate of Registration.
An internal survey confirmed that the number of active Academic Certificates of Registration totalled only five. A survey of faculty working in US jurisdictions where there are schools of optometry showed that the registration requirements for faculty in most US jurisdictions were the same as those for a General Certificate of Registration. In other words, there are no separate provisions for an Academic Certificate of Registration in most US jurisdictions.
A discussion with WOVS determined that the impact of eliminating the Academic Certificate of Registration would be evident in the hiring of optometry graduates with post graduate education from the UK. The Registration Committee learned that ACOE-accredited schools in the US seem to have no problem hiring new faculty members. The proposal would allow all currently active Academic Certificate of Registration holders to remain (“grandfathered”) at the time the amended regulation comes into force, however no new academic certificates would be issued. It should be noted that in order for a member with an Academic Certificate of Registration to change to a General Certificate of Registration currently (and in the future), the member must meet all registration requirements for a General Certificate of Registration.
At its September 2016 meeting, Council approved proposed amendments to the Registration Regulation (O.Reg. 837/93) as amended to include elimination of the Academic Certificate of Registration and to “grandfather” all active Academic Certificate of Registration holders once the amended Regulation comes into force. Council also approved the circulation of the Registration Regulation (O.Reg. 837/93) as amended under the Optometry Act, 1991.
In addition to the proposed Regulation amendments, consequential by-law amendments are necessary to accurately reflect the new status of certificate of registration. Accordingly, Council also approved for circulation the by-law amendments that relate to the register and fee schedule. The reduced fee for non-practising members would take effect for this year’s annual renewal period (i.e., 2017 annual member fees) pending Council approval of the by-law amendment at its January 2017 meeting.
* It is proposed that members who wish to change their status from practising to non-practising, or vice versa, be charged an administrative fee (same as the late penalty fee in the College’s Fee Schedule). For example, non-practising members who wish to change their status to practising would be charged the administrative fee in addition to the pro-rated difference between the active and inactive fee.
The additional by-law amendments would not be reflected in the College by-laws unless or until the government brings the amended regulation into force.
The College welcomes your input on these proposed changes. Please send them by email, fax, or mail. Council will carefully consider all comments before making final decisions on these proposals.
Read the proposed amendments to the Registration Regulation.
College of Optometrists of Ontario
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