Ontario’s new Protecting Patients Act, 2017 was passed into law on May 30, 2017. This legislation – a result of recommendations by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care’s Sexual Abuse Task Force – is designed to enhance patient protection and prevent the sexual abuse of patients by health-care practitioners. The Act will bestow increased powers to the Minister of Health and Long-Term care, and change how health colleges handle complaints of sexual abuse. It makes several amendments to the Regulated Health Professions Act.
So what’s changing and how will it affect you?
The definition of “patient,” as it relates to the Code’s sexual abuse provisions, will be broadened. A former patient will remain a “patient” for one year from when the person would otherwise cease to be. The Minister will also be able to establish other criteria for defining a patient (for instance, anyone who receives treatment through phone or online services).
Funding will be enhanced for patients who have been sexually abused by members. A patient will be eligible for funding from the time the patient has filed the complaint/report. And the Minister will be able to make regulations that include other types of expenses that could qualify for funding (travel, child care, legal, pain and suffering).
Information that a college is required to make public in its register has increased to include verbal cautions; SCERPs (Specified Continuing Education or Remediation Program); the date and status of referrals to the Discipline Committee including the specified allegations; the result of disciplinary decisions even where no finding was made for a period of 90 days; and undertakings as long as they remain in effect. The College has made this information available since October 2015.
Under exceptional circumstances, colleges will have to provide members’ personal information to the Minister, so that the Minister can evaluate whether the colleges are carrying out their duties. The Minister can also direct colleges to collect and provide information to third parties for human-resource planning or record keeping.
Where the ICRC believes that a member’s conduct exposes patients to harm or injury, it can at any point after receiving a complaint – or after an investigator has been appointed – order that an interim suspension, or terms, conditions or limitations, be placed on a member’s certificate of registration.
The Minister can make regulations specifying how colleges are to investigate and prosecute sexual misconduct cases and increasing functions/duties of the college.
The grounds for the Discipline Committee to order a revocation of a member’s certificate of registration have expanded. Additional criteria include touching of a sexual nature of patients’ genitals, anus, breast, or buttocks; new grounds can be enacted through a regulation made by the Minister. Also, where a finding of sexual abuse is made and mandatory revocation is not ordered, there must be at least some suspension ordered.
Fines have been doubled for failing to report the sexual abuse of a patient by a health care professional. Penalties are now $50,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations. The report must be made to the registrar of the health regulatory college of which the alleged abuser is a member.
Two new self-reporting requirements will be in place. First, members must tell the Registrar whether they belong to regulatory bodies outside of Ontario, and whether any of these regulators has found them guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence. And second, members must reveal whether they have been charged with an offence and any resulting bail conditions. Note that these two requirements are already in place at the College.
The Minister will have the power to make regulations that could affect the structure of college committees.
Read the Protecting Patients Act
Read the Regulated Health Professions Act
Read a chart detailing current and upcoming changes (PDF)