When Ontario’s Protecting Patients Act, 2017 was passed into law on May 30, 2017, it made amendments to the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA). Several other amendments, however, were yet to be proclaimed and further changes were likely to come given the Minister’s new regulation-making authority.
On May 1, 2018, certain amendments came into force and the Minister introduced new regulations that were added to the RHPA.
What do the new changes mean for optometrists?
Definition of Patient for Sexual Abuse Provisions
The word “patient,” as it relates to the Health Professions Procedural Code’s sexual abuse provisions, has been expanded; now a former patient will remain a “patient” for one year from when the person would otherwise cease to be considered a patient (i.e., when the optometrist last provided care to the patient).
The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care has also established other criteria for defining a patient for such purposes. Without restricting the ordinary meaning of the word “patient,” an individual is a patient if there is a direct relationship/interaction between the individual and the optometrist and the optometrist has:
- issued billings or received health payments for a health care service, or
- contributed to a patient record/file for that individual, or
- received consent from the individual for health care services recommended by the optometrist, or
- prescribed a drug for which a prescription is needed, to that individual.
If any of the above interactions occur between an individual and an optometrist, then that individual is considered the optometrist’s patient, for the purposes of the sexual abuse provisions. That individual will also continue to be considered a patient for one year after the termination of the optometrist–patient relationship. Any sexual act that occurs during that time between the optometrist and the individual would result in the optometrist being subject to mandatory revocation.
Note that an individual is not a patient under these criteria when:
- emergency care is provided to a preexisting sexual partner, and
- there is no reasonable opportunity to transfer care to another health care professional.
Patient Funding for Therapy and Counselling
All colleges are required to have a patient relations program that provides funding for therapy for patients who are victims of sexual abuse by a regulated health care professional. The College’s Patient Relations Committee administers this fund.
A patient is now eligible for funding from the time a complaint/report of allegations of sexual abuse by an optometrist is filed with the College. At this time, funding is limited to cover the costs of therapy and counselling. However, the Minister does have the power to make regulations that would include other types of expenses that could qualify for funding. For further information about the College’s Patient Relations program, please click here.
Mandatory Revocation Expanded
The Minister has also set out a list of criminal offences that would result in mandatory revocation of an optometrist’s certificate of registration. If an optometrist is found guilty under the Criminal Code of Canada of certain offences, the College is required to revoke the optometrist’s certificate of registration.
Click here for a list of offences that will result in mandatory revocation.
Expanded Duty to Report
Two new self-reporting requirements will now be in effect. Optometrists must report whether they belong to other regulatory/licensing bodies – inside and outside of Ontario – and whether they have any findings of professional misconduct against them by another professional body. Optometrists will also be required to report any charges as soon as reasonably practicable after they have occurred, and any resulting bail conditions. The report will be required to contain certain details, including information regarding the status of any proceedings with respect to the charge.
The Minister has also introduced a new regulation specifying additional information that must be posted on the College register. The College is required to post on the register all criminal findings of guilt that have not been overturned as well as the information gathered through the two new self-reporting requirements above.
Under the College by-laws, optometrists have had to report such findings and registrations/licenses since 2015 and the College has posted the information on the register.
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