Bill 87, the Protecting Patients Act, 2016 receives Second Reading

Bill 87,  the Protecting Patients Act, 2016 received 2nd reading and has been referred to Committee.  The Bill introduces legislation that aims to further protect patients in Ontario and keep them healthy, including strengthening and reinforcing Ontario's zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse of patients by any regulated health professional. 

The Bill is actually an “omnibus Bill”  in that it contains 5 schedules which propose amendments to a variety of other pieces of legislation.  Schedule 4 proposes significant amendment to the Regulated Health Professions Act.  Many of these amendments are forthcoming from the Task Force Report on the Task Force Report on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Patients released in December 2015.

What are the Changes Proposed to the RHPA?

Schedule 4 of Bill 87 is largely enabling in that it does not dictate detail but includes 11 new regulation-making authorities for the government that can result in very specific changes.   Should it be passed the following summarizes proposed amendments to the RHPA and the Procedural Code:

  1. The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care may require the Council of any health professions College to include in its reports to the Minister personal information and personal health information about any member of the College to the extent necessary in order to allow the Minister to determine if the College is fulfilling its duties and carrying out its objects or if the Minister should exercise certain of the Minister’s powers. Personal information and personal health information shall not be included if other information will suit the purpose, and no more than is necessary shall be included.

  2. The purposes for which the Minister may require a College to collect information from members under section 36.1 of the Act are expanded to include health human resources research.

  3. The Minister is given the power to make regulations respecting the composition of College committees and panels.

  4. The matters that a College is required to note in its register are expanded to include matters such as previous offenses and complaints.

  5. For the purposes of the sexual abuse provisions of the Code, the definition of “patient”, without restricting the ordinary meaning of the term, is expanded to include an individual who was a member’s patient within the last year or within such longer period of time as may be prescribed, and an individual who is determined to be a patient in accordance with the criteria set out in regulations.

  6. The Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee and its panels may make an order for the interim suspension of a member’s certificate of registration at any time following the receipt of a complaint or report, without any finding of guilt, instead of only when a matter is referred for discipline or incapacity proceedings.

  7. The imposition of gender-based terms, conditions or limitations on a member’s certificate of registration is no longer allowed.

  8. The grounds for mandatory revocation of the certificate of registration of a member who has sexually abused a patient are expanded, and suspension is made mandatory in sexual abuse cases that do not involve conduct requiring mandatory revocation.

  9. Members are required to report to the Registrar if they belong to professional bodies outside Ontario, and if there has been a finding of professional misconduct or incompetence against them by such a body.

  10. Members are required to report to the Registrar if they are charged with an offence, and are required to provide information about bail conditions.

  11. The mandatory program for Colleges to provide funding for therapy and counselling for patients who were sexually abused by members is expanded to apply to persons who are alleged to have been sexually abused while a patient, and to provide funding for other purposes provided for in regulations.

  12. The penalties for failing to report sexual abuse of patients are increased.

Implications for Occupational Therapists

Bill 87 is expected to be passed by the Legislature without significant amendment. While some questions have been raised, it is difficult to negotiate contest to the protections designed to enforce the zero tolerance of sexual abuse policy.

Ontario Occupational therapists will have already observed movement of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario to comply with the expected outcomes of the legislative process.  For example, proposed bylaw amendments for the College include requirements for identification of personal health information that may impact practice, reporting of offences, publication of more information on the public register, etc.  While some of these provisions can be viewed in the context of assuring that Colleges are doing all they can to protect the public, the lack of clarity concerning how information will be used and why is worrisome.  Further, the Bill provides for significant new regulation making power for the Minister, including such things as determining eligibility criteria to sit on College committees, etc.  It is unclear how these powers will be exercised.  It will be critical to monitor the development of regulations as this is the level of policy that will bring tangible change to light.

Members are encouraged to communicate their concerns to Christie Brenchley, Executive Director by not later than April 30, 2017.