Government introduces Bill 87 to Provide New Protections for Patients

In December 2016, the Ontario government introduced Bill 87, The Protecting Patients Act, for first reading.  While addressing a number of issues, this represents a step to address recommendations of the Ministers Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Patients recommendations by upholding and reinforcing the zero-tolerance policy on patient sexual abuse by any regulated health professional.

The proposed amendments would strengthen measures to protect patients, support victims of sexual abuse by regulated health professionals and improve regulatory oversight and accountability, including:

  • Expanding the list of acts that would result in the mandatory revocation of a regulated health professional's certificate of registration
  • Removing the ability of a college to impose gender-based restrictions on a regulated health professional's certificate of registration
  • Increasing fines for health professionals and organizations that fail to report an allegation of  patient sexual abuse to a college
  • Increasing transparency by adding to what colleges must report on their public registries and websites
  • Establishing a minimum time period after the end of a patient-provider relationship during which sexual relations are prohibited
  • Increasing timely access to funding for patient therapy and counselling when a complaint of patient sexual abuse is made
Implications for Occupational Therapists

The bill proposes broad powers of the Minister to compel regulatory colleges to disclose information both to the public and the minister & proposes greater transparency of College proceedings to the public amongst other measures intended to protect patients.  If passed, the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario will be required to comply and occupational therapists will need to realize that amongst the provisions, the College would need to address these.  Proposed implications would include:

  • giving the Investigations, Complaints and Reports Committee ability to impose terms, conditions and limitations or a suspection on a certificate of registration after the appointment of an investigator if the health professional is considered a risk to the public
  • increase fines for failure to report sexual abuse
  • changes to require more measures transparency, for example:
    • cautions, SCERPS, undertakings to be on the public register
    • more information about criminal convictions and bail provisions
    • requirement to provide reports that include personal and personal health information
    • posting of College Council meeting materials

OSOT has been supportive of the government's zero tolerance policy with respect to sexual abuse of patients.  The Society will continue to monitor the progression of Bill 87 through the legislature and to monitor the perceived and real impacts of changes on health professionals to ensure an appropriate balance of excellent public protection and fair treatment of health professionals.