On November 19, 2018, Bill 21—An Act to Protect Patients—was passed by the Alberta Legislature. The legislation includes amendments to the Health Professions Act to address sexual abuse and sexual misconduct of patients by regulated health professionals.
The legislation defines sexual abuse and sexual misconduct and has imposed severe penalties for those who are found guilty of either offence by a Hearing Tribunal.
New standards required
The legislation also requires that colleges regulating health professionals develop standards of practice
- setting out who is considered to be a patient for the purposes of the college’s regulated members,
- respecting when a sexual relationship may occur between a regulated member or former member and a patient, and
- respecting when a person who is a spouse of or in an adult interdependent relationship with a regulated member may also be a patient.
These standards must be approved by the Minister of Health and will come into effect April 1, 2019.
Mandatory penalty for sexual abuse
As of April 1, 2019, if a Hearing Tribunal decides the conduct of an investigated person constitutes unprofessional conduct, based in whole or in part on sexual abuse, the Hearing Tribunal must order the cancellation of the investigated person’s practice permit and registration. The investigated person would not be eligible to apply for reinstatement.
Mandatory penalty for sexual misconduct
In respect to a decision of unprofessional conduct, based in whole or in part on sexual misconduct, the Hearing Tribunal must order the suspension of the investigated person’s practice permit for a specified period, to be determined by the Hearing Tribunal.
ACP is developing these standards and will be initiating a consultation on the draft standards later this week. Registrants are encouraged to review these draft standards thoroughly and provide their comments as soon as possible to allow the college to make any amendments to the standards before submitting to the Minister for approval.
Bill 21 also prescribes many additional responsibilities for colleges that regulate health professionals, including the following:
- Hearing Tribunal decisions involving sexual abuse or sexual misconduct must be posted on the college’s website indefinitely.
- The college must establish a patient relations program, including a fund to provide treatment or counselling for those affected by sexual abuse or sexual misconduct by its registrants.
- College staff must receive training about sexual abuse and sexual misconduct.
ACP will provide further information about the amendments included in Bill 21 through The Link in early 2019.