From the Editor: September 2017
The Ontario government recently passed legislation that can potentially change the way health practitioners in the province deliver patient care. Bill 87, Protecting Patients Act, 2017, includes amendments to certain legislation including the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991.
Bill 87 is the government’s response to recommendations set out in a report by the Minister’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Patients, effectively enforcing a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse of patients by any regulated health professional. It includes, among other things, amendments that: expand the list of sexual abuse offenses that will result in mandatory revocation of a health professional’s licence; prohibit a regulated health professional from continuing to practice on patients of a specific gender after an allegation or finding of sexual abuse; require the disclosure of a regulated health professional’s personal information, including their health records.
This recent legislation is the government’s attempt to finally put a stop to the decades old problem of sexual abuse involving regulated health professionals. The head of the Minister’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse, Marilou McPhedran, acknowledged in a Toronto Star interview that the current system of self-regulation has not been effective in handling sexual abuse cases. Hence, her task force’s central recommendation – which Bill 87 does not seem to address – is the establishment of an independent body to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate sexual abuse cases that involve health professionals.
As an unintended consequence, Bill 87 may potentially put some health practitioners on a “self-preservation” mindset and cause them to take a more cautious approach when delivering care to patients for fear of losing their licence. This can be particularly significant for manual practitioners, like chiropractors and massage therapists, whose treatment protocols rely heavily on the power of touch. Quality of care could potentially take a back seat.
There is also the privacy implication of the new legislation. The amendments could mean a health professional’s personal and health information may no longer be protected by privacy statutes.
The intent of the law is commendable. Sexual abuse in the health care realm must be eradicated. The government should implement effective, sustainable solutions to the problem, but it should also ensure such solutions do not marginalize an entire profession.
We will have to wait and see how this new legislation plays out.