Legislative reform for the regulation of professions in Canada seems to be gathering pace. Some of the themes contained in British Columbia’s Health Professions and Occupations Act are contained in Nova Scotia’s Bill 323, the Regulated Health Professions Act. The Nova Scotia government indicated that the legislation incorporates some of the legislative reforms occurring in other provinces.
Some of the features of Bill 323 include the following:
Structure and Objects
- The Bill creates a single umbrella statute for the regulation of all health professions.
- The Bill enables the government to create or amalgamate health regulators through regulation, rather than by enacting statutes.
- The Bill explicitly defines the public interest served by health regulators, with the first object being protection the public from harm.
- The Bill sets out a governance structure with small boards of directors (7 to 11 people), about half of whom are public members. The professional members do not necessarily have to be elected by the profession. Also, eligibility requirements can be set for the professional members of the Board. Board members will generally not serve on statutory committees. While the default process for picking public members is government appointment, there is the possibility of a separate, likely competency-based, selection process where enabling regulations are made.
- The Bill contemplates the possible establishment of joint committee panels with other regulators (e.g., those dealing with complaints or discipline where multiple registrants from different professions are involved).
- The Board can establish most of the regulatory processes through by-laws. However, the government can require modifications to most of these regulatory activities through regulation or, in many cases, by a simple direction issued by the government.
- The government can establish a quality assurance program for the performance of the regulators and make the results of such a program, including any assessment, public. The government also has the authority to audit a regulator and appoint an administrator for them.
- The government can request information from regulators for human resource planning and management. Regulators are also expected to engage in and report on equity initiatives.
- The Bill requires regulators to operate a continuing competence program. For some regulators this will involve practice reviews.
- Each regulator is required to include specified information on the public register, the content of which can be expanded by the government. The Bill also contemplates the creation of a public portal from which all registers can be accessed.
- Registrants have a broad mandatory reporting requirement for any professional misconduct, incompetence, conduct unbecoming (in their private lives), incapacity, or any other conduct by other registrants that constitutes a danger to the public.
- Registrants practising outside of the province who face regulatory action there (including a complaint) must disclose that action to the regulator and cannot practice in Nova Scotia without first receiving authorization from the regulator.
- The complaints process is detailed and comprehensive. The regulator can give advice to the registrant, the complainant, or third parties. The regulator can also offer a caution or, with the consent of the registrant, administer a reprimand or impose restrictions without first going to discipline.
Other Provisions of Interest
- The Bill sets out the minimum information that must be posted on the regulator’s website including the results of any performance reviews of the regulator.
- Nothing in the proposed legislation prohibits employees from engaging in a lawful strike. This provision might create challenges where a regulator wishes to scrutinize strike activities that jeopardize the health and safety of a patient.
Coming hot on the heels of British Columbia’s Health Professions and Occupations Act, Bill 323 reflects a trend that other jurisdictions may very well emulate.