Today the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care released the much anticipated Independent Task Force report “To Zero: Independent Report of the Minister’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Patients and the Regulated Health Professions Act.” The report recommends broad-based and sweeping reform to the treatment of sexual abuse complaints against regulated health professionals. The key recommendations include the following:
The creation of the Ontario Safety and Patient Protection Authority (OSAPPA) which would have responsibility for the investigation of sexual abuse complaints against all regulated health professionals.
- The creation of an independent tribunal for the adjudication of OSAPPA cases either through the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal or through a restructuring of the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB).
- The expansion of the sexual acts that would result in mandatory revocation.
- Removal of the ability to place gender based patient restrictions on a health professional’s practice in response to an allegation or finding of sexual abuse.
- Funding for patient therapy throughout the complaint process commencing at the investigation stage.
- A pilot project through Legal Aid Ontario to give complainants access to legal information and options.
- Full standing for complainants as parties at disciplinary hearings.
- Enhanced transparency on college registers regarding disciplinary decisions involving sexual abuse, misconduct or impropriety.
- The funding and development of a public education and legal information program regarding patients’ legal rights and options for recourse when they have been sexually abused by a regulated health professional.
- Enhanced protection from sexual abuse by unregulated health practitioners by assigning unregulated health practitioners to an existing college.
- Where an unregulated health practitioner is contracted to or employed by a regulated health professional, the regulated health professional should be held responsible for acts of sexual abuse or harassment by those employees/subcontractors.
- A research study to track and analyze the rates, responses and dispositions of sexual abuse cases of patients by regulated health professionals retrospectively and going forward.
The Ministry has stated that it intends to move forward on some of the above initiatives over the coming months. Notably, this does not include the creation of OSAPPA or an independent tribunal to adjudicate its cases, both of which require further review. The initiatives identified by the Ministry for which legislative amendments will be brought forward this year include the following:
- Expanding access to counselling and therapy by allowing the funding for these services to begin when a complaint of sexual abuse is made.
- Expanding the list of acts of sexual abuse that will result in a 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 practice in response to disciplinary findings involving sexual abuse of a patient.
- Increasing fines for regulated health professionals and facilities that fail to report to a college suspected cases of patient sexual abuse.
- Enhancing transparency by adding to what colleges must report on their public register and websites.
- Clarifying the boundaries of the patient-provider relationship.
SML will be providing ongoing analysis on the Recommendations and the Report.