Screening Committee Reasons for Decision

Committees that screen complaints and investigations do not make findings of wrongdoing or impose disciplinary sanctions. As such, a lower degree of procedural fairness is required compared to disciplinary proceedings. However, the consequences of screening committee decisions can be somewhat significant, including being required to participate in remedial measures and having those measures noted on the public register.

In Young v. College of Nurses of Ontario, 2022 ONSC 6996 (CanLII), reports of substandard care about two registrants were investigated by the regulator. In both cases there was approximately an eighteen-month delay in notifying the registrants and a further two years taken to complete the investigation. The screening committee decisions requiring remedial measures (a caution and, in one case, remedial educational measures) were issued about four years after the regulator was first notified of the concerns. Both registrants made thorough submissions that the delay was an abuse of process and resulted in prejudice to their wellbeing and to the ability to investigate the matters (i.e., some witnesses and documents were no longer available). One of the registrants also submitted that their mental health was a relevant factor when considering the nature of their conduct. Both argued that, because of the delay, remediation no longer made sense.

The decision and reasons of the screening committee only addressed the merits of the concerns about the registrants’ conduct and did not address their arguments of abuse of process and violation of their human rights (based on disability). The Court found that the failure to address these legitimate issues raised by the registrants rendered the decisions unreasonable. Even though the screening committee was not an adjudicator, it should have, at a minimum, considered whether delay and the human rights concerns should have impacted the disposition. The Court said: “The reasons do not address how or why, given the passage of time, the remedial measures remained appropriate.” The matters were returned to the screening committee for a new decision.

Screening committee reasons should address legitimate issues raised by registrants that might affect the appropriate disposition, even where those issues do not go to the merits of the underlying conduct.

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