British Columbia

Have your say: B.C. could see major changes to oversight system for health-care workers

The next few months could mark a major turning point in how B.C.'s health-care professionals are regulated, and members of the public have just a few days left to offer their input.

Friday is the deadline for public submissions on regulatory reform

An outside expert has recommended a complete replacement of the Health Professions Act. (Shutterstock)

The next few months could mark a major turning point in how B.C.'s health-care professionals are regulated, and members of the public have just a few days left to offer their input.

Friday is the deadline for public submissions on an explosive report that called for a complete overhaul of how this province regulates everyone from surgeons to occupational therapists.

"Patients I have spoken to do not have great confidence in the colleges or in health regulation generally," Harry Cayton wrote in his report, released to the public in April.

The report recommends a top-to-bottom replacement of B.C.'s Health Professions Act (HPA), an action that could have implications for professional regulation far beyond the borders of this province.

Cayton, the former chief executive of the U.K. Professional Standards Authority, was commissioned by the province to look into dysfunction at the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. and recommend changes to the HPA.

What he found was a system of self-regulation that often failed to put patient safety first and suffered from a lack of transparency — especially when it comes to information on complaints and discipline involving health-care professionals.

Tearing down the system

Cayton proposed creating a single register to cover all health professions, which would be managed by a new, independent body responsible for investigating complaints and handing out discipline. Another new body would provide oversight of the entire system.

The colleges, meanwhile, would all agree to a single code of ethics and conduct, and their main responsibilities would be licensing and setting standards of practice.

In response to Cayton's report, a government committee is now developing a plan to modernize the system and is expected to present a proposal sometime this year.

To date, the health ministry has only received a limited number of submissions about what the future should look like.

That includes some feedback from people working in the health-care sector.

Cayton's report recommended placing a moratorium on creating any new professional colleges, a suggestion that has caused some unease within professions that are currently under consideration for regulation.

Some of those groups, including paramedics, respiratory therapists and medical radiation therapists, are using the consultation process as an opportunity to advocate for regulation.

Other professions could be affected

The potential implications of any changes to B.C.'s regulatory program could stretch across the country.

Cayton's recommendations have attracted attention from professional regulators and associations from coast to coast — and that's not just limited to health-related groups.

In a newsletter last month, for example, the registrar of Ontario's Human Resources Professionals Association wrote that all professional regulators should be watching what's happening in B.C.

"Even if all this does not lead to legislative change that impacts HRPA, the landscape of professional regulation is likely to change in significant ways, and this is bound to have knock-on effects," the newsletter reads.

Anyone who'd like to make a submission on the future of health-related professional regulation in B.C. can email PROREGADMIN@gov.bc.ca, using the subject line, Cayton Report. Submissions will be accepted until June 14.

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