Protecting Patients Act, 2017

September 19, 2017
On May 30, 2017, the Ontario government passed the Protecting Patients Act, 2017, formerly known as Bill 87. This legislation brought in significant changes, including many related to how Colleges deal with matters of sexual abuse. You can read the detailed legislation online under the heading Schedule 5.

Changes Already In Effect

Increased Information on Public Registers

The information Colleges are required to post on their public registers is expanded. The College already publishes most of this information on its public register at Find an Occupational Therapist to help the public make informed decisions. The additional information the College is now required to publicly post about an OT includes:

  • a notation of every caution-in-person or specified continuing education or remedial program (SCERP) an OT has received or has been issued by the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC);
  • a notation and synopsis of any acknowledgment and undertaking (an agreement between the College and an OT) provided to the College in relation to matters involving professional misconduct or incompetence that are before the ICRC or Discipline Committee;
  • the date and the status of any matter referred by the ICRC to the Discipline Committee;
  • a copy of the specified allegations against an OT referred to the Discipline Committee until the matter is fully resolved;
  • the result of all discipline hearings: even in matters where there is no finding of professional misconduct or incompetence the information must be published on Find an Occupational Therapist for a period of 90 days; and,
  • the date of death of former registrants, if known to the College.

Learn more about what information the College makes available about OTs here.

Earlier Interim Suspensions

Following the receipt of a complaint or the appointment of an investigator, the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) can at any time make an interim order to suspend an OT’s registration or impose terms, conditions or limitations (TCLs) on the OT’s registration if the ICRC is of the opinion that the conduct complained of exposes or is likely to expose the OT’s clients to harm or injury. Previously, the ICRC was only able to impose interim suspensions or TCLs after it referred allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence to the Discipline Committee or allegations of incapacity to the Fitness to Practise Committee.

Expanded List of Acts Constituting Sexual Abuse That Must Result in Mandatory Revocation

The lists of acts that are considered sexual abuse and require an OT’s registration to be revoked for a minimum of five years is expanded to include touching of a sexual nature of a client’s genitals, anus, breasts or buttocks. This type of touching is not considered to be of a “sexual nature” if it is clinically appropriate to the services provided.

Additionally, for proven sexual abuse cases where the conduct does not require mandatory revocation of the OT’s registration, at a minimum a suspension must be imposed.

The Act prevents a discipline panel from ordering gender-based restrictions in any case.

Increased Fines for Failure to Report Sexual Abuse

Reporting sexual abuse by a regulated health professional is mandatory.

OTs who have reasonable grounds to believe that a regulated health professional has sexually abused a client are required to report the abuse to the professional’s regulatory College. With the passing of the Protecting Patients Act, 2017, the fines for the non-reporting of sexual abuse of a client increased. The fine for individuals who fail to report sexual abuse are doubled to $50,000. The fine for corporations failing to report sexual abuse are quadrupled to $200,000. You can find more information about mandatory reporting requirements here.

Future Changes that Will Come into Effect

Funding for Therapy and Counselling in Sexual Abuse Matters

In the future, persons who may have been sexually abused by an OT (or other regulated health professional) will have increased access to funding for therapy and counselling and will have more flexibility as to how the funding can be used. Access to funding will be automatic when a complaint is filed or a report is received.

New Definition of a Patient/Client

Former patients/clients will remain patients/clients for a minimum period of one year or longer if a regulated health college establishes a longer period of time in their own regulations. It is anticipated that before these provisions take effect, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care will introduce rules setting out additional criteria for defining patient/client in relation to sexual abuse. Please view the College’s Standards for Professional Boundaries and Standards for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse for specific information about College expectations.

Expanded Duty to Self-Report

The legislation creates two new self-reporting requirements for all regulated health professionals. OTs will be required to:

  1. inform the College about any other regulatory body of which they are a member, and
  2. report all charges for offences and any resulting bail conditions or other similar restrictions.

OTs are already required to report details of registrations with other regulatory bodies as well as details about any conditions or restrictions (such as bail conditions) imposed by courts or other lawful authorities.

Commencing November 1, 2017, OTs are required to report details of charges laid against them for all offences except “ticketable” offences such as speeding and parking tickets. See here for more information about this new reporting requirement.