New Law Passes to Protect Patients from Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct

  •   December 6, 2018

As you may be aware, the government has introduced changes to the Health Professions Act HPA of Alberta.

Bill 21, An Act to Protect Patients, will strengthen protection for patients from sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by regulated health professionals in Alberta. The Alberta government introduced the legislation to ensure Albertans are safe when accessing health-care services.

The legislation establishes mandatory penalties for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by regulated health professionals, requires disciplinary actions for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct to be clearly and consistently posted online, and provides survivors with access to treatment and counselling.

To reflect the severity of these actions, there will be a mandatory permanent cancellation of a practitioner’s practice permit when a hearing tribunal finds a regulated member’s actions constitute sexual abuse. When a hearing tribunal finds a regulated member’s actions constitute sexual misconduct, a health professional’s practice permit must be suspended.

The changes of the HPA requires Physiotherapy Alberta - College + Association to create a new standard of practice, a patient relations program, amend our website and review registration and conduct processes so they align with this Bill.

As part of Bill 21’s amendments to the HPA, Physiotherapy Alberta is required to have a new Standard of Practice in place by April 1, 2019 which clearly expresses the performance requirements to members and to the public. Physiotherapy Alberta is currently developing a new Standard of Practice for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct that must be approved by the Minister of Health. This standard will define “patient” for our members and set rules for if or when sexual relationships are appropriate. The Government of Alberta has made it clear to all health regulators that they have specific expectations of what will be included in the Standard. They will also have final say in whether the Standard is approved or not; however, all members will have the opportunity to provide feedback as part of the process.

The timelines are extremely tight; therefore, you can expect us to circulate a draft of the Standard of Practice for your review and feedback in December. Although December is a busy time of year for many people, we urge you to be aware of these pending changes and to engage in the process of providing feedback about the Standard. The stakes are high for all members. For example, a single inappropriate remark could lead to an investigation and could result in the suspension of your practice permit.

Bill 21, An Act to Protect Patients, received Royal Assent on November 19, 2018 which means some sections are now in force and others will come into effect April 1, 2019. Physiotherapy Alberta is working towards meeting the obligations outlined in the legislation. You will be hearing a lot on this topic in the coming months as there are changes you need to be aware of, Bill 21 impacts our members, patients and employers.

For more information you can visit https://www.alberta.ca/protecting-patients-against-sexual-abuse.aspx