All complaints received by the College are investigated, this includes complaints received from patients, members of the public, and others (e.g., employers). Although some complaints may be resolved informally, all complaints received by the College that include a component of sexual misconduct or sexual abuse must be referred to a hearing. The Complaints Director may not use informal complaint resolution processes for complaints of this nature. Depending on the nature and details of the complaint received, the Complaints Director or Hearing Tribunal may also recommend an interim suspension of a member’s practice permit while the complaint is being investigated or while the hearing is proceeding.1,2
IF a hearing tribunal finds that a member’s conduct constitutes unprofessional conduct based in whole or in part on sexual abuse, the hearing tribunal must order the cancellation of the investigated person’s practice permit and registration. The cancellation of the investigated person’s practice permit is permanent.1,2 The result is a lifetime ban on the ability to practice physiotherapy in the province of Alberta.
IF a hearing tribunal finds that a member’s conduct constitutes unprofessional conduct based in whole or in part on sexual misconduct, the hearing tribunal must order the suspension of the investigated person’s practice permit for a specified period of time.
IF a member’s practice permit is suspended or cancelled, the Registrar must provide this information to all physiotherapy regulators in Canada (HPA Section 119).1,2 Although a finding of sexual misconduct is less egregious than a finding of sexual abuse, both penalties are significant and will affect the member’s professional standing, employability and future. Keep in mind that when physiotherapists move and attempt to register in a different province or country, it is standard practice for the other jurisdiction to obtain information from Physiotherapy Alberta about the physiotherapist’s regulatory history. If there is a history of findings related to sexual misconduct or sexual abuse, the Health Professions Act (Bill 21 Section 20 amendment to HPA Section 119) requires that we release the information.
In other words, this history will move with the physiotherapist. It is up to the new province or country to determine if they can and will grant the physiotherapist a license to practice in light of their regulatory history.
Under the revised legislation, physiotherapists are required to report to the Registrar as soon as reasonably possible if they have been charged with an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. This includes reporting any charges of sexual abuse (Bill 21 Section 22 amendment to HPA Section 127.1).1,2
In instances where the physiotherapist has reasonable grounds to believe that another regulated member from any College regulated under the Health Professions Act has engaged in conduct that constitutes sexual abuse or sexual misconduct, they must report that conduct to the College of that regulated health professional (Bill 21 Section 22 amendment to HPA Section 127.2).1,2
The amendments to the Health Professions Act require that “An employer who has reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct of a regulated member constitutes unprofessional conduct based on behaviour that, in the employer’s opinion, is sexual abuse or sexual misconduct must, as soon as possible, give notice of that conduct to the complaints director” (Bill 21 Section 9 amendment to HPA Section 57).1,2
This change is in addition to existing wording of the Health Professions Act which state that in instances where a physiotherapist’s employment is terminated or suspended, or the physiotherapist resigns due to conduct that in the opinion of the employer constitutes unprofessional conduct, the employer must notify the Complaints Director as soon as reasonably possible (HPA Section 57).2