B.C’s health minister introduced a new piece of legislation Wednesday (Oct. 19), which if passed will amalgamate the regulatory colleges overseeing health professionals and create a more centralized oversight and discipline body.
The Health Professions and Occupations Act would replace its predecessor, the Health Professions Act, and result in the creation of a new oversight body and independent discipline tribunal, which would regulate workers from doctors to massage therapists to psychologists.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the act would “provide stronger oversight” and “more consistent discipline,” in a news release.
It would also continue the process of amalgamating the province’s regulatory colleges. Currently, there are 15 regulatory colleges for 25 health professions. This has already been reduced in the last couple years. In October 2020, B.C.’s three nursing colleges were combined into one. The following year, the nursing college was amalgamated with the College of Midwives, and the College of Physician and Surgeons was amalgamated with the College of Podiatrists. Then, in September of this year, all four of the province’s oral-health colleges were combined into one.
These 15 regularity colleges will be further reduced to six, if the new act passes.
They would be responsible for investigating complaints, while the single oversight body would be responsible for dolling out punishment. The oversight body would also look into complaints against the colleges themselves.
Under the new act, regulatory colleges would also be responsible for funding counselling for victims of sexual abuse and misconduct. Victims would further be able to recover costs from registrants who harm them.
Dix said that the act is partially in response to two recent reports: First, Harry Cayton’s inquiry into the College of Dental Surgeons in 2019, which recommended a full overhaul of health professional regulation. Second, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s 2020 report into Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination in B.C.’s health-care sysytem.
To this second report, Dix said the new act would require health professionals to embed anti-discrimination measures in their practices. Discrimination would also be considered a form of professional misconduct.
Finally, the act would require that college board members are appointed through a competency-based process rather than elected, to ensure they don’t feel beholden to those who voted for them.