How does the Protecting Patients Act affect patients?
Ontario government passed the Protecting Patients Act (PPA), in May 2017. The new legislation strengthens the protections against sexual abuse of patients. It also works to provide more transparency in the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA), the legislation that governs each of the 26 regulated health professions, including dentistry. The PPA changes how our College must deal with complaints, investigations and discipline matters.
Some of the changes to the legislation are in effect now, while others will take effect later.
Our College expanded the information it makes available to the public on the Register through our Transparency Initiative. Our aim is for patients to have the information they need about their current or prospective dentist. Many of our changes found their way into the new legislation. However, the PPA went further.
The new register requirements include posting:
- The date of every referral to the discipline committee and a copy of the specified allegations of professional misconduct, until the matter is finally resolved.
- Any reprimand given by the Discipline Committee to a dentist.
- Undertakings/acknowledgements entered into by dentists as part of an Inquiries, Complaints and Reports (ICR) Committee or Discipline process.
- In discipline cases where no finding of professional misconduct was made, the result and the reasons why no finding was made are posted for 90 days.
- Where a dentist is deceased, the date of death, if known.
- Cautions and Specified Continuing Education and Remediation Programs (SCERPS) are no longer removed after a specified period of time.
- There shall be no gender-based terms, conditions and limitations on a dentist’s licence to practise. That means dentists will not be allowed to practise, for example “only on men”.
The PPA now gives the ICR Committee the power to make an interim order at any time following the receipt of a complaint or upon the appointment of an investigator. The ICR Committee can make an order if it believes a dentist’s conduct exposes or is likely to expose patients to harm or injury. It can also make such an order in the case of an incapacity inquiry where the Committee feels the dentist’s physical or mental state exposes or is likely to expose patients to harm or injury.
The acts of sexual abuse of a patient that would result in mandatory revocation has been expanded to include sexual intercourse with a patient; genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital or oral to anal contact with a patient; masturbation of the patient by a dentist; and encouraging a patient to masturbate in the presence of the dentist and touching of the patient’s genitals, anus, breasts or buttocks.
If a dentist’s licence to practise is revoked by the Discipline Committee for any of these acts, the dentist is not eligible to apply for reinstatement for a minimum period of five years.
Where a panel of the Discipline Committee finds a dentist guilty of sexual abuse for acts that would not otherwise result in a mandatory revocation a suspension of the dentist’s licence to practise is required. For example, if the sexual abuse consisted solely of remarks of a sexual nature, the penalty must include a suspension.
Mandatory reporting obligations
When a dentist has reasonable grounds to believe that another regulated health care professional has sexually abused a patient, they must file a report in writing to the registrar of the regulatory college to which the alleged abuser is registered.
The fine for failure to report sexual abuse has been increased to a maximum of $50,000, previously a maximum of $25,000.