A new bill, which will result in amendments to the legislation governing the province’s health regulatory colleges once its provisions come into force, passed third reading in the Ontario legislature yesterday. Bill 21, the Safeguarding Health Care Integrity Act, 2014, is a combination of two previous bills and as such, has two parts, each with a distinct purpose. The first part of the bill prohibits compensation for blood donations through the enactment of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, 2014. The second part aims to expand and strengthen oversight of regulated health professionals and hospital pharmacies in Ontario.
Amendments to the Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act
In addition to protecting Ontario’s voluntary blood donor system, Bill 21 serves as the government’s response to a concerning incident that made headlines last year, in which over 1,000 patients in Ontario received weaker doses of chemotherapy drugs from hospital pharmacies than had been prescribed by their oncologists. Presently, individual hospital corporations are responsible for monitoring the operation of pharmacies located within hospitals. Bill 21 will amend the Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act (DRPA) to give the Ontario College of Pharmacists the authority to regulate hospital pharmacies in the same way it currently regulates community pharmacies. The specific amendments to the DRPA include:
- Deeming the primary location(s) in a hospital where drugs are compounded, dispensed or supplied for hospital patients, together with any other location in the hospital where drugs are stored or supplied, as “hospital pharmacies”;
- Permitting the Ontario College of Pharmacists to license and inspect all hospital pharmacies operating in Ontario;
- Allowing the College to make regulations to establish the requirements and standards for the licensing, operation and inspection of hospital pharmacies; and
- Providing the College with powers of revocation of a pharmacy’s licence, including permitting the College to apply to a judge of the Superior Court of Justice for an order immediately revoking or suspending a pharmacy’s license where it appears that the continued operation of the hospital pharmacy places the public at risk.
Amendments to the Regulated Health Professions Act and the Public Hospitals Act
Bill 21 will also introduce amendments to the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) and the Public Hospitals Act. These amendments are intended to enhance communication among health system partners, including health regulatory colleges, public hospitals, and others, in order to strengthen the oversight of health care professionals and better protect patients. These legislative amendments include:
- Requiring hospital administrators and employers to report to health regulatory colleges where a health professional resigns, or voluntarily relinquishes or restricts his or her privileges or practice and:
- the administrator or employer has reasonable grounds to believe that the resignation, relinquishment, or restriction is related to the health professional’s misconduct, incompetence, or incapacity; or
- the resignation, relinquishment, or restriction takes place during the course of, or as a result of, an investigation into allegations related to the health professional’s misconduct, incompetence, or incapacity.
- Allowing health regulatory colleges to disclose information to a public hospital (or any other institution prescribed in the regulations) that employs or provides privileges to a member of a college during the course of a college investigation into the conduct of a member, subject to any limitations in the regulations.
Bill 21 would also amend the provisions in the RHPA relating to the appointment of a supervisor. Bill 21 empowers the Lieutenant Governor in Council to appoint a person as a supervisor of a health regulatory college, where the Minister of Health considers it appropriate or necessary. This would be a significant change to the existing requirement that the Minister must additionally be of the opinion that the college’s Council has failed to comply with a request previously made to the college’s Council before a supervisor may be appointed.
Bill 21 will have a significant impact on Ontario’s health regulatory colleges and its members once its provisions come into force. The Voluntary Blood Donations Act, 2014 comes into force on the day that Bill 21 receives Royal Assent, but all other provisions of the bill will come into force on a day to be name by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.
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