Ontario College of Pharmacists to Make More Information Available to the Public

The Council of the Ontario College of Pharmacists (“College”) recently approved by-law amendments that give the College the authority to make more information about pharmacists available to the public.

The by-law amendments, which were passed at the March 10, 2015 Council meeting, require that the College post the following information about its members on the public register:

  • whether the member is currently registered or licensed to practice pharmacy in another jurisdiction, if known;
  • the fact that the College is investigating a member where the Registrar believes there is a compelling public interest reason to do so under section 36(1)(g) of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991;
  • known criminal charges that are relevant to a member’s suitability to practise pharmacy;
  • oral cautions ordered by the College’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (“ICRC”);
  • specified continuing education or remediation programs (“SCERP”) that the ICRC requires a member to complete; and
  • the fact that the Registrar has referred a member’s application for reinstatement to the Discipline Committee.

These changes comprise Phase Two of the College’s commitment to enhancing transparency in accordance with the ongoing initiative of all Ontario health regulatory colleges.  The College’s Phase One by-law amendments, which were approved by Council at its December 2014 meeting, provide that the College will post the following information about its members on the public register:

  • a summary of any findings of guilt for criminal offences;
  • a notice of hearing for any scheduled discipline hearing, or if no date has been set, a statement that the hearing is awaiting scheduling; and
  • where a discipline hearing is completed and awaiting a decision, a notation of that fact.

Oral Cautions and SCERPs

The by-law amendments provide that all oral cautions and SCERPs ordered in regards to a complaint that was filed after April 1, 2015, or in regards to a matter in which an investigator is appointed under s. 75(1)(a) or 75(1)(b) of the Health Professions Procedural Code (a “Registrar’s Investigation”) after April 1, 2015, will be posted on the public register.  Currently, the outcome of all complaints that are disposed of by the ICRC is kept private (though it does become part of the member’s record), unless the ICRC decides to refer the matter to the Discipline Committee or the Fitness to Practise Committee.

The specific information posted publicly about oral cautions and SCERPs will include:

  • a notation of the ICRC’s decision to issue an oral caution or require that a member complete a SCERP;
  • a summary of the caution or the SCERP;
  • the date of the ICRC’s decision; and
  • if applicable, a notation that the decision is currently under review and is therefore not yet final, which will be removed once the review is finally disposed of.

There is no provision in the by-law that provides for the automatic removal of oral cautions or SCERPs from the public register after a certain passage of time or completion of the SCERP.  Accordingly, it appears that oral cautions and SCERPs will remain public indefinitely except in very limited circumstances. These include where, after a review or appeal, the ICRC is required to remove or vary the order to appear for a caution or to complete a SCERP.  The by-law provides that where the original requirement to appear for a caution or to complete a SCERP has been varied, a summary of the process leading up to the variation, as well as a summary of the variation, may be posted on the public register.

Criminal Charges and Convictions

Following the recent by-law amendments, the College is required to post a summary of any currently existing charges against a member for a federal or provincial offence that the College knows about. In addition to criminal charges, the College will be posting a summary of any federal or provincial findings of guilt made after April 1, 2015 against a member.

The by-law states that only those criminal charges and findings of guilt that the Registrar believes are relevant to the member’s suitability to practise will be posted on the public register.  However, there is currently no explanation as to the meaning of “relevant to the Member’s suitability to practise”.  The College noted in its March 2015 Council Report that the criteria and processes for determining relevance to suitability to practice are currently being developed and will be communicated to the members and the public once they have been established.

The College also clarified upon approving the by-law amendments that it is not proposing to provide any information regarding federal and provincial charges that is not already publicly available.

Conclusion

These changes will have a significant impact on the way the College operates and on all pharmacists who are subject to a College complaint or investigation.  After April 1, 2015, pharmacists who become the subject of a complaint or a Registrar’s Investigation face the possibility that the details of the ICRC’s decision will be known to the public, even if the matter is not referred to a discipline hearing.

For more information regarding these changes and how they may affect you, please contact us.

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