Proposed BC Regulatory Reforms a Reminder to Regulators to Put the Public First

British Columbia is poised to overhaul the regime under which health professionals are regulated, with dramatic changes coming to all of BC’s health colleges and the laws that govern the professions which they regulate.

The Steering Committee on Modernization of Health Professional Regulation (“Steering Committee”) has published a consultation paper including several recommendations for modernizing the regulation of health professions in BC. The recommendations of the Steering Committee are intended to improve patient safety and public protection, the efficiency and effectiveness of the regulatory framework, and increase public confidence through transparency and accountability.

This non-partisan action by the Government of British Columbia comes on the heels of the Cayton Report, which was highly critical of British Columbia’s current self-regulatory system. Harry Cayton, an international expert in professional regulation, was appointed by the Minister of Health to undertake an inquiry into the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia and provide feedback on the province’s system of self-regulation in March, 2018. He identified several critical issues, including the prioritization of the interests of the profession over the interests of patients, poor governance, an overly complex complaints and discipline process, and an overall lack of transparency.

The Cayton Report called for a complete overhaul of the self-regulation regime in British Columbia, including redrafting their Health Professions Act and forming a single centralized regulatory body. The Steering Committee has taken a more restrained approach that nevertheless represents big changes for British Columbia’s regulatory colleges. Their recommendations include:

  1. The creation of an independent oversight body (“Oversight Body”)that would act oversee the function of regulatory College through routine audits, reviews and investigations and public reporting of performance data, maintain a central registry of all health professionals, assess the competency of College Board members, draft model standards, policies and by-laws, approve changes to by-laws, and make recommendations for improving the self-regulatory system.
  2. Reducing the number of Colleges from 20 to 5, including Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, Oral Health and a catch-all Health and Care Professions.
  3. Ensuring greater public participation in governance, with half of Board members being public members and all Board members being selected by the province rather than through elections by registrants.
  4. Increasing transparency in the complaints process by providing more information about pending investigations, consent and settlement agreements on the public register. Complaint and discipline committees will also be required to consider the registrant’s past history of complaints.
  5. Centralizing the discipline process by having discipline hearings and panels managed by the Oversight Body.
  6. Streamlining the complaints process by implementing consistent timelines and oversight by the Oversight Body and coordinating complaints regarding interdisciplinary health care teams so that complainants have a single point of contact.

This outcome is the result of a determination that BC health colleges were failing to put the public interest first. Regulatory colleges in Ontario and other provinces should take notice, as these reforms are an important reminder to all regulatory colleges to ensure that they follow their public interest mandate.

The Steering Committee is seeking public feedback from British Columbian’s and health care stakeholders until January 10.

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