The B.C. government is moving ahead with plans to modernize its patchwork of medical regulation bodies, combining 20 into six with promises to improve handling of public complaints of misconduct.
Health Minister Adrian Dix released recommendations Aug. 27 to modernize the system, following a 2018 review of the College of Dental Surgeons that found a board of elected dentists at odds with staff and protecting members rather than the public.
Dix formed a committee with B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick and B.C. Greens health critic Sonia Furstenau that has made recommendations to cabinet for final approval, but some of the reforms have already started.
The reforms will make sure that when conduct complaints against medical professionals are upheld, either by investigation or by agreement with the complainant, the results will be reported publicly, Dix said. Letnick pointed to the need for public information when complaints are upheld.
“The media have a key role to play in making sure that the public is safe,” Letnick said.
Another key change is to eliminate elections for board positions, to remove the perception that elected directors are accountable to their members rather than the public. Separate investigation and discipline procedures are being established, with clear rules for making public the findings and disciplinary action taken against health professionals.
B.C.’s 20 colleges are about to be reduced to 19, with the College of Podiatric Surgeons joining the College of Physicians and Surgeons as of Aug. 31. With only 85 members, the podiatric group is an example of organizations too small to effectively govern themselves by collecting membership dues, electing a board and administering a patient complaint system.
Three nursing groups have also been amalgamated into one College of Nursing Professionals, with B.C. certified midwives set to join as well. A single College of Oral Health Professionals is being established, to replace separate groups for dental assistants, hygienists, technicians, therapists, denturists and dentists.
The largest amalgamation is for a Regulatory College of Allied Health and Care Professionals, combining dietitians, occupational therapists, opticians, optometrists, physical therapists, psychologists, speech and hearing professionals, respiratory therapists, radiation therapists and medical laboratory technologists.
A new Regulatory College of Complementary and Alternative Health and Care Professionals will oversee chiropractors, massage therapists, naturopathic physicians, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists.