Status: Bill 21 passed Nov 8, 2018
Ministry responsible: Health

Overview

Albertans should feel safe when accessing health care.

Bill 21: An Act to Protect Patients has been passed to protect patients from sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by regulated health professionals in Alberta. This abuse is a significant betrayal of trust and is not tolerated.

Before this legislation, penalties for conduct determined to be sexual abuse or sexual misconduct varied across almost 30 health regulatory colleges in Alberta and were determined on a case-by-case basis.

The new rules will ensure consistent penalties are applied to all health professionals regulated under the Health Professions Act for findings of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct. It will not apply to unregulated professions such as massage therapists, or professions regulated under the Health Disciplines Act such as acupuncturists.

Alberta is the second province, after Ontario, to take action to protect patients from sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by regulated health professionals.

New rules

Bill 21 will:

  • introduce mandatory penalties for regulated health professionals, including:
    • cancellation of a practice permit for any health professional whose conduct is deemed to be sexual abuse of a patient
    • suspension of a practice permit for any health professional whose conduct is deemed to be sexual misconduct toward a patient
  • prevent health professionals from applying for reinstatement if their practice permit has been cancelled as a result of conduct deemed to be sexual abuse
  • prevent health professionals from applying for reinstatement, for at least 5 years, if their practice permit has been cancelled as a result of conduct deemed to be sexual misconduct
  • require regulatory colleges to provide funding for treatment and counselling for patients who are victims
  • require regulatory colleges to post health professionals' discipline history for sexual abuse or misconduct on a public-facing website
  • require each regulatory college to establish a patient relations programs that includes:
    • training for health professionals and college staff to prevent and address sexual abuse and misconduct
    • information to help Albertans understand a colleges's complaints process
  • require colleges to create new standards of practice for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct that must be approved by the Minister of Health
  • require regulatory colleges, when holding a hearing for allegations of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct, to make every reasonable effort to ensure that hearing tribunal members have received training on trauma informed practice and sexual violence, and that at least one member of every hearing tribunal has the same gender identity as the patient
  • allow regulatory colleges to appeal a disciplinary decision to the Court of Appeal

What is sexual abuse and misconduct

Under the new legislation:

  • Sexual abuse is defined as the threatened, attempted or actual conduct of a regulated member towards a patient that is of a sexual nature and includes any of the following conduct:
    • sexual intercourse between a regulated member and a patient of that regulated member
    • genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact between a regulated member and a patient of that regulated member
    • masturbation of a regulated member by, or in the presence of, a patient of that regulated member
    • masturbation of a regulated member's patient by that regulated member
    • encouraging a regulated member's patient to masturbate in the presence of that regulated member
    • touching of a sexual nature of a patient's genitals, anus, breasts or buttocks by a regulated member
  • Sexual misconduct is defined as any incident or repeated incidents of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature by a regulated member towards a patient, that a regulated member knows, or should know, would cause offence, humiliation, or adversely affect the patient's health and wellbeing

If you need help

If you believe you have experienced sexual abuse or sexual misconduct by a health professional, please contact the appropriate regulatory college. If you are unsure of which regulatory college to contact, please call the Health Advocate at 310-0000 followed by 780-422-1812.

Next steps

Most changes will come into effect on April 1, 2019. Some changes will come into effect upon Royal Assent.

News

More safety and transparency for patients (Oct 30, 2018)