Just a week after Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said that legislation which allowed doctors’ sexual miscondut to go unreported didn’t need to change, Hoskins has changed his mind and is now ordering a review of the controversial legislation that gives medical regulatory bodies discretion on whether to alert police when one of their members may have committed a crime.
Other provinces and U. S. States have already moved to close this loophole and require reporting by authorities.
If a Mississauga doctor had been practising in Alberta when he put his mouth or cheek on the breasts of more than 10 female patients, the province’s medical regulator would have had to report it to the minister of justice and the solicitor general.
Had he been working in some American states, medical regulators would be required to notify authorities that one of their members may have committed a crime.
But in Ontario, the decision to go to the police about Dr. Sastri Maharajh, who told regulators he had put his mouth on or rested his cheek against the breasts of as many as 13 patients, is at the discretion of the medical regulator.
Kathryn Clarke, spokeswoman for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, won’t say if the collage has contacted police about Maharajh, who was disciplined for professional misconduct by the medical regulator last summer.
Maharajh was found guilty of professional misconduct and suspended for eight months before returning to work in July, ordered to treat male patients only at a Mississauga walk-in clinic.
His case has raised serious questions about whether Ontario’s decades-old Regulated Health Professions Act should be updated to compel the college to contact police if it knows about potential criminal behaviour.
Minister Hoskins initial refusal to review the legislation was met by intense criticism from experts, including Ontario NDP health critic France Gélinas, who said the college should “absolutely” be mandated to contact police in instances of sexual abuse.
Critics have been calling for mandatory reporting to authorities for years.
The review of the decades-old legislation will involve all 23 of the province’s regulatory colleges.
Hoskins change of mind comes just 4 days after he was forced to deal with another health reporting issue relating to the self regulating colleges: the absence of a clear requirement for the regulatory bodies to report investigations into non-criminal public health threats such as investigations into the spread of infectious diseases
The colleges that regulate health professionals in Ontario are now scrambling to meet a Dec. 1 deadline set by Health Minister Eric Hoskins to outline concrete steps they’ll take toward more transparency in these kinds of investigations.
Hoskins sent a letter last Saturday to the province’s 23 self-regulating colleges, such as those responsible for physicians, massage therapists, psychologists and dentists, telling them he wants to know the measures they will implement to fully disclose information about their investigations to the public.
The move comes after a series of Star articles about some patients contracting life-threatening infections at four Toronto pain and colonoscopy clinics. Toronto Public Health investigated the outbreaks, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons inspected the clinics, but their reports were kept secret.
There is simply no excuse for this lack of transparency in Ontario’s health system – especially when it comes to the regulatory college for doctors not reporting cases of doctors’ proven sexual misconduct to police.
Hoskins should complete his review of the legislation quickly and then change it so that the reporting of offences like proven sexual misconduct are reported promptly to the police.