A social media debate Tuesday centred around legislation that would see doctors and health-care providers face a minimum five-year licence suspension for sexually abusing patients.
If passed, An Act to Protect Patients will require Alberta’s regulatory colleges to cancel health professionals’ practice permits in cases of sexual abuse and suspend them in instances of sexual misconduct.
Additionally, Bill 21 will require a list of health professionals’ discipline history for sexual abuse and misconduct to be posted online and will require funding for treatment and counselling for victims.
“Women, and all Albertans, deserve to feel safe when they put their trust in health-care professionals,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said in a statement last week.
“For too long, Albertans were left in the dark about disciplinary histories, as we continued to hear disturbing stories of offending professionals being allowed to practice again.”
However, United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney said the bill does not go far enough.
Former NHL player and sexual abuse survivor Theo Fleury agreed with Kenney.
But Calgary MLA Karen McPherson noted the new bill is a step in the right direction, as there was no legislated minimum previously. McPherson, who left the NDP government in 2017 to sit as an independent, introduced an amendment last week to change the legislation to a lifetime ban but it was voted down.
If a complaint is lodged, the health provider and the complainant would go before a tribunal, and the threshold standard of proof will be on a balance of probabilities, less onerous than the criminal court’s standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Appeals from either side would be heard by Alberta’s Court of Appeal.
If Bill 21 is passed, Alberta will become the second province, after Ontario, to pass legislation that enforces a minimum penalty for health professionals convicted of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct.
The new rules would take effect in April and cover 100,000 health professionals, including family doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, surgeons, pharmacists, X-ray technologists, dentists, physiotherapists and chiropractors.
— With files from The Canadian Press