Pursuant to the Health Professions Act, all health Colleges in Alberta are required, effective April 1, 2019, to administer a Patient Relations Program.
A Patient Relations Program includes measures for preventing and addressing sexual abuse and sexual misconduct towards patients by regulated members. The program includes, but is not limited to:
- Education for regulated members
- Educational guidelines for the conduct of regulated members towards patients
- Training requirements for College staff, Council and members involved with conduct processes
- Publicly available information on the complaints process
- Assistance in directing individuals to appropriate resources, persons or organizations which may be of assistance to them
- Develop a fund for treatment and counseling that is available for anyone who alleges sexual abuse and/or sexual misconduct
Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct Complaints
A health care professional is in a position of power over a patient, by virtue of having professional knowledge and skill that a patient must rely on for their well-being. In addition, they have access to patients' personal health information.
Healthcare professionals must always maintain professional boundaries with their patients. They are prohibited from engaging in any form of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct as defined by law in the Health Professions Act with a patient.
What is Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct?
Sexual Abuse is defined in the Health Professions Act, and “means 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 client’s genitals, anus, breasts or buttocks by a regulated member.”
Sexual Misconduct as defined in the Health Professions Act, “means 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 the regulated member knows or ought reasonably to know will or would cause offence or humiliation to the patient or adversely affect the patient’s health and well-being but does not include sexual abuse.”
Who is a patient?
Each College that regulates a health profession must define who constitutes a “patient” in their Standards of Practice. During denturist-patient relationship and in the two-year period following the end of the denturist-patient relationship, a former patient is considered to be a patient for the purposes of the sexual abuse and sexual misconduct provisions defined in the Health Professions Act.
It is permissible for a denturist to provide professional denturist services to a spouse, interdependent partner or to an individual with which they are in an ongoing, pre-existing sexual relationship.
For the purposes of the sexual abuse provisions in the Health Professions Act, a person receiving professional services from a denturist is not considered to be a patient if the denturist is their spouse or adult interdependent partner or if they are in an ongoing, pre-existing sexual relationship with the denturist.
Note: If the healthcare provider is not a member of a regulated profession, they are not subject to the authority of any regulatory College. Should you have a complaint or concern about their conduct or the care they provided, please contact the employer of the unregulated provider and/or the police.
Do you think a healthcare professional may have violated a boundary or otherwise engaged in sexual misconduct or abuse?
Did your denturist do something to make you feel uncomfortable? Maybe he or she touched you in a way that was not medically necessary or appropriate or perhaps he or she said something sexually suggestive. If this is the case, please contact the College of Alberta Denturists. We may be reached by phone 780.429.2330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We recognize that coming forward with a complaint about sexual abuse or misconduct can be very difficult. If you believe your healthcare professional may have crossed a sexual boundary, we urge you to contact us at 780.429.2330.
Complaints of a sexual nature may involve:
- Inappropriate comments or gestures: This could include saying something sexually suggestive or seductive to you, commenting unnecessarily about sexual relationships or sexual orientation, making sexually insulting or offensive comments or jokes, or giving unwanted attention (like kissing).
- Sexual contact or assault: This encompasses everything from inappropriate touching to sexual assault. It also includes any sexual contact between a health care professional and patient that would otherwise be considered consensual.
Coming forward about a sexually inappropriate encounter you’ve experienced with a healthcare professional can be incredibly difficult and there are many reasons why you may choose not to do so. There are, however, good reasons for reporting:
- Public protection: incidents of sexual abuse are often not isolated. By coming forward, you could help us act to ensure that what happened to you does not happen to someone else.
- Awareness: the regulatory body won’t know otherwise, we rely on individuals to make us aware when things aren’t right. We can only learn about sexual abuse from people who make complaints.
- Your own sense of closure: if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse by a health care professional, knowing that there is an investigation and potential consequences may play a role in your healing process.
Funding for Therapy and Counseling
There are a variety of situations in which you may be eligible for funding for counseling or therapy. In fact, filing a complaint with the College alleging a healthcare professional has sexually abused you while you were a patient is one of the eligibility criteria for receiving funding. Additional, details may be learned by calling the College at 780.429.2330.
We recognize that coming forward with a complaint about sexual abuse can be very difficult. When you call for assistance or to make a complaint, you will speak to our administrative assistant. She has specific training in the area of sexual abuse and is very familiar with the College’s complaint process and can give you an idea of what to expect. She will not take statements or conduct investigations. You may speak to her on the phone by calling 780.429.2330. You can remain anonymous, use an alias, or arrange to come into the College office. If you then decide to make a formal complaint, it must be submitted in writing and signed.
When your complaint is received, the Complaints Director may conduct or appoint an investigator to conduct an investigation. The investigator will contact you to discuss your concerns and obtain additional information. If you prefer, you may meet in person. The investigator will ask you to explain what happened as clearly and in as much detail as you can possibly provide. You will be asked to sign a consent form so that they can obtain your denturism records.
Legislation requires us to notify the healthcare professional of your complaint, and the healthcare professional is given the opportunity to respond to it.
With your consent, other people with information about the incident or documents related to the complaint such as hospital, Alberta Health Care or pharmaceutical records maybe gathered as part of the investigation.
Your complaint is handled with the utmost seriousness, and all complaints will be fully investigated. When the investigation is complete, all the materials gathered by the investigator are given to the Complaints Director of our College who reviews the information and decides what should happen.
The Complaints Director may decide to refer the concerns about the healthcare professional to the Hearing Tribunal or may determine no further action is needed if the conduct or care was appropriate.
What happens if my complaint is referred to a Hearing Tribunal?
Your complaint may be referred to the Hearing Tribunal for a hearing. Hearings at the College are much like proceedings in a court of law. If the Complaints Director refers your complaint to the Hearing Tribunal, the College will present evidence before a panel consisting of regulated healthcare professionals and a member of the public. Their role is like that of a jury. They will hear the evidence presented by both parties and make a ruling based on that evidence.
You may be asked to testify at the hearing, and you are encouraged to bring someone with you for support. If you must testify, you may be questioned by the legal representatives for the College and the healthcare professional.
If the Hearing Tribunal finds the allegations of sexual abuse are proven, the healthcare professional’s registration will be cancelled, and they will not be allowed to practice for life. If the Hearing Tribunal finds allegations of sexual misconduct proven, the healthcare professional will be suspended from practice, and timelines imposed will depend on the circumstances of the case.
The decisions of the Hearing Tribunal are subject to an appeal process whereby the investigated person or the Complaints Director, on behalf of the College, may appeal the Hearing Tribunal’s decision.
Hearings are open to the public and the media may attend unless the Hearing Tribunal orders the hearing be held in private or an application is submitted for the hearing to be held in private. The media may publish the name of the healthcare professional, but in cases involving misconduct of a sexual nature the Hearing Tribunal is required, by law, to order a publication ban on information that could identify you if you request such an order.
Who to contact?
If you think you have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of an Alberta regulated healthcare professional, we urge you to contact the appropriate College. If your concerns are related to a denturist, the College of Alberta Denturists may be reached at 780.429.2330 or email email@example.com.
Other Colleges and Associations in Alberta
Acupuncturists – College and Association of Acupuncturists of Alberta
Chiropractors – Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors
Combined Laboratory and X-ray Technologists – Alberta College of Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologists
Dental Assistants – College of Alberta Dental Assistants
Dental Hygienists – College of Registered Dental Hygienists of Alberta
Dental Technologists – College of Dental Technologists of Alberta
Dentists – Alberta Dental Association and College
Denturists – College of Alberta Denturists
Dietitians – College of Dietitians of Alberta
Hearing Aid Practitioners – College of Hearing Aid Practitioners of Alberta
Licensed Practical Nurses – College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta
Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologists – Alberta College of Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologists
Medical Laboratory Technologists – College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Alberta
Midwives – College of Midwives of Alberta
Naturopaths – College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta
Occupational Therapists – Alberta College of Occupational Therapists
Opticians – College of Opticians of Alberta
Optometrists – Alberta College of Optometrists
Paramedics – Alberta College of Paramedics
Pharmacists – Alberta College of Pharmacy
Pharmacy Technicians – Alberta College of Pharmacy
Physiotherapists – Physiotherapy Alberta College + Association
Physicians, Surgeons and Osteopaths – College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta
Podiatrists – College of Podiatric Physicians of Alberta
Psychiatric Nurses – College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Alberta
Psychologists – College of Alberta Psychologists
Registered Nurses – College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta
Respiratory Therapists – College and Association of Respiratory Therapists of Alberta
Social Workers – Alberta College of Social Workers
Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists – Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
For a list of resources for patients regarding sexual abuse and sexual misconduct, please click here.