In the midst of COVID-19, the proceedings of many health colleges, and consequently of the health professionals they regulate, have been in limbo while everyone finds a way forward.
On March 25, 2020, the Ontario government enacted the Hearings in Tribunal Proceedings (Temporary Measures) Act, 2020 (the “Act”) to help the process along.
The Act empowers statutory tribunals with more discretion as to how proceedings before them are held.
Prior to the Act, a statutory tribunal could make rules governing the practice and procedure before it under section 25.1 of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act (or “SPPA”), including whether or not to hold electronic hearings (SPPA, s. 5.2). However, under the SPPA, a “hearing” is limited to the hearing in a proceeding. In contrast, under the Act, a “hearing” is much broader, and includes not only the hearing in a proceeding, but any other appearance in the course of the proceeding, including pre-hearing conferences or alternative dispute resolution processes.
The Act prevails over the SPPA, any rules previously made by a tribunal, or any other legislation, allowing administrative bodies (such as health colleges) to move their matters forward electronically regardless of whether they previously had anything in place in that regard. Under the Act, a tribunal may conduct a hearing in person, electronically, in writing or by a combination of any of them. Moreover, a tribunal may make any orders, give any directions, or make rules respecting the format of a hearing, and “any matters ancillary to the holding of the hearing”, including the service or filing of materials for the hearing, attendance at the hearing, recording of the hearing, or public access to the hearing.
Finally, the Act applies to retroactively, i.e. to proceedings that were commenced before the Act came into force.
Although the word “temporary” appears in the title of the legislation, the Act is not set to expire after a set amount of time, but is instead “to be repealed on proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor”. It will be interesting to see how long the Act will be in place for, and whether the SPPA will later be amended to permanently adopt the Act’s measures.
For now, we hope that the Act will enable health colleges to move matters forward in a fair and expeditious manner.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario has issued an updated Directive #2 (dated May 26, 2020) for Regulated Health Professionals in the province.
Pursuant to the updated Directive #2, all deferred non-essential and elective services by health care providers may be gradually restarted – subject to the rest of the requirements set out in the Directive.
The updated Directive #2 does not provide particularly detailed guidance to health professionals on how to proceed, likely because it applies to such a broad spectrum of health care and health professionals. It does, however, provide some principles to assist health care providers in making decisions as we enter this transitional period.
In addition to the mask and hand sanitizer shortages, Ontario’s response to COVID-19 highlights the need for more frontline health care workers. Each regulated health profession’s college responded differently, and we have discussed some of those changes in other posts to keep you apprised.
Today, we focus on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), who set out to increase the number of available and licenced physicians out on the frontlines through certificates of registration that authorize supervised practice of short duration. The temporary licences authorize practice for 30 days.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has affected how health professionals practice. Pharmacists across the country are not only experiencing changes in how they practice (for example, accepting emailed prescriptions, where appropriate) but the scope of their practice as well. The latter change is not permanent, although the disruptions in practice may be felt long after the COVID-19 emergency subsides.
On March 19, 2020, Health Canada issued a short-term section 56(1) exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) that would authorize pharmacists to prescribe, sell, or provide controlled substances in limited circumstances, or transfer prescriptions for controlled substances (the CDSA Exemption).