The fitness to practice provisions of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA) address situations when a registered pharmacist may have an illness or condition that has the potential to interfere with their ability to practice pharmacy safely.
It is important that pharmacists are aware of the general process and consequences of incapacity proceedings because they can have serious implications on their certificate of registration.
Incapacity proceedings differ from disciplinary proceedings. Incapacity hearings focus on whether the pharmacist is ill or has a condition affecting their ability to practice rather than whether they have failed to maintain the standards of the practice of the profession. Generally, incapacity hearings focus on whether measures need to be in place to protect the public from unsafe practices due to the pharmacist’s illness or condition.
Initiating Incapacity Proceedings
Both the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) and the Ontario College of Pharmacists’ Registrar can initiate incapacity proceedings once information is received that a pharmacist may be incapacitated.
A Health Inquiry Panel, a panel of the ICRC, is then appointed to inquire into the pharmacist’s capacity. The pharmacist is advised of the identified concerns and that a Health Inquiry Panel has been appointed to explore these concerns. The pharmacist is then given a chance to respond to the concerns and make submissions about their alleged incapacity.
The Health Inquiry Panel
The Health Inquiry Panel is an impartial factfinder. It does not determine whether the pharmacist is incapacitated. It may request information from the pharmacist, meet with the pharmacist, and collect statements from employers, colleagues, and other witnesses. The Health Inquiry Panel may also require the pharmacist to undergo a physical or mental examination. Refusing to submit to the examination can lead to serious consequences such as suspension of the pharmacist’s certificate of registration.
After conducting its inquiry, the Health Inquiry Panel may decide to refer the matter to the Fitness to Practise Committee for a hearing. Before a referral is made, the College may seek an informal resolution with the pharmacist’s consent. Possible resolutions include:
A lawyer knowledgeable in the procedures can help to negotiate with the College on your behalf and achieve the best possible outcome for you.
If the Health Inquiry Panel believes that a pharmacist’s illness is exposing or likely to expose patients to harm, it may also issue an interim order directing the Registrar to suspend or impose terms, conditions, or limitations on the pharmacist’s certificate of registration, pending the outcome of a hearing.
We at Wise Health Law have experience and expertise assisting health professionals who are the subject of College capacity inquiries or proceedings. It is important to seek advice as early as possible in the process. Please contact us to see how we may be able to assist you.