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On July 6, 2020, the Government of Alberta tabled Bill 30: Health Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 for first reading. As it is currently drafted, the Bill includes a number of changes that affect health professions. This blog addresses the changes to the Health Professions Act, RSA 2000, c H-7 affecting the governance of regulatory organizations for health professionals. If Bill 30 is passed as drafted, public appointees, who are not members of the profession, must constitute at least 50% of voting members of councils, complaint review committees, and hearing tribunals, and their constituent panels.
What does Bill 30 Change?
Section 12 of the Health Professions Act currently provides that at least 25% of the voting members of a council, a complaint review committee, and a hearing tribunal, or any panel of these groups, must be public members. Bill 30 increases the percentage of public members to a minimum of 50%.
What Does This Mean for Professional Regulatory Organizations?
The increase of public appointees as members of regulatory bodies for health professionals has significant implications. Public members are government appointees, which means that going forward, half of the governing Council for each health profession will be directly appointed by the government. Health professions Councils establish and implement the policies and priorities of each regulatory organization, and oversee the effectiveness of each health regulator in protecting the public interest.
In addition to increasing the public membership and appointment of regulatory organization Councils, half of all complaint review committees and hearing tribunals will also be publicly appointed. When panels are created to review complaints and hear disciplinary matters, half of the panel members must also be public members. This means that the self-regulatory nature of professional regulatory organizations will be curtailed in favour of more public participation. The minister who sponsored the bill indicated that this change is being made in part to increase diversity on boards, and to create a system more focused on patients.
Professional regulatory organizations will need to revise their governing documents to address the composition of their Councils. There are likely two ways to do this: increase the size of the Councils to accommodate new members, or reduce the number of professional members to balance the existing public members. There is no information at this time about who the new public members will be, what their background and experience will look like, or whether they are expected to serve on multiple councils. Professional regulatory organizations should be prepared to provide new members will some introduction or training on the processes unique to each professional organization. Further, it is expected that Bill 30 will impact how decisions are made and the direction of organizations in the future.
These changes follow trends in other jurisdictions in Canada. However, unlike proposals in other jurisdictions, Bill 30 does not require that public members be selected independently or based on their qualifications. Instead, they are appointed based on their perspective as non-members of the profession in question.
Bill 30 signals a shift in the regulation of health professions in Alberta: at least in theory, health professions will no longer be self-regulating organizations. Rather, oversight of health professionals will be a shared responsibility between the profession and the public.