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Patients sexually abused by health professionals to receive treatment funding: Alberta regulation

Regulation will help give effect to patient relation programs, says professional regulation lawyer

Patients sexually abused by health professionals to receive treatment funding: Alberta regulation

Colleges of regulated professions in Alberta will be subject to new obligations regarding providing funding and access to treatment and counselling services to patients who have allegedly experienced sexual abuse or sexual misconduct at the hands of health professionals.

So far, colleges have only set non-binding guidelines in an attempt to give effect to the patient relation programs required under the Bill 21 amendments to the Health Professions Act, RSA 2000, c H-7, which came into force on Apr. 1, 2019, said Gregory Sim, partner at Field Law, in an article.

“Section 135.9(5) of the Health Professions Act states that the funding must be provided in accordance with the regulations, but until now there were no regulations for the program,” wrote Sim in the article.

The new Funding for Treatment and Counselling Regulation, Alta Reg 256/2020, which is scheduled to come into force on June 2, 2021, provides that a patient will be eligible for funding if they file a written and signed complaint to a complaints director alleging that they have suffered sexual abuse or misconduct committed by a regulated or formerly regulated health professional under s. 54 of the Health Professions Act, or if the complaints director treats such information as a complaint under s. 56 of the Act.

The deadline for the initial request for funding is five years from the finding of unprofessional conduct based wholly or partly on sexual abuse or misconduct. If the patient received treatment or counselling before making a complaint, they may still be eligible to receive funding for the prior treatment or counselling received. Eligible patients have the choice to avail of treatment or counselling from any number or any combination of regulated health professionals or unregulated counselling professionals, subject to certain conditions before the funding will be approved.

The regulation requires colleges to give the patient all the necessary information to file a request for funding and to access funding. Once the funding has been approved, the college should provide the funding either through direct payment to the treatment or counselling provider who gives an appropriate invoice, or through reimbursement of the patient who gives a valid original receipt.

The college should give the funding, which should not exceed the equivalent cost of 100 hours of psychiatric counselling, within 15 days from receipt of the invoice or the original receipt. The regulation details the college’s obligations to notify the patient and to provide summaries of the remaining available funding.

A patient’s eligibility to receive funding ends if one of the following events has occurred:

  • the patient has received the maximum funding amount
  • five years have passed since the receipt of the initial request for funding
  • a hearing tribunal has decided that the health professional did not commit sexual abuse or misconduct
  • the complaint has been dismissed or withdrawn

The college may recover the funding costs from a regulated or formerly regulated health professional following a finding of unprofessional conduct based wholly or partly on sexual abuse or misconduct against the patient.

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