Patients the focus of new health legislation

Patient safety will be enhanced, oversight of health regulatory colleges strengthened and governance of health professionals improved with ground-breaking legislation.

“Our government is making the most significant changes to oversight of regulated health professions in British Columbia’s history,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “These changes will streamline the process to regulate new health professions, provide stronger oversight, provide more consistent discipline across the professions, act in the public interest and protect patient care in the province, while also laying the groundwork to further reduce the total number of regulatory colleges.”

The Health Professions and Occupations Act replaces its predecessor, the Health Professions Act. The act enables the creation of a new oversight body, an independent discipline tribunal and a reformed complaints process that increases accountability and transparency, protects people in vulnerable circumstances, and creates a commitment to cultural safety and humility, and a new way to regulate lower-risk health occupations.  

The legislation will simplify and streamline the process for regulating new professions. Government will begin regulating counsellors and then diagnostic and therapeutic professionals, and will continue finalizing the amalgamation of colleges from 15 to six. One amalgamation will combine the colleges for dietitians, occupational therapists, opticians, optometrists, physical therapists, psychologists, and speech and hearing professionals into one regulator. The other amalgamation will combine the colleges for chiropractors, massage therapists, naturopathic physicians, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncturists.

The Ministry of Health has made progress ahead of the legislation by reducing the number of regulatory colleges. In October 2020, B.C.’s three nursing colleges were amalgamated into one; in September 2021, the nursing college was amalgamated with the College of Midwives, and the College of Physician and Surgeons was amalgamated with the College of Podiatrists. In September 2022, B.C.’s four oral-health colleges, which included dentists, dental assistants, dental therapists, denturists, dental hygienists and dental technicians, were amalgamated into one regulatory college.

There are 15 health colleges under the act providing a regulatory framework for 25 health professions.

The legislation is partly in response to concerns raised in a report published in 2019 by Harry Cayton, former chief executive of the United Kingdom’s Professional Standards Authority, who was appointed by the Minister of Health to review the Health Professions Act and its regulations and to make recommendations.

The changes also reflect some of the key recommendations of the 2020 In Plain Sight Report: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care, and further implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Action Plan. As well, the amendments fulfil recommendations made by the multi-party Steering Committee on Modernization of Health Professional Regulation, which was co-chaired by Dix; Norm Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country; and Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley.

“I thank all of those who provided input on these changes, including people around B.C., health-care workers, my legislative colleagues Norm Letnick and Sonia Furstenau, and Indigenous leaders, who helped to create the priorities addressed in the legislation being brought to the house for consideration,” added Dix.

Learn More:

For the Harry Cayton report, An Inquiry into the performance of the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia and the Health Professions Act, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/practitioner-pro/professional-regulation/cayton-report-college-of-dental-surgeons-2018.pdf

For the Steering Committee on Modernization of Health Professional Regulation recommendations report, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/practitioner-pro/professional-regulation/recommendations-to-modernize-regulatory-framework.pdf

Two backgrounders follow.

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