The development of the current legislative framework for the regulation of health professions began in 1994 with the Health Workforce Rebalancing Committee. The committee developed five guiding principles for modernizing and streamlining the regulation of health professionals in Alberta. These five principles called for a regulatory system that:
- Protects the public from incompetent or unethical health professionals;
- Provides flexibility in the scope of professional practice;
- Provides for credible and easily available information about the workings and purpose of the system;
- Provides regulatory processes that are fair; and
- Supports the efficient and effective delivery of health services.
The introduction of the Health Professions Act (HPA) improved the system of professional self-governance. Most of all, the legislation recognized that regulated health professions must be accountable to the public to whom they provide health services.
Updating the regulations also meant replacing the concept of “exclusive scope of practice.” Recognizing that there is overlap in the practice activities of different health professions, the new legislation created a list of restricted activities. No matter the profession, any activity that posed a significant risk to the public and required a high level of competence to be completed safely were now to be performed by only those authorized in legislation.
Schedule 7.1 of the Government Organization Act specifies the services that pose identifiable risks. The restricted activities for each of the health professions are set out in their respective regulations. Section 17 of the Occupational Therapists Profession Regulation lists the restricted activities a registered Occupational Therapist is authorized to perform.
Nearly 30 Years of Public Protection Under the HPA
Since the HPA was enacted in 1999, the number of regulatory colleges under this statute has grown to 29. Even though these colleges regulate members practicing within a huge variety of health disciplines, the statute provides a single regulatory scheme applicable to every single one. Regardless of size, profession or self-governing experience, each college is committed to carrying out activities and governing its regulated members in a way that protects and serves the public interest (s.3 HPA). Although there are many ways in which “public protection” can be interpreted, the HPA clearly outlines the way the college protects the public. Colleges can only protect the public through establishing, maintaining and enforcing registration requirements, ensuring completion of a continuing competence program, and following a fair discipline process when complaints are filed against regulated members who are believed to have breached the College’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.
The statute’s actions might prove more than anything: with 25% public representation required on governing councils, complaint review committees and hearing tribunals, the HPA encourages public input and oversight on college activities. An annual report that identifies the number of complaints received and their disposition, as well as registration, continuing competence and other regulatory activity information is submitted to the Minister for presentation. Colleges must also make available information about regulated members upon request and allow open hearings within certain limitations. Every provision leads back to public protection.
Why Regulation is important to YOU.
As a regulated member, you can be confident that the regulatory system administered by the College and overseen by council ensures that every person holding the title of Occupational Therapist or O.T. has qualified for a practice permit and maintained practice currency. Our process ensures every member like you completes an annual mandated continuing competence program and is subject to disciplinary action when their practice fails to meet the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.
The College thanks you and all regulated members for continued dedication to Albertans, by providing competent and ethical Occupational Therapy services. We commend you for upholding the College’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. The College would like to sincerely express our gratitude and celebrate your commitment to the profession this OT month. THANK YOU!