COLLEGE OF OPTICIANS OF ONTARIO (COO) DEFENCE AND DISCIPLINE LAWYER
Opticians, like many professionals in Canada, must be adequately educated, licensed and regulated by the province in which they practice. Each province regulates their professionals in their own way. Each province in Canada is responsible for regulating the professionals working within that province. In Ontario, the College of Opticians of Ontario is responsible for regulating the practice of opticianry. The goal of the College of Opticians of Ontario is to ensure all members practicing opticianry are held to the highest professional standards of knowledge and integrity to ensure the highest quality of care to all patients.
The College of Opticians of Ontario is responsible for enforcing the Opticianry Act 1991, which is discussed in more detail below. They ensure that opticians have received the proper education from an accredited institution prior to beginning practice, that practicing members keep up to date with any necessary on-going education and that all members abide by all the regulations laid out in the Opticianry Act 1991. The main goal is to protect the public from professional misconduct. As such, the College of Opticians of Ontario also accepts formal complaints regarding licensed members and investigates as necessary. If professional misconduct or unethical behaviour is discovered, the College of Opticians of Ontario will also be the regulating body responsible for punishing the offending optician.
The Firm’s exceptional background in criminal defence pretrial resolution and litigation often resolves proceedings without any formal disciplinary action or sanctions by the regulatory body. The Firm has successfully defended Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers, Paralegals, Law Society Discipline Investigators, Nurses, Accountants, Real Estate Agents, Health Care Professionals, Teachers, Financial Service Sector Employees, City of Toronto and Provincial Government Employees, Police Officers and Canada Boarder Service Officers, Canada Revenue Agency Auditors and many other professionals belonging to regulatory bodies and facing prosecution or criminal charges.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are Opticians Regulated?
Opticians in Ontario are regulated by the Opticianry Act 1991 which is enforced by the College of Opticians of Ontario. This statute outlines various regulations that apply to the practice of opticianry including various registration requirements and regulations, quality assurance regulations, the inspection of opticianry premises, various registration requirements, professional misconduct and examination requirements.
The Opticianry Act 1991 outlines various regulations pertaining to the quality assurance of the practice of opticianry. To maintain the highest quality standards, the Act stipulates that optician’s must regularly complete self-assessments and participate in continuing education and professional development programs. Additionally, opticians must submit to regular inspections of their practice to ensure compliance with all quality assurance standards set by the College and by various statutes. Registration requirements also make up a large part of the Opticianry Act 1991. It outlines the various classes of registration, the requirements that must be met, including examinations and educational requirements, before an individual can become a registered optician and the regulations regarding the necessary annual renewal of an opticians certificate of registration. The statue also outlines regulations pertaining to the suspension and reinstatement of a members registration. The Opticianry Act 1991 also outlines detailed regulations pertaining to professional misconduct in the practice of opticianry. The statute outlines 29 enumerated acts or omissions which are considered to be acts of professional misconduct and are discussed more in the section that follows.
What Types of Act or Omissions may Lead to a Finding of Professional Misconduct?
There are many different reasons a patient may wish to file a formal complaint against their optician. Generally, the patient will have had a bad experience with their optician which may have resulted in some sort of injury to the patient. Some actions or behaviours that commonly lead to professional misconduct complaints include; contravening a term, condition or limitation imposed on the member’s certificate of registration, contravening a standard of practice of the profession, abusing a client either physically or verbally, practicing opticianry while the member is in a conflict of interest, making false or derogatory statements about a member to any person, inappropriately using a term, title or designation in respect of the member’s practice, falsifying a record relating to a member’s practice, or contravening any provision of the Regulated Health Professions Act 1991. Committing any of these acts, or any of the other acts listed in this section will likely lead to serious consequences for the practicing optician. If you have had a formal complaint filed against you it is important to contact qualified legal counsel immediately.
The Complaint Process
Opticians, like any professional, owe a duty of care to their patients. Failure to discharge this duty of care may result in a formal complaint being filed with the College of Opticians of Ontario against the practicing Optician and will be handled in accordance with the Optician Act 1991. Almost any member of the public can file a formal complaint against an optician. Formal complaints can be filled out online on the College of Opticians of Ontario website. The complaint must be filled out in writing or using audio or visual recording and submitted to the College Registrar. The complaint must contain the following information; a succinct statement outlining the complaint including as much detail as possible and the name of the optician as well as any other opticians, health care professionals or other persons who may have relevant information regarding the complaint. The contact information of the complainant should also be included unless there is clear evidence that including such information would pose a risk to the safety of the complainant. There is no time limit on when a complaint can be filed.
What Happens when a Complaint is Filed?
Once a complaint has been received by College of Opticians of Ontario, the College will open a file concerning the complaint. A letter of acknowledgment will be issued to the complainant as well as to the impugned optician within fourteen days of the College receiving the complaint. The member optician will be required to make a formal response to this complaint with 30 days of receiving notice and a copy of the complaint. After the member has replied to the complaint, the file will be sent to the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee for review.
Once the Committee receives a file they will review it and determine whether further investigation is required. At this stage in the process the Committee may ask the parties for clarification on their complaint and response, interview or obtain statements from witnesses, inspect records, obtain copies of relevant documents, authorize and undercover investigation and/or approach other patients, members, colleagues or staff members of the optician to collect more information. The purpose of the investigation process is to determine what the next steps should be. At no point during the process will either the member or the complainant be asked to appear for a hearing before the Committee. The Committee will make all of its decisions behind closed doors as all information relating to the complaint and subsequent investigation is confidential.
It is important to note that a finding of professional misconduct can have very serious implications on an opticians ability to practice. Once a member becomes aware that a complaint has been filed, it is advisable that they contact qualified legal counsel as soon as possible.
What Penalties can Optician’s Face as a Result of a Complaint?
Once the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee has completed their thorough investigation into the complaint, they will make a determination on how to resolve the issue. The Committee has several options at their disposal. For example; if the Committee feels that no misconduct has occurred they can choose to take no further action and close the file. If they do find that misconduct has occurred the Committee may require the member to appear before the panel to be formally cautioned, require the member complete remedial education courses, refer the member to the Discipline Committee for further review, refer the member to a new panel of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee for an incapacity inquiry and/or take any other action which is no inconsistent with the Act.
If the matter is sent to the Discipline Committee for review, upon reviewing the file, if the Discipline Committee determines that professional misconduct has occurred, the Committee will determine the best course of action to remedy the issue. There are several options available to the Committee when determining an appropriate punishment. The Committee may choose to; suspend the members license, revoke the members license, impose limitations on the members ability to practice, impose a fine on the member which will be payable to the College or formally reprimand the member. Additionally, the finding that the member committed professional misconduct as well as the punishment associated with that finding will be published on the College’s website and open to the public. It should be noted that both the optician and the complainant may appeal the decision if they do not agree with it.
How to Defend a Formal Complaint made to the Ontario College of Pharmacists
As with any legal matter, the best defence will depend largely on the allegations being made and the facts surrounding the case. It is important to contact qualified legal counsel immediately upon receiving notice that a formal complaint has been filed. In some cases, the allegations against the optician will be unfounded, or will not amount to professional misconduct. In these situations the optician may state that they have not violated any of the rules or regulations in their formal reply to the complaint. In situations where a more substantive response is required, a common way to defend a professional misconduct allegation is to argue that the optician did not deviate from the applicable standard of care and that by doing so they sufficiently discharged their duty of care to their patient. This essentially means that the optician did everything that was necessary and appropriate in the circumstance. In any case, the best plan of defence is to contact qualified legal counsel as soon as possible and allow them to assist in drafting a response to the complaint.