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COLLEGE OF PHYSIOTHERAPISTS OF ONTARIO DEFENCE AND DISCIPLINE LAWYER

Physiotherapists, like many professionals in Canada, must be adequately educated, licensed and regulated by the province in which they practice. Each province in Canada is responsible for regulating the professionals working within that province. In Ontario, the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario is responsible for regulating the practice of physiotherapy. The goal of the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario is to ensure all members practicing physiotherapy are held to the highest standards of professionalism, knowledge and integrity to ensure the highest quality of care to all patients.

The College of Physiotherapists of Ontario is responsible for enforcing the Physiotherapy Act 1991, which is discussed in more detail below. They ensure that physiotherapists 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 Physiotherapy Act 1991. The main goal is to protect the public from professional misconduct. As such, the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario also accepts formal complaints regarding licensed members and investigates as necessary. If professional misconduct or unethical behaviour is discovered, the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario will also be the regulating body responsible for punishing the offending physiotherapist.

Physiotherapists in Ontario are regulated by the Physiotherapy Act 1991 which is enforced by the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. This statute outlines various general regulations that apply to the practice of physiotherapy including various registration requirements and regulations. Specifically, the statute outlines the various classes of certificates including independent practice, provisional practice and courtesy practice. The statute also includes quality assurance regulations, outlining the requirements for self-assessment, peer-assessment and practice assessment. Finally, the statute contains regulations pertaining to funding for therapy and counselling and other miscellaneous general regulations.

The Physiotherapy Act 1991 also contains a detailed section relating to professional misconduct within the practice of physiotherapy. This section outlines 42 enumerated acts that have been deemed professional misconduct by the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. If a physiotherapist has committed any of the acts outlined in this section, they will be found guilty by the College of committing professional misconduct and will likely face serious consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Types of Acts or Omissions may Lead to a Finding of Professional Misconduct?
The Complaint Process
What Happens when a Complaint is Filed?
What Penalties can Physiotherapists Face as a Result of a Complaint?
How to Defend a Formal Complaint made to the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario

What Types of Acts or Omissions may Lead to a Finding of Professional Misconduct?

There are many different reasons a physiotherapy patient may wish to file a formal complaint against their physiotherapist. Generally, the patient will have had a bad experience with their physiotherapist which likely resulted in some sort of injury to the patient. Some actions or behaviours that commonly lead to professional misconduct complaints include; failing to maintain a standard of practice of the profession, abusing a patient emotionally, physically, verbally or sexually, practicing the profession while the members license has been suspended, practicing the profession while the member is in a conflict of interest, engaging in conduct unbecoming to a physiotherapist, and/or representing qualifications that are false or misleading. Committing any of these acts, or any of the other acts listed in this section will likely lead to serious consequences for the practicing physiotherapist. If you have had a formal complaint filed against you it is important to contact qualified legal counsel immediately.

The Complaint Process

Physiotherapists, 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 Physiotherapists of Ontario and will be handled in accordance with the Regulated Health Professionals Act 1991. Virtually any member of the public can file a formal complaint against a physiotherapist. All complaints must be made in writing or using audio or visual recording and must include the following information; a concise statement outlining the complaint with as much detail as possible, the full legal name of the physiotherapist as well as any other physiotherapist, health care professionals or other person who may have relevant information and the name and contact information 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 the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario, the College will contact the complainant to confirm they have received the complaint and to request any additional information that is required. They will then open a file regarding the matter and speak to anyone else who may have information relevant to the complaint. A copy of the complaint will be sent to the physiotherapist and they will be given an opportunity to respond. The physiotherapist will also be asked to provide the College with the relevant medical records of the complainant. All information collected by the College in the investigation process will be kept confidential. Once the College has collected all the information it requires at this stage of the complaint process, they will send the information to the Inquiries, Complaints and Review Committee (ICRC).

The Inquiries, Complaints and Review Committee is comprised of two members of the public as well as four physiotherapists. They are tasked with reviewing all complaints and requesting additional information if necessary. During the investigation process, the Committee may obtain a peer/expert opinion. This means the Committee will allow a third-party expert to review the file to determine whether or not the impugned physiotherapists practice meets the applicable standards of practice of the profession. In situations where the file is referred to the Discipline Committee, the expert may be required to testify at a hearing. After reviewing the file in full, the Committee will determine the appropriate next steps.

It is important to note that a finding of professional misconduct can have very serious implications on a physiotherapists ability to practice. As soon as a member becomes aware that a complaint has been filed, they are advised to contact qualified legal counsel. Our Firm can help guide you through this process to ensure you receive the best possible outcome in your case.

What Penalties can Physiotherapists Face as a Result of a Complaint?

The Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee has various options regarding how it can dispose of a matter. 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 make recommendations or issue advice, require the member to take part in programs to improve their practice, or issue a formal caution. In situations where the Committee believes the physiotherapist is suffering from a medical illness that is hindering their ability to practice, they may refer the file to the Health Inquiry Panel for further review. The Health Inquiry Panel may monitor the physiotherapist and/or require them to undergo treatment prior to returning to practice. In situations where the Health Inquiry Panel believes the physiotherapists ability to practice is compromised, they may refer the file to the Fitness to Practice Committee for further review.

In situations where the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee determines that misconduct may have occurred, they may refer the file to the Discipline Committee. 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, 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 physiotherapist and the complainant may appeal the decision if they do not agree with it. The Committee cannot order a physiotherapist to refund fees or apologise to a complainant under any circumstances.

How to Defend a Formal Complaint made to the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario

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 physiotherapist will be unfounded, or will not amount to professional misconduct. In these situations, the physiotherapist may simply state that they have not violated any of the rules or regulations surrounding the proper practice of physiotherapy in Ontario 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 physiotherapist 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 physiotherapist did everything that was necessary and appropriate in the circumstances and as a result are not responsible for any negative outcome. 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. Our Firm can help guide you through the process to ensure the best possible outcome in your case.

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