Canadians enjoy universal access to world-class healthcare, and most of us are proud of our healthcare system. However, patient safety remains a major concern in jurisdictions across the country. Recent research shows Canada trailing other wealthy nations in several patient safety indicators. In Ontario, hospital overcrowding puts patients at risk of infection and medical errors. And, as medical malpractice lawyers know, injured patients in Canada often have difficulty accessing compensation.

A cross-party governmental committee in British Columbia recently proposed several changes to the province’s medical oversight system in hopes of improving patient safety. The proposals come in response to a scathing report from ‘international professional regulation expert’ Harry Cayton, who recommended a total overhaul of the medical system, according to CBC British Columbia. The changes could provide a blueprint for other provinces that want to improve transparency and accountability and reduce patient harm in their hospitals.

Cayton’s report, released in April, found “a lack of relentless focus on the safety of patients in many but not all of the current colleges. Their governance is insufficiently independent, lacking a competency framework, a way of managing skill mix or clear accountability to the public they serve.”

Where Cayton called for the province’s Health Professions Act to be replaced, the cross-party committee proposed extensive amendments, the CBC reports. These include changing the makeup of college boards to include members of the public; improving the transparency of the complaints process; and creating an overarching oversight body that would hold a register of all health professionals in the province, oversee the appointment of board members, and establish standards of practice.

One proposal would also reduce the number of colleges in B.C. from 20 to five. According to the CBC, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia would remain, as would the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia and the British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals. The remaining colleges would be grouped into a new college of oral health professionals and a single remaining college for other practice areas.

“I welcome these bold proposals for reform,” Cayton said in an email to the CBC. “It is important that the regulatory colleges and the health professions engage with the consultation and embrace change to improve the safety of patients and the public in B.C.”

The proposals laid out by British Columbia’s NDP, Liberal, and Green Party members are specific to their province, but the principals of transparency, accountability, and public participation can be embraced by health advocates and medical malpractice lawyers everywhere. It will be interesting how the reforms are implemented, what effect they have, and whether other provinces follow suit.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a medical setting, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers can help you understand your options and will represent you throughout the legal process.


Image credit: KirinX/Wikimedia Commons

Greg Neinstein