What is a health professional’s Duty to Report?
All health professionals who are regulated under the B.C. Health Professions Act (HPA) have a professional, ethical and legal responsibility to report any unsafe practice or professional misconduct of any other regulated health practitioner.
This information sheet answers the most frequently asked questions about duty to report.
What is reportable?
Regulated health practitioners are legally required to report any unsafe or incompetent practice. Specifically, practitioners are obligated to report when they have a good reason to believe the public is in danger as a result of the practitioner suffering from a physical or mental ailment, an emotional or cognitive disturbance, or an addiction to drugs or alcohol that impairs their ability to practice.
Sexual misconduct must also be reported. Where concerns about sexual misconduct are based on information provided by a patient in the context of a professional - patient relationship, the consent of the patient or their parent/guardian must be obtained before making the report.
Where a professional is hospitalized for psychiatric care or treatment, or for treatment for addiction to alcohol or drugs, and is therefore unable to practice, the chief administrator of the hospital or private facility, and every treating physician, are obligated to report the professional to the regulatory body with which they are registered.
Who can be reported?
The duty to report under the HPA applies across professions. This means that a professional who belongs to one regulatory college is legally required to report a professional from another college (including their own regulatory body).
What if I am unsure about whether something is reportable?
It can be a difficult decision to decide whether to report a colleague to their regulatory body. A duty to report can be triggered by reasonable and probable grounds for a professional to believe in a reportable situation. Reasonable and probable grounds exist when a registrant believes there is a reliable basis for their suspicion and when a reasonable person in our society would also believe that the evidence supports such a belief.
If a health professional is concerned, they should contact the College of the professional in question to obtain clarification about the situation, or to determine if it is necessary to make a formal report. Making an inquiry (without specifying the name of the practitioner) does not automatically turn into a formal report.
Can I be sued for reporting?
No. The HPA provides immunity to health professionals who comply with the duty to report as long as the report is made in good faith and is based on reasonable and probable grounds.
It is worth noting, however, that a registrant who has demonstrably acted in bad faith may be subject to discipline for unprofessional conduct.
What happens if I know something but do not report it?
A health professional is in violation of the law if they do not meet their legal, professional or ethical responsibility to report a practitioner under the HPA’s duty to report requirements.
In addition, the practitioner will be subject to disciplinary measures taken by their regulatory college and may also be the subject of a complaint filed by the college to which the professional with the impairment, ailment, addiction or ethic issue belongs.
Is my confidentiality protected when I report a colleague or other health care professional?
The College of Dental Surgeons and the College of Physicians and Surgeons understand the desire of reporting individuals wanting to protect their identity. However, no regulatory college can guarantee complete anonymity, particularly if the report leads to a formal disciplinary hearing.
What happens when the health care professional has been reported to their regulatory College?
Regulatory bodies investigate and assess reports submitted under duty to report based on the protection of the public, the maintenance of public confidence in professions and the legitimate expectations of complainants, professionals and the public that allegations will be fairly assessed and investigated.
While public safety is always the primary concern, B.C.’s health regulatory colleges also strive to respect the dignity and privacy of the registrant. Appropriate treatment and medical monitoring may be put in place for the health professional if warranted.
How do I make a report?
Where you are required to make a formal report, you must submit the report in writing to the regulatory body with which the health professional is registered. Practitioners are advised to contact the college of the individual they are reporting to discuss the format and procedure for submitting their concern.
Can a group of individuals make a report together?
In a situation where several practitioners share a concern, they may submit one report but it must be signed by all the practitioners submitting it.
What if a practitioner is not impaired or engaged in sexual abuse, but is behaving unethically in some way. Must this also be reported under the “duty to report” requirement?
Duty to report is an ethical issue because health professionals are expected to give primary consideration to patient welfare and to take appropriate steps when they suspect unethical conduct or incompetent or unsafe care when a practitioner’s behaviour might constitute a danger to the public.
What sections of the HPA outline my responsibilities for duty to report?
You can find information about duty to report in the following sections of the HPA:
© The College of Dental Surgeons, 2013