Area of Law: Health Law
Answer # 694
Regulating health care professionalsRegion: Ontario Answer # 694
Distinguishing between kinds of health care practitioners
There are many different kinds of practitioners who provide health related services. Some types of health professionals are regulated by law and some are not. If a patient suffers because of improper treatment, it may be easier to hold a regulated health professional accountable.
Regulated health professionals
If a health professional is regulated by the Regulated Health Professions Act, it means they are required by law to fulfill certain training criteria to receive a license to practice. It also means they belong to a professional organization, called a College, which is responsible for setting standards for the profession. The College is also responsible for taking complaints and disciplining members of the profession who do not live up to professional standards. Regulated health professionals include: doctors, nurses, chiropractors, physiotherapists, midwives, optometrists, and dentists.
Other health care practitioners
If the professional is not regulated under the Regulated Health Professions Act, there may be other laws that regulate some aspects of the profession, such as education and training requirements. However, practitioners who are not regulated, may not be accountable to a professional body, and therefore, may be able to set their own standards. Unless the situation is serious enough to pursue criminal charges, if a patient has a problem with the treatment provided by an unregulated practitioner, there may not be a governing body where the patient can make a complaint or prevent the person from practising. Unregulated practitioners may be sued in civil court. However, since they may not have insurance, even if a patient sues them, the patient may not be able to recover any money.
Before accepting health treatment, you should ask whether the practitioner is regulated by law, and whether they belong to a professional organization. For additional information on regulated health professionals and unregulated practitioners, you can contact the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care or visit its website at health.gov.on.ca.
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