VICTORIA — A report recommends reducing the number of regulatory colleges governing health professionals in British Columbia from 20 to six to improve public protection and implementing a new oversight body that oversees them.
British Columbia has 20 colleges with more than 120,000 members representing chiropractors, physicians and surgeons, dental surgeons, nurses and other health professionals.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday an all-party committee of the legislature is recommending broad changes to modernize the regulatory system for all health professions to strengthen oversight, increase transparency in the complaints and disciplinary process, and cut the number of colleges.
"I believe we need, in the 21st century, health professional colleges that are focused on the public interest, and the changes we've made in terms of governance and oversight will improve that situation, not just for patients but for people in the regulated professions as well," he said at a news conference.
Dix launched a system-wide review of the regulatory colleges in April 2019 following the release of a report that concluded the College of Dental Surgeons of BC was more focused on protecting the interests of dentists over the public.
The report by Harry Cayton, a regulatory administrative expert commissioned by the Health Ministry, made 21 recommendations.
Dix gave the College of Dental Surgeons 30 days to improve accountability to the public, prompting the college to state it was in the process of addressing the recommendations when Cayton's report was released.
Dix said the committee, which includes Liberal health critic Norm Letnick and Green health critic Sonia Furstenau, is recommending broad changes to modernize the regulatory system for all health professions.
The reduction of professional colleges from 20 to six will ensure some of the smaller colleges are able to offer more complete services to the public and its members by amalgamating with larger colleges, he said. Dix said the nurses have more than 60,000 members while the midwives have 379 members and the denturists have 268 members in their college.
"We're asking people to work together in health care, but the shift to more and more separated health colleges was not consistent with that," he said. "In fact, it was becoming more diffuse, not more team-based. This is a significant change from 20 to six. I think it makes the system more efficient."
Health regulations set and enforce the standards of professional behaviour, competence and ethics of the daily interactions health professionals have with patients, Dix said.
A survey released with the review report found overwhelming support for regulatory modernization among health professionals and members of the public.
The survey, conducted from November 2019 to January 2020, found 90 per cent or more support for regulations ensuring college board members are appointed on merit and competence, and that colleges place public interest and patient safety ahead of professional interest.
The committee's recommendations must still be approved by the provincial cabinet.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2020.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press