Letter to the Editor - Subject: Bill 41: Health Professions Statutes Amendments Act, 2007

    EDMONTON, Oct. 3 /CNW/ - On behalf of Alberta's regulatory bodies for
registered nursing, medicine and pharmacy, representing more than 40,000
health professionals, we'd like to help the public understand the impact of
Bill 41 - recently proposed legislation that threatens the ability of our
professions to self-regulate.
    Bill 41 would allow the Minister of Health or Cabinet to make unilateral
changes to how our Colleges operate without going to the Legislative Assembly
or seeking public input. This means the Minister could change standards of
practice, bylaws, codes of ethics or regulations without research or
consultation. There is no requirement in Bill 41 for transparency or due
process and no direction on how public opinion would be incorporated into
government decision making.
    We recognize the Minister of Health and Wellness must have the ability to
address public health issues and we support the proposed mandatory public
health reporting mechanism introduced in Bill 41. This process will strengthen
the role of the medical officer of health and reinforces professional
responsibility with respect to infection control. It also clarifies that
employees or agents of a health regulator must report public health concerns,
a point not clear in previous legislation.
    However, we question whether it is appropriate to have the standards of
practice and ethical conduct for pharmacists, physicians and registered nurses
being decided in the political arena rather than in the realm of our
professional expertise. Our organizations have a long history of collaborative
problem-solving with the Alberta government and believe this relationship
would be severely affected by the changes proposed.
    Self-regulation is a privilege granted to professions by the public
through their publicly-elected representatives. We in the professions of
nursing, pharmacy and medicine take this responsibility very seriously. For
nearly a century, pharmacists, physicians and registered nurses in Alberta
have been self-regulated. The standards of practice, codes of ethics and
disciplinary processes we have set through our professional Colleges are very
exacting because we feel a collective ownership for our colleagues' conduct
and for the care of their patients. Self-regulation also ensures that members
of our professions are competent when they enter practice and maintain their
competence throughout their careers.
    Professionally-led regulation, which includes the input of our councils'
public members, is free of political influences that often constrain
government-led regulation. The public benefits because our purpose is to serve
Albertans' best interests by ensuring health-care professionals in our
jurisdictions practice safely, competently and ethically.
    We are deeply concerned about the dangers inherent in Bill 41 without the
safeguard of required public or legislative debate, particularly when there is
no necessity for the amendments. We recommend that government remove these
provisions from Bill 41 and instead focus on bringing all health professions
under the enhanced provisions for transparency and accountability of the
Health Professions Act.

    Margaret Hadley, RN, MN
    College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta

    Trevor W. Theman, MD, FRCSC
    College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta

    Dianne Donnan, BSc. Pharm.
    Alberta College of Pharmacists

For further information:

For further information: Margaret Ward-Jack, Tel: (780) 453-0515/Cell:
(780) 932-1376

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College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta

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