As the registering and regulating body for pharmacy professionals in the province, the Ontario College of Pharmacists mandate is to serve and protect the public. As a patient who has made an allegation of sexual abuse, we understand that coming forward to share your experience can be extremely difficult and stressful.
The College has adopted a zero-tolerance philosophy when it comes to sexual abuse of a patient by a regulated pharmacy professional.
Any report of sexual abuse by a regulated pharmacy professional is taken very seriously. We want to help you understand why reporting an allegation of sexual abuse is important and what you can expect when you do.
Who is a regulated pharmacy professional?
A regulated pharmacy professional is a pharmacist or pharmacy technician who is a registrant of the College and is expected to follow the College’s Boundary Violations and Sexual Abuse Policy.
Definition – What is “Sexual Abuse of a Patient”?
Sexual abuse of a patient by a regulated pharmacy professional is defined as:
- Sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual relations between a regulated pharmacy professional and the patient;
- Touching of a sexual nature, of the patient by a regulated pharmacy professional; or
- Behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature, by a regulated pharmacy professional towards the patient.
What should you expect when you contact the College?
The College’s mandate is to protect the public. Sexual abuse of a patient is a serious ethical and legal violation by a regulated pharmacy professional.
When you contact the College, a staff member will provide you with details about how to share your information and ask for your contact information. You cannot provide information anonymously. You may choose to file a formal complaint.
If you agree, a College investigator will contact you to explain the process further and answer any questions you may have. The College investigator will ask to meet with you for an audio-recorded interview at your convenience. The College investigator will ask you to describe the details of your experience with the pharmacy professional involved. They will ask you to share any documents or other evidence you have related to your concerns such as emails, text messages, audio/video recordings and photographs. Any information you share will form part of the College’s investigation.
You have shared your information with the College. Now what?
The College investigator will gather additional information which may include interviewing witnesses and collecting supporting documents. The results of the College’s investigation will be reported to the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC). College staff prioritize these investigations.
What is the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) and what does it do?
The ICRC is the College committee responsible for reviewing investigations of complaints and reports. It is comprised of pharmacy professionals and public appointees.
The ICRC conducts a thorough review of the results of each investigation and decides one or more of the following outcomes:
- Take no action
- Issue advice/recommendations to the pharmacy professional
- Require the pharmacy professional to appear before a panel of the ICRC to be cautioned
- Require the pharmacy professional to undergo specified continuing education or remediation
- Refer the pharmacy professional to another panel of the ICRC to conduct health inquiries
- Refer specified allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence to the Discipline Committee for a hearing
If you filed a formal complaint, a copy of the decision will be provided to you.
How will you know the outcome of the investigation?
If you filed a formal complaint, you will receive a copy of the ICRC’s decision.
Certain outcomes are posted to the College’s public register. For example, if the ICRC requires the pharmacy professional to attend for a caution or to undergo remediation, a summary of that decision will be posted to the public register. If the ICRC makes a referral to the Discipline Committee, information about their referral will be posted to the public register. The information posted on the public register contains no personal identifying information. You can check the College’s public register at any time to see if such information has been posted about the pharmacy professional.
What does it mean if the ICRC makes a referral to the Discipline Committee?
This means that the ICRC has serious concerns about the pharmacy professional’s conduct and has referred their concerns to the Discipline Committee to conduct a hearing and decide on the outcome. Discipline Committee hearings are held publicly, like a courtroom.
This also means that you could be called as a witness to participate at the hearing. You would be contacted by the College investigator or the College’s legal counsel if you are required to attend the hearing.
What can you expect during a hearing?
The Chair of the Discipline Committee appoints a panel to conduct the hearing. The panel is comprised of pharmacy professionals and public appointees.
Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, it may be necessary for you to be a witness and give testimony. If this happens, the College’s legal counsel will be in touch with you in advance of the hearing.
The College will do everything possible to support the prosecution of your case throughout the hearing. The College’s legal counsel, while acting in the public interest as they carry out their duties, cannot represent you. If you feel you need legal advice, you may wish to obtain your own lawyer.
Are you eligible for funding for therapy and counselling?
The Regulated Health Professions Act requires the College to establish a program to provide funding for therapy and counselling for a person who, while a patient, was sexually abused by a pharmacy professional.
A patient can apply for funding through the College’s Patient Relations Program to help pay for therapy or counselling services at any time after the College has received a report or a formal complaint of sexual abuse of a patient by a pharmacy professional. Funding for therapy and counselling is provided directly to the patient’s therapist.
You can learn more about applying for funding for therapy and counselling through the College’s website.