The College’s Role When a Patient has been Sexually Abused
In the province of Ontario, physiotherapists as healthcare providers are not allowed to:
- have sexual intercourse or other forms of physical sexual relations with a patient,
- touch a patient in a sexual way, or
- engage in behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature directed towards a patient
That being said “sexual nature” does not include touching, behaviour or remarks of a clinical nature appropriate to the service provided.
The College may learn that a patient has been sexually abused from the patient themselves, a family member, another health care provider or an employer or colleague of a physiotherapist. Sometimes the College may also learn of this information through other sources.
When the College receives a complaint from the patient or another individual expressing concern that a physiotherapist has or may have sexually abused a patient, the physiotherapist is notified and asked to provide a response to the complaint which is then shared with the patient or the person who filed the complaint. If more information is needed, an investigation will be initiated. The information gathered through the investigation is then considered by a panel of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC). The panel includes a balanced mix of physiotherapists and non physiotherapists who are members of the public.
Access additional information about the complaints process.
Another way that the College can learn that a physiotherapist may be sexually abusing a patient is through a mandatory report. In Ontario, regulated health care providers must file a mandatory report if they suspect that another regulated health care provider has sexually abused a patient. The report is made to the regulatory College of the “abuser”. Contact information for each of the health regulatory Colleges is below.
Health Regulatory Colleges in Ontario
»College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario
»College of Chiropodists of Ontario
»College of Chiropractors of Ontario
»College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario
»Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario
»College of Dental Technologists of Ontario
»College of Denturists of Ontario
»College of Dietitians of Ontario
»College of Massage Therapists of Ontario
»College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario
»College of Medical Radiation Technologists of Ontario
»College of Midwives of Ontario
»The Transitional Council of the College of Naturopaths of Ontario
»College of Nurses of Ontario
»College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario
»College of Opticians of Ontario
»College of Optometrists of Ontario
»Ontario College of Pharmacists
»College of Physiotherapists of Ontario
»College of Psychologists of Ontario
»College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario
»The Transitional Council of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario
Where mandatory reports or complaints are received by the College it is most helpful if the patient involved is willing to work with the College and assist with the investigation. The College appreciates that this could be very difficult for the patient in question and the College will do whatever it can to support the patient throughout the process.
At the conclusion of the investigation process, the panel can make several different decisions in order to address the concerns that have been brought to its attention and the information obtained during the investigation.
In reviewing the information before them, a panel may feel that the actions of the physiotherapist were so serious that a referral to the Discipline Committee for a public hearing is warranted. Decisions of prior discipline cases held at the College can be viewed in the section titled Discipline and Fitness to Practicse hearings on the website. Where the available information does not support such a referral, the panel may dispose of the matter in other ways.
Funding for Therapy and Counselling
In Ontario, each health regulatory College is required to have a program to provide funding for therapy and counselling for patients who were sexually abused by members of that College. The Patient Relations Committee of the College determines eligibility and administers funding.