May 27, 2011

HPRB: Review Board can determine College’s jurisdiction on whether issues are matters of professional conduct or competence

Administrative Law
Health Professions Review Board
Inquiry and Investigations
Professional Regulation

Where an inquiry committee of a college under the BC Health Professions Act summarily dismisses a complaint, on the basis the college lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint (e.g., a financial dispute between the parties), the Health Professions Review Board (the “Review Board”) has jurisdiction to review that summary dismissal decision, precisely because the college may be wrong in deciding its falls outside matters listed in s. 33(4) of the Act.

This review decision concerned a decision of the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia (the “College”) summarily dismissing a complaint arising from a dispute between a complainant and a registrant. [3] The College responded to the complaint stating in part “[t]he College has no authority to resolve financial disputes between a dentist and a patient or to provide any kind of compensation”. [4] The College informed the complainant the complaint concerned a financial matter, and the College had no jurisdiction to investigate it. [4] In seeking review, the complainant was not seeking compensation; rather the complaint concerned a “moral and ethical issue” that they wished to be addressed by the College, [5] and the complainant sought for the College to investigate the business standards and ethics of the Registrant. The complainant was concerned that the Registrant “did not act in good faith, was not fair or reasonable in assigning his fees for service […], and was not truthful and transparent in communicating his costs before, during or after treatment.” [5]

The Review Board sought submissions on its jurisdiction to hear the complaint [6]. The complainant asserted the complaint involved “arbitrary and unethical billing practices” as a basis for Review Board jurisdiction. [7] The College argued the Inquiry Committee made no disposition of a complaint subject to review under s. 50.53(1)(c) of the Act since the complaint was not accepted for investigation. [8]

The Review Board found the Inquiry Committee’s summary dismissal jurisdiction arose from HPA section 32(3)(b). The Act specifically contemplated review of dispositions under s. 32(3), pursuant to section 50.53(c). [14] This review jurisdiction arose from the potential for the College to be incorrect in deciding a complaint falls outside its jurisdiction. [14]

The Review Board provided the College and the complainant opportunity to make further submissions under a set timeline, clarifying that if the complainant is successful, the matter would be remitted to the College for investigation. [18-20]

Complainant v. College of Dental Surgeons of BC, HPRB Decision No. 2010-HPA-0185(b) (February 17, 2011)