Need to Know
This issue of ex.press contains several ‘Need to Know’ items for you, including:
- New Updated information on what you need to do when reporting breaches of patient’s private information (See Practice Advice)
- Members whose College registration has been suspended or revoked (See Registration)
- What new information concerning you as a member of CASLPO must be posted on the Public Register (See Complaints and Hearings)
- How you can be elected to serve on the governing Council of CASLPO (See College Updates) and how you can become a Peer Assessor and how it can improve your own practice and that of your colleagues (See Quality Assurance)
- How public members of the College Council bring their perspective to the table in making decisions that affect your practice and serve the public interest (See Feature Article)
To find out more about these and other topics, I encourage you to review all of the articles in this issue.
Ontario Health Regulators Launched a New Video
Ontario Health Regulators launched a new video for the public. Watch the video here.
CASLPO continues to work collaboratively with Ontario’s other 25 health Colleges through its participation in the Federation of Health Regulatory Colleges of Ontario (FHRCO). CASLPO is part of the Ontario Health Regulators’ (OHR) public awareness effort including development of a new public website, a one-stop gateway to the websites of all 26 health regulators in Ontario.
From the website, the public can find the most trustworthy, relevant, and up-to-date information about the colleges and the health professionals they regulate.
The new video, supports the new OHR website developed to enable patients to easily find reliable information about their health care professionals. Please share this widely.
Click to access the following services from each of the 26 regulatory colleges all from one place:
- Learn your rights as a health consumer
- Find a regulated healthcare professional
- Get help on how to file a complaint about your healthcare professional
The new video is posted on the OHR website landing page. ontariohealthregulators.ca
For more information, Visit ontariohealthregulators.ca
College Council Committees
A great deal of the work of Council takes place at the Committee level. On the recommendation of the Executive Committee, Council each year approves the composition of the nine other Committees of Council:
- Inquiries, complaints and Reports Committee
- Fitness to Practice
- Patient Relations
- Quality Assurance
- Audiology Practice
- Speech-Language Pathology Practice
To see the current composition of the Committees for 2017-18, click here.
Committees feature a balance of professional members (AUDs and SLPs), public members, academics and non-Council professional members. Committee terms are for one year and Committees elect their own chairs.
Newly Elected Council Professional Members
New Council members, Karen Bright (SLP, District 3, Eastern Ontario) and Kim Eskritt (AUD, District 1, Southwestern Ontario) were welcomed to Council.
Annual Budget Approved for 2017-18.
The College budget for 2017-18 was approved following a detailed review by the Finance Committee. The budget reflects a set of financial principles approved by Council several years ago. To view the 2017-18 budget, see the December 8, 2017 Council package; item 10.3.
Withdrawal of the Position Statement on Equipment Servicing Requirements by Audiologists
Council decided to withdraw the above Position Statement, as its content is reflected in many other College practice standard documents.
College Annual Report for 2016
The Annual Report for 2016 was approved and subsequently transmitted to the Minister of Health and Long-Term care as required by the Regulated Health Professions Act. To view the 2016 Annual Report, please click here.
Auditor’s Report for 2016-17
Council approved the 2016-17 Auditor’s Report of the College’s management of its financial resources. Blair MacKenzie of Hillborn LLP noted that the College obtained a clean audit. This demonstrates that it is being ran in a sound and accountable way. Hillborn LLP was re-appointed as the Auditors for 2017-18.
CASLPO Council Education Day - Certificate of Appreciation Presentations
September 27, 2017
At CASLPO’s recent Council Education Day, individuals were honoured for their outstanding service and achievements that have helped to shape our work and influence our direction.
Deb served as an Audiologist member of Council from District 3 (Southwestern Ontario) over two terms, from 2011 to 2017. She served as Vice-President, Audiology and chaired the Audiology Practice Advisory Committee. She also served on, and chaired, the Discipline Committee. She recently served as President of Council, guiding it through challenging circumstances involving putting in place new governance and respect in the workplace policies, which are real legacy items.
Whatever she took on, and no matter the circumstances, Deb always managed to guide CASLPO effectively and constructively in a very calm, thoughtful, poised and assured way. Deb was thanked for her strong leadership and guidance. A certificate of recognition of her dedicated and valued service as a Council member and President of Council was presented. Deb’s many contributions to the work of the College in serving and protecting the public interest is greatly appreciated.
Josée served with distinction on Council for five years as our Academic Audiologist member from the University of Ottawa. Josée served on several Committees of Council, including, Registration, Inquiries, Complaints and Reports and Audiology Practice Advisory. Her strong academic background, sound judgement, good humour and attention to detail always greatly enhanced any discussion or decision. Josée was thanked for her distinguished service on Council. In recognition of her contributions to the College in serving and protecting the public interest, a certificate of appreciation was presented.
Judy served as a member of Council from District 1, Eastern Ontario, and served on the Executive Committee, including a term as Vice-President-Speech Language Pathology. Unfortunately, Judy had to give her regrets and was not able to be present, but her certificate was sent to her in recognition of her leadership and service on Council.
Mary Cook, Executive Director of OSLA
(The Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists)
Back almost 8 years ago, CASLPO was welcoming the appointment of a new Registrar, and at about the same time, OSLA was announcing the appointment of Mary Cook as its new Executive Director. It signalled a new era for both organizations. In the case of OSLA, Mary introduced many new and innovative services and products, and provided outstanding leadership to the organization. The regulatory College and the professional association have two very distinct roles to play. By their very nature, they might not always agree with each other. But, in the interests of the professionals in the field, it is beneficial for the two organizations to cooperate in appropriate ways with each other.
This kind of cooperation, to the mutual benefit of both organizations, is a real testament to Mary’s effective, steady leadership, political acuity and hard work. In addition, Mary has attended as an observer at virtually every meeting of Council over the last 8 years.
In addition, Mary has never hesitated to pick up the phone to provide, or take, advice from CASLPO staff and Presidents over the years. Mary has left OSLA in good shape for her successor, Kyle Johansen. Council was very pleased to present a certificate to Mary “in recognition of outstanding contributions in her role as Executive Director of OSLA in assisting the College to fulfill its mandate and objects relating to the regulation of the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology in Ontario and for her many meritorious achievements in service to the professions.”
Another important presentation was made involving a
CASLPO Staff member Colleen Myrie
In 2019, CASLPO will be celebrating 25 years as a regulatory College. That will be quite a milestone. However, we are also privileged to recognize another very significant milestone. For 20 years, there has been one great constant for the College – it’s Director of Registration Services, Colleen Myrie. Hard to believe that she started with us in 1997. Colleen has always focussed throughout her career on how to do her job better. She has introduced many improvements and innovations, including the introduction of on-line registration and payment improvements. Currently, she is overseeing a revamp of the College mentorship program. Colleen has had to adjust to many changes in the registration area resulting from provincial legislation, such as the establishment of the Office of the Fairness Commissioner and labour mobility provisions. She has developed changes in our Registration Regulation and drafted many new policies. She has participated in countless Registration Committee meetings and visits each year to graduating students in the University programs in Ontario. She has spoken with hundreds of applicants to the College and literally thousands of members over the years. She always does her job with great dedication, and in a thoroughly professional, patient and courteous way. Colleen was presented a certificate in recognition of 20 years of dedicated and exemplary service as a staff member of the College.
Upcoming 2018 CASLPO Council Election for Professional Members
Coming this March, Nominations will open for four (4) seats on the CASLPO Council, and we would like to encourage our members to consider putting their own name on the ballot, or nominating a fellow member to run! Council members make important decisions that affect our members’ practice, and how Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists are regulated in Ontario.
This spring, there are two seats in District 2 (Central), one seat in District 4 (North-West), and one seat in District 5 (North-East).
The Council establishes CASLPO’s strategic direction and the outcomes that will lead self-regulation forward in the interest of the public.
Nominations for Council open Friday, March 9, 2018 with an election date of Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Newly elected members will typically attend the next Council meeting, scheduled for June 8, 2018.
Please consider nominating yourself or a peer to stand for election to CASLPO Council!
OSLA Conference – Starting and Growing a Thriving SLP Practice
On September 15th, 2017 CASLPO offered a presentation to members who attended the Ontario Association of Speech- Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) conference on Starting and Growing a Thriving SLP Practice.
The presentation focused on the principles and standards that are relevant to our members in private practice. Main topics included records, advertising, support personnel, conflict of interest and consent. Interactive scenarios and polling questions were appreciated and engaged the membership.
The College also displayed a booth at the ‘roundhouse’ of tables during lunch and scheduled breaks.
Various resources were made available to members at the booth including: a website site-map, brochures in both official languages, practice advice articles, and annual reports. College staff welcomed members to the booth to say hello and to ask questions. Staff were pleased to meet members in-person, answer questions and direct members to useful resources.
The chocolate bowl may have helped to draw in the crowd...
Bill 160, the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act, 2017 was passed by the Ontario Legislature in December 2017. The legislation makes sweeping changes in many aspects of health care delivery, including long-term care homes and retirement homes, ambulance and mental health services and medical radiation and imaging.
As well, it requires pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to disclose payments made to health care professionals and organizations. Such payments would include meals and hospitality, travel expenses, financial grants, continuing education programs, attendance at conferences and possibly other benefits. A comprehensive list of reportable transfers of value will be defined in regulations which could be posted this spring. It is very likely that those companies which manufacture devices such as hearing aids will be included in the regulatory framework. The information provided by the manufacturers to the Ministry will be made available in a publicly available on-line searchable database. Such databases already are in place in the Unites States and several European jurisdictions.
It is expected that the regulations will cover all health care professionals. The minimum value of transfers will be set out in the regulations. A government secretariat with powers of inspection and enforcement compliance will be established. Penalties for non-compliance will range from$10,000 to $100,000.
Both manufacturers providing transfer benefits and perks and the health care professionals receiving them will have to evaluate carefully their relationships. The Ministry believes patients should be fully informed about the relationships between medical device manufacturers and health care professionals.
CASLPO has begun discussions about how we can keep members best informed about these new transparency laws and provisions and what members should be considering in terms of the impacts on their own practices.
Audiology Advisor and Manager of Mentorship
Reporting Privacy Breaches
Samidha Joglekar, Audiology Advisor & Manager of Mentorship
Sarah Chapman-Jay, Practice & Quality Assurance Advisor
Alex Carling, Director of Professional Practice and Quality Assurance
Health information custodians (HICs) are required to report privacy breaches to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) and certain breaches to the College. Agents must notify the HIC at the first reasonable opportunity if there has been a privacy breach.
This article will help you understand your reporting responsibilities.
How do I know if I am a HIC or an agent? Read this…
You are required to keep your patients’ personal health information (PHI) safe, and confidential. IPC provides useful resources on how to safeguard PHI, including:
Insurance companies and the IPC have highlighted cyber security as a concern. If you have electronic records or use cloud storage you are encouraged to consult with information technology experts to ensure secure storage, retention and appropriate destruction of PHI.
WHEN TO NOTIFY THE IPC OF A SECURITY BREACH
To improve the protection and privacy of PHI, the Ontario government has made changes to the Personal Health Information and Protection Act. As of October 1st, 2017, HICs and, if appropriate, agents must report breaches to the IPC in seven different categories. The categories are not mutually exclusive; more than one can apply to a single privacy breach. If at least one of the situations applies, you or the HIC must make a report.
SEVEN TRIGGERS TO NOTIFY THE IPC
1) A person used or disclosed PHI without authority
When the person committing the breach knew, or ought to have known, that their actions were not permitted.
2) PHI was stolen
This could include stolen paper records, or a stolen laptop or other electronic device. You do not need to notify the Commissioner if stolen information was properly de-identified or encrypted.
3) A subsequent breach flows from an initial breach
Following an initial privacy breach, you become aware that the information was or will be further disclosed without authority.
4) Pattern of similar breaches over time
A pattern of similar breaches either at a similar time during the day or by a group of health professionals may reflect a systemic issue that needs to be addressed.
5) Disciplinary action against a College member in connection a breach
The duty to report to the College also triggers a duty to notify the Commissioner.
Where an employee or agent of a HIC is a member of a college you must notify the Commissioner of a privacy breach if:
- You terminate, suspend, or discipline a member as a result of the breach
- The member resigns related to the breach
- You revoke, suspend, or restrict the member’s privileges or affiliation as a result of the breach
- The member relinquishes or voluntarily restricts their privileges or affiliation and this is related to the breach
6) Disciplinary action against a non-college member
Even if the employee is not a College member (e.g., CDA or HIS/HIP), you must still notify the Commissioner in the same circumstances that would have triggered notification to the College.
7) The breach was significant
Use your professional judgement and consider all relevant circumstances, including whether:
- The information is sensitive
- The breach involves a large volume of information
- The breach involves many individuals’ information
- More than one custodian or agent was responsible for the breach
TRY THIS QUIZ!
Which triggers apply to the scenarios below? Remember, more than one trigger can apply. All 7 triggers are covered in the scenarios below.
An Audiologist accidentally e-mails a patient report to a group e-mail distribution list. The information in the report includes sensitive details about the patient’s mental health.
An SLP’s laptop is stolen. The laptop is not encrypted and has patient files that include personal health information such as clients’ names, addresses, and details about their health history.
An SLP working in a hospital accesses an ex-spouse’s medical history for no work-related purpose.
A manager of an SLP department notices that certain patient files are accessed every day around 10:00am. The patients whose files are being accessed are not receiving SLP services.
An audiologist accesses a hospital database to find patients with hearing loss and then passes this information to companies that will market services to those patients.
The manager of the audiology and speech therapy department terminates the audiologist for the PHI breach in scenario 5 and reports this to CASLPO.
A CDA has an unpleasant encounter with a patient and posts identifying information about the patient on social media. The post is viewed by 52 people. The SLP then suspends the CDA and restricts privileges.
WHEN TO NOTIFY THE COLLEGE:
You must notify the College as well as the IPC if:
- An employee is terminated, suspended or subject to disciplinary action as a result of the unauthorized collection, use, disclosure, retention or disposal of personal health information by the employee.
- An employee resigns and the HIC has reasonable grounds to believe that the resignation is related to an investigation or other action by the custodian with respect to an alleged unauthorized collection, use, disclosure, retention or disposal of personal health information by the employee.
The workplace carries out the initial investigation. The individuals (patients or substitute decision makers) affected by the breach need to be notified by the member/workplace. You need to inform the College and the IPC of the disciplinary action within 30 days. Individuals will be fined $100,000 for a privacy breach. Organisations will be fined $500,000 for a privacy breach.
TAKE AWAY MESSAGE:
- Have a Privacy Breach Plan – The plan should be anticipatory not reactionary. How you handle the breach can be more significant to the public than the breach itself.
- Make sure everyone on your team knows about the plan and their role
- Document the breach
Reporting a Privacy Breach to the Commissioner
Preventing and Managing Privacy Breaches
Communicating Personal Health Information by Email
Annual Reporting of Privacy Breach Statistics to the Commissioner
Detecting and Deterring unauthorized access to personal health information
PHIPA Frequently Asked Questions
Scenario 1: 7
Scenario 2: 2, 7
Scenario 3: 1
Scenario 4: 1, 3, 4
Scenario 5: 1, 3, 7
Scenario 6: 5
Scenario 7: 1, 3 ,6, 7
Membership Suspensions and Revocations
Director of Registration Services
The Health Professions Procedural Code of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 requires information about suspended members to be made available to the public by each regulatory college.
The following individuals are currently under suspension for failing to pay their annual fees for 2017/2018 in accordance with section 24 of the Code:
Audiology Certificates Suspended
Speech-Language Pathology Certificates Suspended
While under suspension:
- The individual is not permitted to practice as an audiologist or as a speech-language pathologist in Ontario.
- The individual is prohibited from using the titles "audiologist", "speech-language pathologist" or "speech therapist" or a variation or abbreviation or an equivalent in another language in Ontario.
- The individual is prohibited from holding himself or herself out as a person who is qualified to practice as an audiologist or a speech-language pathologist in Ontario.
- The College will inform the individual's last employer on record of the individual's suspension.
- A notation of the suspension appears indefinitely in the College's public register.
In addition, the following certificates were revoked for failing to pay the annual fees for 2016/2017 in accordance with section 26 of Ontario Regulation 21/12:
Speech-Language Pathology Certificates revoked
Van den Hoven
After a certificate has been revoked:
- A notation of the revocation appears indefinitely in the College's public register.
The former member must satisfy the following requirements for reinstatement to the College:
- The former member must pay any applicable fees and penalties required by the by-laws.
- The former member must satisfy the Registrar that he or she has corrected the deficiency or deficiencies that provided the grounds for the revocation of his or her certificate.
- The former member must meet all of the requirements in force for the class of certificate of registration being reinstated on the day that the former member submitted their new application to the Registrar.
Written by Annette McLeod
The Path To Becoming A Peer Assessor In Conversation With Karen Halvorson
Speech-Language Pathologist Karen Halvorson of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Thunder Bay, Ont., readily sums up her favourite part of being a Peer Assessor for the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario (CASLPO): “It’s the people. The members and the College staff have made it worthwhile,” she says.
Peer Assessors can apply for the role after undergoing the assessment process from the other side. When Karen was assessed, it was a result of being randomly selected from among the membership; in her case, she says it was in the first round of selections more than a decade ago.
“Nobody knew then what it was really about,” she says, admitting that especially in the early days, some members were a little anxious. “But I had a good experience. I think it’s important that members understand that the process is developmental and supportive, not punitive.”
Her experience was so good, in fact, that she decided to apply to become a Peer Assessor herself. As with self-assessment, peer assessment is a requirement for being a member of CASLPO, which means there’s always a demand for peer assessors. Members who are interested in becoming a Peer Assessor themselves can volunteer to be assessed in order to meet the eligibility requirement. “At the College, we want to help speech-language pathologists and audiologists meet the standards,” she says. “It’s never intended to be a negative, but rather we try to help when members need improvement — we want them to succeed.”
An assessment starts with the Peer Assessor’s being provided with information from the College on their matched member, something that used to involve binders and paper trails, but these days is completed online. Then a day-long site visit is scheduled to meet with the member in their workplace.
The Quality Assurance Committee reviews the reports and if a member needs help to meet a standard, the Committee decides what further actions the member should take to help them meet the standard.
“We all adhere to certain standards, so we do have to show evidence that we’re following them,” she says. “Those standards are reviewed during the site visit, and any questions we had about the information we received are asked at that time.” Site visits generally take a full day, with an extensive exchange of information and a lot of discussion.
“Because we sit down for a full day with another member and go through their practice and how they’re dealing with the challenges, and how they meet the standards and guidelines set out by CASLPO, we get a really good understanding of the member,” Karen notes.
"Managers of the environments in which the members work are aware of her mandate and co-operate as required by legislation", she says, although she has found that some are stricter than others on matters such as reviewing policies on confidentiality. With growing familiarity of the peer assessment process, and knowing its importance in helping CASLPO uphold its mandate to help ensure adherence to professional standards, she has always felt comfortable.
“Speech-Language Pathologist is a protected title,” she notes. “We need to welcome the process in order for members to use the title.” It’s an important distinction, and she lauds the College for its work in general and the peer assessment process in particular. “It protects the public,” she says. “Before the College, anyone could call themselves a Speech-Language Pathologist, and we saw that happening in our community. We had other professionals that were performing services that really were under the scope of Speech-Language Pathologist.”
Karen’s diverse and extensive experience has made her a valuable asset, as the College matches peer assessors and members in the same field. “I’ve done every job there is, with children and with adults,” she says. “Because of that experience, I’m pretty flexible.”
“I like doing the peer assessment, and connecting with the other peer assessors,” she says. “Living in Thunder Bay, we’re a little isolated. It’s great to have met a number of others so that when I’m working, if there’s something I’m wondering about, for example about a patient with a head injury, I know someone in London who can help me. I’ve met and worked with a lot of clinicians. I feel I can connect the College with the members I assess. Sometimes, we think maybe we don’t have the resources here in Thunder Bay, but it’s great to see how people are dealing with the same issues around the province. There are times we can take some of their ideas and incorporate them into our work, too, just from seeing the way others deal with things.”
She adds that the resources CASLPO provides have proved valuable as well, including documents for review and webinars, which she and her hospital colleagues often participate in as a group. But for her, it always comes back to the people.
“They keep me energized — the people I work with, the members, the College staff, and all the other peer assessors from around the province I can connect with when there are challenges.”
The Peer Assessment process:
- Members must undergo an assessment before applying to become a Peer Assessor.
- Members are generally selected at random, but those interested in becoming a Peer Assessor can volunteer to be assessed.
- The College works with members participating in peer assessment to provide Peer Assessors with ample information about their practice.
- After reviewing the information provided, Peer Assessors schedule a full-day, on-site visit in the member’s workplace.
- During the on-site visit, further information is exchanged and members can ask any questions they may have.
- Peer Assessors report back to the College on how the members are meeting standards.
- The Peer Assessment process is designed to be supportive and help members adhere to the standards laid out by the College.
In addition to helping members adhere to CASLPO standards, one side benefit of the process is developing a network of knowledgeable peers throughout the province.
Are you taking advantage of everything the CASLPO website offers? Check out events including webinars and council meetings, as well as abundant resources including Practice Standards, and Legislation, Regulations & By-Laws. You’ll also find the archived issues of ex•press, annual reports, public information and more, all simply laid out for easy navigation.
To access the Peer Assessment Guide, click here.
Where Are We Going This Year?
Check back soon for new dates in your area and watch for eForum Webinar dates.
Complaints and Hearings
Bill 87: The Protecting Patients Act
Changes that are in effect as of May 30, 2017
The following additional information will be available and maintained on an audiologist’s or speech-language pathologist’s profile on the Public Register:
- To remain permanently – Cautions and Specified Continuing Educational or Remediation Programs (SCERPs) that are ordered by the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC);
- Specific allegations of every matter referred to the Discipline Committee that have not been fully resolved;
- If the Discipline Committee does not make a finding of professional misconduct or incompetence, the outcome will be posted on the Public Register for 90 days;
- Findings of incapacity; and
- The date the member dies.
The Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) can now order an interim suspension of a member when it first receives a complaint or as soon as it appoints an investigator. The Committee can do this if it feels that the member’s conduct or behaviour is likely to put patients at immediate/imminent risk. Historically, the Committee could only order an interim suspension when the investigation was complete.
ICRC and the Discipline Committee can no longer impose gender-based restrictions (e.g. a male member can only practice on male patients).
Touching of a sexual nature of a patient’s genitals, anus, breasts or buttocks will now result in mandatory revocation of a certificate of registration.
For findings of sexual abuse that do not result in revocation, the minimum penalty must include a suspension. Previously, the minimum penalty was a caution.
The fines for failing to report sexual abuse have increased to $50,000 for individuals and to $200,000 for corporations.
Future Changes that will Come into Effect
Patients who complain about sexual abuse by an audiologist or speech-language pathologist may seek funding for therapy or counselling at the time a complaint or report is received, rather than having to wait until the Discipline Committee makes a finding.
Sexual abuse includes conduct occurring within one year of the professional relationship ending. The government may set additional criteria to define who is “a patient” for the purposes of sexual abuse provisions.
New mandatory self-reporting obligations will include:
- Registration with all other regulatory bodies, and any findings of professional misconduct or incompetence (but not incapacity) made by those bodies; and
- All charges for an offence, and any resulting bail conditions or other restrictions.
Written by Annette McLeod
Public Members bring community perspective to CASLPO Council
Meet Melanie Moussa-Elaraby, CASLPO Council, Public Member
One of the biggest strengths of the governing Council of the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario (CASLPO) is that its members come from both within and outside of the health care sector; Council is comprised of nine elected professional members, two members from the university community, and up to seven public members such as Melanie Moussa-Elaraby. Public members bring a fresh perspective to the proceedings, while affording themselves an opportunity to give something back to their communities.
“My appointment is an opportunity to protect, serve and represent the public and be their collective voice,” says Ms. Moussa-Elaraby, a trained law clerk and now a writer by profession. “Being a publicly appointed member of Council is a privilege and a very high honour.”
Public Members of Council are appointed by the provincial government from a pool of applicants and often interviewed by phone, a vetting process she says took three to four months. She says her background made her a good fit for CASLPO, having worked at two other regulatory colleges before she made her career switch; she found their councils’ public members “fascinating.”
“I noticed it was a unique role that greatly appealed to my sense of advocacy for others,” she says. “Through my law clerk course, I had taken real estate and civil litigation, estates and business law; it made my sense of community advocacy even stronger.” While her role at CASLPO is a good fit, she notes that volunteers who find themselves attached to a council that doesn’t appear to suit them should let their government representatives know, but adds that those who find themselves in a sector they don’t think is of interest may be surprised. “As they get involved, they’ll find that it’s an interesting world,” she says. “People who want to make a difference do what they can to see that things are as they should be and that the public is protected.”
While Council proceedings are “rigorous,” as they deliberate every issue from all angles, she says experience has given her a wide lens. “Often, because I have been on both sides of the table, it fosters an insightful balance of perspectives,” she says. “The council’s elected professional members have been completely supportive when a task calls for a deeper understanding of issues within the sector.” She describes her CASLPO experience as consistently positive and collaborative.
Although she estimates it can take about a year for public members to “integrate comfortably into the flow of the work, depending on their background,” she notes that because the role is by definition to serve as a member of the public, she finds stepping out of her writing role into meetings and performance of her member duties seamless. “One really isn’t switching hats in their role as a Public Member of Council,” she says. “Protecting the public interest is first and foremost. In all instances, I keep that mandate and mission front and centre.”
As accustomed as she is to writing, reviewing and editing manuscripts, she says she hasn’t found the volume of documentation required by some committees too arduous, and says CASLPO staff have been “stellar” in their streamlining of the information presented, while maintaining its thoroughness. “Because we are making very consequential decisions, we always have all the relevant information to make an informed and fair decision, notwithstanding the amount of data.”
For anyone who might balk at the balancing act of integrating a role as a public member with their career and home life, Ms. Moussa-Elaraby notes that the degree of committee involvement can be adjusted to suit the individual. Meetings, training sessions and development opportunities are as carefully scheduled and widely spaced as possible to help volunteers from becoming overwhelmed.
Although effectively serving as a public member isn’t dependent on background or vocation, she says that the ability to stay organized is key. The decorum with which proceedings are conducted means that joining Council with an already-established comfort level with public speaking isn’t necessary, either. “We come from all walks of life,” she says. Respect for each member’s right to be heard and the expectation of fairness at every meeting means that even shy individuals will be comfortable and feel free to express their opinions.
“Diversity is key,” she says, so that the council represents all voices and demographics of the general public. The uniqueness of each member helps make Council stronger, and she says she’s never felt like she had to go along with the majority. “Sometimes I’m the devil’s advocate, and I think you have to bring some realism and be willing to stand up for your convictions. Everyone respects your opinions, even if you don’t agree with the group. We need that contrast.”
Ms. Moussa-Elaraby says she would encourage anyone considering applying for a role as a public member to do so. “At the conclusion of my tenure on council and as a committee member, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I positively imprinted the climate and direction of health care in Ontario,” she says. “I’m cognizant that I impacted the lives of scores of individuals to the best of my ability, exercising advocacy for public protection, integrity, fairness and unbiased decision-making. When something needed to return to the council and committee table, it did. I had a hand in grappling with some of the tougher issues and ensuring that they were dealt with using the utmost impartiality, honour and confidentiality; the public was protected.”
Ms. Moussa-Elaraby notes that sharing her experiences on Council through this article is a great opportunity to help CASLPO fulfill the main goal within its strategic plan: to increase the public’s awareness of the College and its members. It also helps both the public and professional members learn more about the important role appointed public members play on Council.
It doesn’t hurt that she’s having a great time, too. “Meetings are never boring, that’s for sure,” says Ms. Moussa-Elaraby. “They’re lively. We lighten up when appropriate. The issues are serious, but the way we approach them, examining it from all sides, can be really fun and fulfilling.”
Public Member Melanie Moussa-Elaraby says Council and Committee meetings are …
- Rigorous but fun
- Positive and collaborative
- Fair and unbiased
- Well organized
- Never boring!
Great reasons to become a Public Member of Council
- Give something back to the community
- Help protect the public interest
- Learn more about the issues facing the health care system
- Help ensure those issues are approached with fairness and impartiality
- Take advantage of training sessions and development opportunities
Thinking of volunteering as a Public Member? Volunteers are assigned to Council from a pool of applicants, a process that takes a few months. The provincial government will work with you to find a role that suits your background and abilities, but getting involved in an unfamiliar sector can prove a unique and interesting experience. Find out more on the Public Appointments Secretariat website.
Do you or your colleagues have a positive patient impact story to share?
Consider sharing an experience about either your practice setting, technology usage or innovative programs implemented. Email Lisa Gibson, Communications and Executive Office Manager for more information.