In August 2013, the illegal activities of a man pretending to be a dentist captured the public’s attention.
A member of the public had complained to the College of Dental Surgeons of BC (CDSBC) after receiving treatment from this imposter in an operatory he had set up in his home. This complaint triggered an aggressive investigation by CDSBC to protect people who had sought treatment from him.
In British Columba, all dentists must be registered with CDSBC, the regulatory body responsible for ensuring that registrants – real dentists – have a dental degree. Health professionals must also adhere to codes of ethics and standards of practice, and meet other stringent requirements.
Health profession regulators investigate complaints against their registrants. The regulator, not by taxpayers, pays for these investigations and legal action taken.
The CDSBC hired a private investigator to gather evidence and secured a court order for a search and seizure of the illegal dentist’s property. They discovered this individual was performing dentistry on about 1,500 people and was not properly sterilizing tools and equipment.
As he had gone into hiding, the CDSBC offered a reward for information leading to his arrest and applied to the Supreme Court of B.C. to get a permanent injunction to stop this imposter from practising dentistry.
In another high profile case, two individuals working at a clinic described themselves as naturopathic physicians and were giving injections to patients. Providing the injections constituted unauthorized practice under the Health Professions Act (HPA) as they were not registered with a health professional college – the College of Naturopathic Physicians of BC (CNPBC).
The CNPBC investigated them and received an agreement from them that they would not themselves forward as naturopathic physicians again.
Unfortunately, they continued to mislead the public by advertising they were naturopathic physicians, and they performed activities restricted to regulated health professionals under the HPA, putting patients at risk.
The CNPBC applied to the Supreme Court of BC for an order to permanently stop these two individuals from endangering the public further. The CNPBC was successful in obtaining a Consent Order and undertaking from the two individuals such that they cannot use titles reserved to naturopathic doctors nor can they perform restricted activities.
Fortunately, these situations are rare, but when they occur, they can be extremely dangerous.
Regulated health professionals want to act in the best interests of the public and must do so as required by the Health Professions Act. Regulation itself makes sure that the public’s best interest is always served.
Anyone can conduct a search through an online directory to confirm that the practitioner they want to seek treatment from is registered by checking the regulator’s website. A full list can be found on www.bchealthregulators.ca.
Cynthia Johansen is co-chair of the Health Profession Regulators of BC, 23 regulatory colleges formed to increase awareness of colleges and the role of health professionals in public safety and quality assurance.