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, and incited country-wide media attention.
In BC, dentists must be registered with the CDSBC, the regulatory body responsible for ensuring that registrants – real dentists – have a dental degree. Health professionals, including dentists, 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 cost of these investigations and legal action taken is paid for by the regulator, not by taxpayers.
The College of Dental Surgeons of BC 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 that this individual was performing dentistry on about 1,500 people and was not properly sterilizing tools and equipment. Due to these conditions, the CDSBC worked with Fraser Health Authority to issue a public health alert asking anyone who had received treatment from him to get tested for Hepatitis B and C, and HIV. As he had gone into hiding, the CDSBC offered a reward for information leading to his arrest and also applied to the Supreme Court of BC 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 the individuals were not registered with a health professional college – in this case, the College of Naturopathic Physicians of BC (CNPBC). The CNPBC investigated these individuals and received an agreement from them that they would not call themselves, or put themselves forward as naturopathic physicians again.
Unfortunately, the two individuals continued to mislead the public by advertising that they were actual naturopathic physicians. As well, they performed activities that are 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.
These are examples of how health profession regulators work every day to protect the public from individuals who pose as regulated health professionals but who are, in fact, not registered or authorized to practice. Fortunately, these situations are rare, but when they do occur, they can be extremely dangerous.
Regulated health professionals not only want to act in the best interests of the public, they must act in the best interests of the public as required by law. In British Columbia, the law that governs regulated health professionals is called the Health Professions Act. Protection from unauthorized practice is a priority for every regulated health profession, including physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists and all of 26 health professions regulated by the Health Professions Act. Regulation itself makes sure that the public’s best interest is always served.
Each of these regulated health professions has a website where the public can conduct a search through an online directory to confirm that the practitioner they want to seek treatment from is registered with their respective health profession regulator. For a full list of all health profession regulators in the province www.bchealthregulators.ca