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Medical Matters: The one where we talk about CPSA’s Hearings Director’s office

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Medical Matters, October Messenger 2022 | Posted October 14, 2022
Read time: 3 minutes

My career has ruined television for me.

I haven’t been able to enjoy watching a legal drama since I became a lawyer, and I still can’t watch them to this day. The harsh realities of the law are very different from what’s portrayed on TV, and yelling at the actors through the screen to not directly hand documents to the judge is not an ideal way to spend my spare time (nor is it good for my blood pressure!).

When I entered the health sector to become CPSA’s Hearings Director in October 2021, medical shows also quickly became more than idle entertainment. Now, I’m not saying I can discern between a triple bypass and a colon resection, or come up with a hypothetical diagnosis when the patient lists their symptoms. What captures my attention and is the source of my frustration are the freedoms medical personnel in made-for-television hospitals take when it comes to ethical behaviour and their code of conduct. From inappropriate relationships with patients and coworkers (looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy) to the careless disclosure and sharing of private information, the amount of blatant unprofessional conduct that takes place is astonishing. I can’t even watch Star Trek, because the number of times those Federation doctors date their patients or disclose private information to random aliens is astonishing. Don’t the writers have consultants on these things? I can see why healthcare professionals generally don’t appreciate it when someone casually brings up dramatic portrayals of medicine!

All joking aside, I want to express how incredibly privileged I feel to have the opportunity to work for CPSA as Hearings Director. Everyone on our team in the Hearings Director’s office takes their job seriously, and we participate in a very important facet of the profession’s regulatory work. While it is through the complaints process that regulated members are referred to us to carry out our regulatory function, hearings operate separately from the Professional Conduct department. It is essential we provide a hearing process that is fair and unbiased, which includes convening independent hearing tribunals comprised of both physicians and members of the public.

CPSA has a responsibility to take every complaint and concern seriously. As a learning organization, our Professional Conduct department works with regulated members facing complaints to, where possible, use collaborative methods of complaints resolution rooted in education. Only the most serious complaints are referred to the Hearings Director’s office—for reference, there were 23 hearings held in 2021. However, when a complaint does go to a hearing, I am confident the decisions of our independent hearing tribunals will be reasonable and well-informed. People don’t necessarily have to like a tribunal’s decision—in fact, it likely comes as no surprise that some decisions come with a fair amount of scrutiny—but if legislation has been followed, the evidence has been considered fairly and the reasons are sound, we have done our job in preserving the integrity of the process and the privilege for the medical profession to continue with profession-led governance.

Even though I may never be able to watch House M.D. again, I like this quote from Dr. Gregory House: “It is the nature of medicine that you are going to screw up.” Despite most of what we see in medical dramas being far-fetched, this sentiment is true for CPSA’s regulated members as well as those within our organization.

While CPSA wants to guide regulated members to always do their best and lead with ethics, integrity and professionalism, we know we’re all human and mistakes will be made. When things go wrong, I hope our regulated members can see their missteps as opportunities to learn, grow and be better next time. CPSA is here to guide, educate and follow due process to ensure we are serving the public interest and keeping Albertans safe.

An East Indian woman smiling for a portrait photo. She has curly reddish-brown hair and is wearing a black shirt Pam Gill has been a CPSA team member since October 2021 to cover a maternity leave. She holds a BCOM and an LLB, and she was called to the Bar in Alberta in 2002. She started her career as a litigator before moving into legal education and running the Bar Admission program for many years. When Pam’s year-long adventure as CPSA’s Hearings Director/General Counsel ends, she will be back at the Land and Property Rights Tribunal dealing with assessment of oil wells, major plants and pipelines. In her spare time, Pam enjoys teaching business law at the Alberta School of Business and is still involved with the Bar admission program as a facilitator and assessor.

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