Inquiry Committee Process
The Inquiry Committee
As required by the Health Professions Act, CRPNBC has an Inquiry Committee, which oversees the investigation and resolution of complaints and reports. The Inquiry Committee is appointed by the CRPNBC board of directors and is composed of about 10 people; the majority are experienced RPNs, and the remainder are public members. The committee normally meets every 6 weeks.
What Triggers an Inquiry
When CRPNBC receives a complaint about an RPN, Part 3 of the Health Professions Act sets out a process of inquiry to be followed, usually involving a referral to the Inquiry Committee. This process also applies to reports from colleagues, employers and other health professionals complying with their duty to report.
The Inquiry Committee may also, on its own motion, investigate a registrant regarding any of the following that come to the attention of the committee:
- A contravention of the Act, the regulations or CRPNBC bylaws;
- A conviction for an indictable offence;
- A failure to comply with a standard, limit or condition;
- Professional misconduct or unprofessional conduct;
- Competence to practice as an RPN; or
- A physical or mental ailment, or emotional disturbance or an addiction to drugs or alcohol that impairs the RPN’s ability to practice.
Sometimes RPNs self-report to CRPNBC a health issue that impairs their ability to practice, such as an addiction for which they are receiving treatment. Such self-reports are also typically brought to the attention of the Inquiry Committee for consideration and follow-up.
While there may be variations depending on the circumstances of each file, particularly for health related reports, the normal process is as follows:
- After receiving a complaint, CRPNBC writes to the complainant, acknowledging receipt of the complaint.
- CRPNBC also writes to the registrant, providing a copy of the complaint and seeking the registrant’s response to the complaint.
- The registrant’s response is provided to the complainant to comment on.
At any time during this process, the registrar (or designated staff) may determine that a complaint is trivial, frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith, not a serious matter, or falls outside of CRPNBC’s mandate, in which case the registrar may dismiss the complaint. In this case, the registrar delivers a written report to the Inquiry Committee about the circumstances of the disposition, and the disposition is considered to be made by the Inquiry Committee unless the committee provides other directions.
Normally, however, the complaint is provided to the Inquiry Committee, together with the registrar’s assessment of the complaint and any recommendations for disposition.
If a complaint requires more formal investigation, the Inquiry Committee may appoint an inspector to investigate any aspect of the matter. During regular business hours, and subject to any limits or conditions imposed by the committee, an inspector may investigate, inquire into, inspect, observe or examine one or more of the following without a court order:
- The premises, equipment and the materials used by a registrant to practice as an RPN;
- The registrant’s records (which may be copied) related to practice as an RPN;
- The practice of the profession performed by or under the supervision of the registrant.
Inspectors report on their findings to the Inquiry Committee.
The Act imposes a duty upon the Inquiry Committee to investigate complaints as soon as possible to resolve matters quickly. Section 50.55 sets out timelines for the expected date of disposition of matters. If a timeline is not met, the Inquiry Committee must notify the parties and, eventually, the Health Professions Review Board (HPRB) of this failure to meet the timeline. The Act provides that after 255 days without resolution, the Inquiry Committee’s investigation is suspended for 30 days and the parties gain the right to apply to the HPRB for a review of a delayed investigation. Section 50.57 of the Act describes that right further, as does the HPRB website. If no review application is made, the committee’s investigation resumes until a disposition is possible.
If the Inquiry Committee determines that a complaint is valid, the Inquiry Committee can resolve the matter by entering into a formal written legal agreement with the RPN. The terms of such a consent agreement may require the RPN to consent to a reprimand, or formally agree (provide an “undertaking”) not to repeat the conduct or to undertake remedial action (such as to complete educational courses), or consent to any other action specified by the committee or as negotiated by the parties.
If during an inquiry an RPN refuses to address the issues under investigation, or refuses to consent to a reprimand or undertaking, the Inquiry Committee may direct the registrar to issue a citation for a hearing before the Discipline Committee. Unlike the Inquiry Committee process, which operates on a relatively informal, consensual basis, the Discipline Committee process involves a formal hearing before a specially appointed panel, much like a court proceeding, often with legal counsel and witnesses. Learn more about the Discipline Committee Process.
In some cases, the Inquiry Committee may decide to take no further action, if the committee is of the view that the matter is trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith, or that the conduct or competence complained about is satisfactory.
CRPNBC will inform complainants of the disposition of a matter. Where a complainant is not satisfied with the disposition, he or she may, within 30 days of receiving written notice of the disposition, apply to the HPRB for a review. The HPRB website provides more information about the HPRB’s role and processes for review.
Extraordinary Interim Action
As described above, the Inquiry Committee usually resolves complaints with the RPN’s consent. In extraordinary cases, however, where the Committee considers the action necessary to protect the public while an investigation is being conducted or pending a hearing of the Discipline Committee, the Inquiry Committee has the power to order an interim suspension of the RPN’s registration, or to order that interim limits or conditions be placed on the RPN’s practice. Such an order must be in writing, include reasons for the order, be delivered to the complainant (if any) and to the registrant, and advise of the registrant’s right to appeal the order to the Supreme Court. Section 35 of the Health Professions Act sets out more information about the committee’s right to take extraordinary action to protect the public.
In serious cases, CRPNBC must notify the public of certain actions taken by the Inquiry or Discipline committees (see section 39.3 of the Act). This information is currently published on CRPNBC’s website under Inquiry and Discipline Outcomes.