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College supports proposed sexual abuse-related legislation

The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) supports the Ontario government’s proposed legislation that, if passed, will improve our ability to protect patients from sexual abuse by a regulated health professional.

When receiving care from a nurse, you can expect that they'll be professional, respectful and ethical. Sexual relations between a nurse and patient are always unethical and abusive, and are a serious breach of trust. At CNO, we continually seek ways to improve how we can act sensitively, respectfully, fairly and quickly to complaints of any such misconduct by a nurse.

Along with other health care-related regulatory colleges, we proposed recommendations, including: expanding the list of acts that would allow for mandatory revocation of a nurse’s ability to practise; establishing mandatory suspensions as a new minimum penalty for findings of sexual abuse involving physical contact; and increasing fines for health care professionals who fail to report alleged incidents of sexual abuse.

In addition, for nurses facing allegations of high risk to the public, we asked the Ministry to consider providing the College with the authority to suspend such nurses from practising during our investigation period. The current provisions in legislation mean that we cannot consider an interim suspension until after our investigation is completed. This means that unless a member voluntarily agrees not to practice or resigns, the College has no mechanism for restricting practice.

CNO exists for one primary reason: to ensure Ontarians receive safe nursing care. We are committed to investigating, with a high priority, each complaint of sexual abuse of a patient, and, as they participate in this process, to giving sensitive and respectful support to those who have been abused.

We will continue to work closely with government and other groups to do what is needed to eliminate all such abuse.

For additional information on sexual abuse, including what to do if you suspect sexual abuse by a nurse, please see cno.org/sexualabuse

Page last reviewed December 15, 2016