Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Professional Conduct Processes – 3 April 2020
The health, safety and peace of mind of our employees, regulated members, and Complaint Review Committee/Hearing Tribunal committee members is a priority for the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA).
CARNA has taken precautionary steps to lessen the health risk associated with COVID-19, including establishing strategies to maintain critical business processes and operations during this pandemic. As such, CARNA is following the guidelines set out by the Chief Medical Officer of Alberta. CARNA has transitioned its staff to remote working, and the Edmonton office is closed to walk-in visitors without appointments as part of ‘physical distancing’.
The Professional Conduct department is continuing its essential business processes and operations; however, there are changes to how we will be conducting our professional conduct operations as outlined below:
Written communication with regulated members and complainants
- When possible, written communication normally sent via mail or registered mail (e.g., letters notifying of a complaint) will be sent password-protected via email.
- Notices required to be given by personal service, or certified or registered personally under
s. 120 the Health Professions Act, may will be sent password-protected via email if it cannot be sent via registered mail.
Contacting professional conduct employees
- All professional conduct department employees continue to have access to their email and telephones while working remotely. However, delays in response time may occur due to the remote working environment.
- Complaints will continue to be processed and managed upon receipt.
- Written correspondence to the regulated member and complainant when a decision is made by the Complaints Director will be sent via email when possible.
- Complaints will continue to be investigated, and investigators are conducting all of their work remotely.
- Interviews with complainants and witnesses will take place via phone or videoconferencing.
- Regulated member interviews have previously been done in person. We anticipate using videoconferencing technology to conduct these interviews, including the transmission of investigation documents, to protect the health and safety of participants.
- When the investigator is ready to interview the regulated member, they will be in contact with them to set up a meeting time, explain how the interview will be conducted and convey what technology is required to participate in the interview.
- Though Professional Conduct anticipates that the majority of regulated members will have access to the software and equipment required to participate via videoconferencing, Professional Conduct recognizes there may be situations where this is not the case. In these cases, the interview may have to be put on hold or an alternate arrangement made.
- CARNA also recognizes the current stress on our healthcare system and the person and/or work circumstances of witnesses and regulated members have likely changed. This may have impacts on investigation processes, and Professional Conduct will address them on an ongoing basis.
Decisions on completed investigations
- The decisions of the Complaint Director will continue to be communicated in writing after the completion of an investigation to refer a matter to a hearing, enter into a complaint resolution agreement or dismiss a complaint.
- We are currently in the process of testing software to determine how hearings, both consent and contested, can be carried out by way of video conference.
- If a hearing has already been scheduled, CARNA’s Hearings Director or Conduct Counsel will provide further information about the remote hearing to the regulated member and their legal counsel, labour relations officer or other representative closer to the date.
- If a complaint has been referred to a hearing, but has not yet been scheduled or has been deferred, CARNA’s Hearings Director or Conduct Counsel will provide information about the remote hearing when the hearing is scheduled.
- We recognize the impacts that COVID-19 has had on all of our daily lives. The healthcare system is currently stressed and the personal and/or work circumstances of regulated members and witnesses have changed as a result. We are cognizant that these impacts may have an effect on the ability to schedule or proceed with a hearing.
Conditions on permits
- Conditions on permits will remain in place until requirements are satisfied, whether they be a result of hearing tribunal orders, consent resolution agreements, s. 65 decisions, s. 118 orders to cease practicing, or undertakings.
Extensions to complete requirements or sanctions
- Requests for time extensions to complete requirements or sanctions will continue to be made on a case-by-case basis by the Complaints Director or Hearing Tribunal.
- Requests for time extensions must be made in writing and contain a sufficient explanation of the individual circumstances leading to the request.