I heard that Physiotherapy Alberta is changing to become the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta. What’s happening?
The Health Professions Act is the legislation that governs all regulated health professionals working in the province of Alberta. In the fall of 2020, the Government of Alberta introduced the Health Statutes Amendment Act, which makes changes to the Health Professions Act. The Health Statutes Amendment Act received Royal Assent in December 2020 and portions of the Act were proclaimed by the the Lieutenant Governor in Council on October 1st, 2021.
The portions of the Act proclaimed on October 1st include changes that require health profession regulators, including Physiotherapy Alberta, to stop all activities that professional associations perform.
By April 1st, 2023, all health regulatory colleges must have executed their plan to divest themselves of the functions of, connection to, or affiliation with professional associations.
As part of this change, Physiotherapy Alberta – College + Association is changing our name to become the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta to reflect the change in our mandate from being a dual mandate organization (both College and association) to becoming a single mandate organization (College only).
What’s the difference between a regulatory college and a professional association?
Health regulatory colleges exist to protect the public interest. Patients and families expect safe and effective, high-quality health care.
Physiotherapy Alberta works to ensure the right systems and processes are in place to support quality physiotherapy service delivery by:
- Setting and enforcing practice and professional standards.
- Registering only qualified and competent physiotherapists.
- Administering a continuing competence program.
- Investigating public and patient concerns.
- Supporting member understanding of and adherence to their regulatory responsibilities.
These are the core roles of health profession regulators, established by the Health Professions Act.
In contrast, professional associations exist to support and provide services to their members through functions such as advocacy, professional development/continuing education, interest groups, member benefits and professional awards of excellence. An association protects the interests of its members and is often the voice the profession.
Why is this change happening?
Since the role of the College is to serve the public interest, in recent years there has been a trend in the regulatory community to have increased public involvement in regulatory organizations with the intent of providing the public a stronger voice within the College.
A risk in regulation, and one that has been observed in colleges in other provinces and countries, is that of forgetting or being perceived to have failed to fulfill the mandate of protecting the public interest or of being perceived to have put the interest of the profession ahead of the interests of the public.
This change in legislation makes a clear distinction between the roles of colleges and associations, prevents colleges from attempting to fulfill two roles, and ensures that colleges have a clear, single mandate to serve the public interest.
How does it affect me?
For regulatory colleges, this change means we have some work to do to sort out what activities we will continue and what activities we must divest ourselves of. For Physiotherapy Alberta, this also means rebranding our organization and the resources we provide.
For physiotherapists the change means that they will have the opportunity to join a professional association in Alberta whose sole purpose is to serve the profession’s interests.
However, physiotherapists will continue to be regulated health professionals. They will continue to need to apply for and renew their practice permits annually. They will be subject to the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethical Conduct for the profession. They will need to continue to meet the College’s continuing competence requirements. Patients and members of the public will continue to be able to bring concerns and complaints about physiotherapists’ practice to the College and to have concerns and complaints investigated.
The oversight surrounding the physiotherapy services you receive from regulated phyisotherapists will continue to be robust so you receive safe, effective quality physiotherapy care.