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College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia

Regulating MDs:  The Complaint Process, Discipline,
and Screening for Fitness to Practice

CPSNS Disclosure Policy

When members of the public contact the College to request information about a complaint or any other disciplinary matter concerning an MD, they are advised that the physician is in good standing unless the physician's license has been revoked or suspended, or other limitation or condition has been placed on the license.

The College will neither confirm nor deny that a complaint has been received, or that an investigation is underway. The only exception is where a disciplinary matter is already known throughout the community because of media exposure. In these cases, the College may confirm that an investigation is taking place but no other information is released: the College's normal policy of confidentiality in the disciplinary matter still holds.

The College only releases disciplinary details to the public after the physician who is being investigated has consented to a reprimand, or after a complaint has been dealt with by a Hearing Committee.

Nova Scotia Medical Act

Where any person has been convicted or found guilty, by a court in or out of Canada, of any offence inconsistent with the proper professional behaviour of a physician or surgeon, including a conviction under the Criminal Code or the Narcotics Control Act, and such person applies for registration, the Registrar and the Council may refuse to register such person. But the Council may at any time permit such person to be registered or to remain registered upon specific terms and conditions that it directs.  [Medical Act s. 28]

Nova Scotia MDs May Not Cherry-Pick Patients

Doctors who are accepting new patients into their practices are expected to use a first-come, first-served approach. While initial appointments and health status questionnaires are acceptable for them to get to know new patients and to learn about patients' health concerns and medical history, these may not be used to select easy patients or to screen out those with more difficult health concerns, such as chronic or terminal disease.

As well, doctors cannot refuse to accept patients based on their age, gender, marital status, medical condition, national or ethnic origin, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Some doctors focus on certain categories of patients, such as women, children, pre-natal, or geriatric. Doctors with these specialized practices are permitted to deny access to other types of patients.

Nova Scotia:  Annual Physician License Renewal

College Forgives MDs Almost Anything – Just Don’t Hide It

The Nova Scotia College relies on self-reporting. Doctors renew their medical license annually. On the renewal form, the applicant answers a set of mandatory questions relating to his or her history (covering issues legal, criminal, and disease-related). The irony: The willingness of a doctor to provide his or her personal history matters far more than the content of that history.

If a physician hides information or deceives the College, a strict penalty is incurred. But if the doctor supplies frank answers, the information may be incriminating or reflect poor character, without incurring any established penalty.

Annual License Renewal Form

If you answer YES to any of the questions below please promptly provide details in a personal and confidential letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia in order to complete your renewal. The questions refer only to the prior 12 months. Knowingly providing false information on this renewal form may constitute professional misconduct.

  • Have you been disciplined or are there any complaints or disciplinary actions pending against you by any licensing authority other than the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia?
  • Have you had any conditions or restrictions placed on your license by any licensing authority?
  • Have you entered into a settlement agreement or voluntary undertaking with any licensing authority?
  • Are there any criminal charges pending against you or have you pleaded guilty to or been convicted of a criminal offence in or out of Canada?
  • Are there any charges pending against you or have you pleaded guilty to or been convicted of an offence for the improper prescribing of controlled substances in or out of Canada?
  • Have you been found liable in any court of competent jurisdiction as a result of a breach of the standard of care or professional misconduct with respect to your practice?
  • Have you had your privileges to practice in a hospital or regional health authority revoked, withdrawn, altered in any way or not renewed as a result of professional or personal conduct or competence/concerns?
  • Have you resigned your hospital privileges while under investigation in respect of such a matter?
  • Have you become seropositive for a blood borne viral pathogen such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV?
  • Do you have a condition that may limit your ability to practice or constitute a risk to patients?
  • Are you abusing, dependent on, or addicted to alcohol or a drug?
  • Are you being or have you been treated for abuse of, dependence on, or addiction to alcohol or a drug?
  • Have you been absent from the practice of medicine for 3 or more years?

Health Record Privacy and Amendment

Provincial and Federal Legislation

PIPEDA Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
This privacy law covers private-sector commercial organizations, including medical clinics and physicians in private practice.
Privacy Act Privacy Act
This privacy law relates to an individual's right to access and correct personal information the Government of Canada holds about them.
HIPA Health Information Protection Act
This legislation, locally enacted by each province, governs the trustees of health records.

The federal PIPEDA law governs private-sector organizations engaged in commercial activities across Canada. It sets down clear rules for how these organizations may collect, use, or disclose personal information, and guarantees concrete avenues for amending flawed information. PIPEDA applies to medical clinics and physicians in private practice.

Some provinces have HIPA legislation that, on inspection, is deemed substantially similar to the health-records subset of PIPEDA.  An organization that operates solely within such a province will be exempt from PIPEDA, unless the personal information crosses provincial or national borders.

But more than half the provinces and territories have HIPA legislation which is not substantially similar to PIPEDA. In such provinces, an application to PIPEDA may succeed.

Nova Scotia is a non-compliant province – its local HIPA legislation offers less protection for health records, and reveals less respect for patients, than the more farsighted PIPEDA. Compliance oversight belongs to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Georgena S. Sil
Saskatoon, Canada
Physicist & Technical Writer
Alumnus: University of British Columbia

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