If the Complaints Director determines there is evidence of unprofessional conduct, they may refer a matter to a Hearing. Hearings are part of the mandated conduct process in the Health Professions Act (HPA).
Hearings are open to the public, however; the Hearing Tribunal may order that all, or part, of the Hearing be held in private. An application to close the Hearing may be made by Conduct Counsel, the Regulated Member's representative or even the Hearing Tribunal itself.
What to expect at a Hearing
The Regulated Member, Complainant and any witnesses required to testify, receive a Notice to Attend outlining:
- the particulars of the allegations
- the date
- time; and
- location of the Hearing.
While there may have been several issues investigated, only the allegations listed in the Notice to Attend will be addressed at the Hearing.
The Hearing Tribunal will consider the evidence presented by both the Regulated Member and Conduct Counsel on behalf of the Complaints Director, and determines whether the behaviours in the allegations have been proven and whether those behaviours amount to 'unprofessional conduct' as defined in HPA.
Conduct Counsel will appear on behalf of the Complaints Director and Regulated Members may be represented by a lawyer or Labour Relations Officer if they choose, and at their own expense.
Hearing Tribunal decisions
If there is a finding of unprofessional conduct, the Hearing Tribunal makes an Order to appropriately address the behaviours to ensure that the Regulated Member is safe to practise and to protect the public. Orders of the Hearing Tribunal are generally meant to be remedial in nature. Both sides may make submissions on the Order to be made by the Hearing Tribunal.
Some of the possible Orders of the Hearing Tribunal identified in HPA include, a caution, course work, counseling, payment of a fine, supervised practice, providing proof of fitness to practice, and in extreme, but rare circumstances, cancellation of a CARNA practice permit. In addition, the Hearing Tribunal may Order that the Regulated Member pay the costs of the investigation and/or Hearing.
After the Hearing, the Regulated Member and Complainant receive a copy of the written Decision. CARNA also posts past disciplinary decisions on its website for 10 years, or longer under the Health Professions Act (HPA).
If the Hearing Tribunal has reasonable grounds to believe that the Regulated Member has committed a criminal offence, the Decision must be sent to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.
If conditions are ordered to be placed on the Regulated Member's practice permit, the Regulated Member's employers and other nursing jurisdictions are informed. If the Regulated Member has conditions on their practice permit, this will be available for viewing on the CARNA website through nurse verification. Once the Regulated Member has complied with a condition, it is removed from their practice permit.
Types of Hearings
A Consent Hearing occurs when the Regulated Member admits to some, or all, of the allegations. The Regulated Member’s representative may negotiate with Conduct Counsel to prepare a written Consent Agreement listing those allegations to which the Regulated Member admits. Usually, a full Consent Hearing includes a Joint Recommendation on Sanction (penalty). The Consent Agreement is presented to the Hearing Tribunal, who can accept, reject or ask questions about the Agreement.
Partial Consent Hearings
A partial Consent Hearing occurs when there is agreement between the parties on sanction and/or the allegations and facts, but the Regulated Member or Conduct Counsel cannot agree on the remainder. For example, the Regulated Member may agree that the behaviour in the allegation occurred, but does not agree that the behaviour amounts to unprofessional conduct.
Conduct Counsel may call witnesses to provide evidence that supports that the allegations occurred and that the allegations amount to unprofessional conduct. The Regulated Member is entitled to bring witnesses to defend against the allegations and each side has an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses of the other side. The Regulated Member may be called by either side to testify, and both parties are guided by the Principles of Administrative Fairness in their conduct during the Hearing.
After Hearing all the evidence, the Hearing Tribunal deliberates and determines if the allegations have been proven, and whether they amount to unprofessional conduct. If there is a finding of unprofessional conduct on at least one allegation, the Hearing Tribunal will hear submissions from each side regarding sanction. The Hearing Tribunal may provide an oral Decision at the time of the Hearing. A written Decision, which includes reasons, is also provided in a reasonable time.