Effective today, the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of B.C. is fully responsible for registering and regulating audiology, speech-language pathology and hearing instrument- dispensing professionals under the Health Professions Act, improving accountability and transparency for British Columbians who use their services.
"The College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals is the first B.C. regulatory college to encompass three distinct health professions, and one of the first in Canada," said Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon. "Now that the regulation of these health-care providers is combined into one overarching organization, all British Columbians will have a place to turn to for help with concerns about speech- and hearing-care providers."
One in 10 British Columbians has a speech, language or hearing problem. There are a wide variety of communication related issues that speech- and hearing-health professionals can help with, including congenital and acquired hearing disorders, voice and fluency disorders and swallowing problems.
The college was officially established on Dec. 15, 2008. It began registering members in early 2010, and as of April 1, 2010, is responsible for setting education and practice standards and for dealing with complaints about professional conduct. Prior to the establishment of the college, audiology and speech-language pathology were unregulated professions in B.C. Hearing- instrument dispensers have been regulated by the Board of Hearing Aid Dealers and Consultants under the Hearing Aid Act since 1971.
In 2008, a 12-member temporary board was appointed to govern the college, made up of eight professional members and four public members. In fall 2010, the college will hold its first annual general meeting, at which time eight professional board members will be elected. The four public members will continue to serve until January 2011, at which time their appointments will be reviewed.
"For the past 14 months, the college board has engaged professionals and the public in a dialogue that led to the development of bylaws, standards and a governance structure that will ensure our registrants deliver the highest-quality services to British Columbians who have communication and related challenges," said Linda Rammage, board chair of the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals.
To correspond with the start of the college's full regulatory authority, the Board of Hearing Aid Dealers and Consultants is dissolved, and the Hearing Aid Act is repealed. The college must report annually to the Minister of Health Services, and its records are publicly accessible through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The outcome of disciplinary proceedings that result in actions against college registrants must be publicly posted by the college. College registration and complaint decisions are subject to review by the Health Professions Review Board and the courts.
Over the past two years, the Province has made a number of changes to increase accountability and transparency of health professions in B.C., while ensuring that patients have expanded access and choice to health professionals. The Health Professions Act is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation governing health professionals in Canada. Currently, 24 professions are regulated by 21 colleges under this act.
More information is available on the Ministry of Health Services website: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/leg/index.html