Note: This article was originally published in our Autumn 2020 edition of our On Call newsletter, and has not been updated.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College hosted its first virtual Discipline Hearing on July 22, 2020
Virtual hearings have become a new trend among other health regulatory colleges in Ontario in order to abide by physical distancing requirements. The College consulted with and learned from other colleges who had already held virtual hearings to ensure that best practice approaches were followed.
Like all hearings, it was open to the public, and observers were allowed to join anonymously either by videoconference or by teleconference. The hearing was hosted using Microsoft Teams, a platform that contains the technology needed to ensure the hearings can take place securely without having to change any hearing processes. There were seven observers that attended the virtual hearing, including stakeholders from the Association of Ontario Midwives. Links, details, and instructions about the virtual hearing were provided to observers by email prior to the hearing date. During the virtual hearing, observers remained muted and did not appear on camera.
To ensure privacy and confidentiality, private break out rooms were set up for the various parties, including the Discipline Panel and Independent Legal Counsel, the member and their counsel, and College counsel and College representative. The Discipline Panel deliberated in a private break out videoconference room, and at the same time, the member and their counsel were also given a private break out room to meet.
The College did not receive any accommodation requests for this virtual hearing but is prepared to accommodate any reasonable requests for future hearings. More information about requesting accommodation can be found here.
The College found that by conducting the hearing virtually, it allowed for more members from the profession and members of the public to attend, as it becomes more accessible due to there being no travel required. Additionally, the virtual hearing allowed the College to fulfil its mandate of public protection in a timely manner. The College will continue to conduct virtual hearings during the pandemic in order to protect the health and safety of all parties involved.
Anyone who wishes to observe a virtual hearing is encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions they may have. Currently, the College has one matter referred by the Inquiries, Complaints, and Reports Committee for which a hearing has yet to be scheduled.