NS government approves law to speed up licensing of health-care practitioners

The Nova Scotia government’s bill to speed up the licensing process for health-care professionals and make it easier to expand their scope of practice passed without amendments on Thursday.

But opposition members say they hope the Tories will make sure the regulations behind the new law will ensure unfit doctors are not given licenses here.

The government says it’s a way to get more health-care practitioners working in the province sooner without having to bring in new legislation each time a change needs to be made.

Regulators for professional health-care fields in the province said they supported the spirit of the bill but raised concerns about the way the bill was written, noting it included language that could force them to license an applicant who has disciplinary issues or even a criminal record in another jurisdiction.

Other concerns are recognizing a person’s training, rather than whether they are competent to do certain work. The registrar of the province’s college of physicians and surgeons told MLAs during a committee meeting that he might have training to deliver babies but, given that it’s been 20 years since his last delivery, he could not be considered competent.

Still, the government pushed ahead without amendments, saying they would address any concerns about the bill when the regulations were drafted. Following the vote on Thursday, Health Minister Michelle Thompson said officials in her department would begin working with experts to write the regulations.

A man wearing glasses and a tie.
Nova Scotia Liberal House leader Derek Mombourquette voted in favor of the bill, but hopes the province incorporates the concerns of regulators into the regulations. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Although the Liberals previously proposed amendments to the bill and voiced concerns that it could compromise patient safety, their MLAs voted in favor of the bill.

Thompson said that “speaks to the fact that it’s a good bill.”

Liberal House leader Derek Mombourquette said his caucus voted for the bill because they didn’t want to hold up passage of legislation that could support the health-care system.

Mombourquette said he was optimistic the government would listen to and address the concerns raised by the regulators during the drafting of regulations.

“These are the experts,” he said. “We’ve always said we want them to listen to the experts.”

Independent MLAs Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin and New Democrat MLAs voted against the bill.

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said most of the regulators who appeared before the committee to speak about the legislation said the bill could threaten public safety.

“And that was concerning to us,” she said.

Chender said his caucus supports the spirit of the bill and would have happily voted for it if the government had made amendments proposed by medical regulators. Without that move, however, she said it remains flawed.