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COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS OF NOVA SCOTIA Making the Call Don’t forget your duty to report By DR. GUS GRANT Registrar and CEO, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia I long ago gave up tying strings on my finger – too much to remember, not enough fingers. The busy practice is best supported by good medical records, with good systems for follow-up, and good habits regarding patient communica- tion and transfer of care. It is also incumbent on us to remember the fundamental reporting responsibilities that go with being a physician. These responsibilities are not limited to clinical matters; physicians’ non-clinical responsibilities are also steadily evolving. Accordingly, I would encourage all physicians to review the College’s Guidelines on Reporting Requirements for Nova Scotia Physicians. Developed with input from both the CMPA and Doctors Nova Scotia, the guidelines identify the legal reporting requirements for physicians, together with hyperlinks to the actual legislative provisions. Physicians are largely compliant in reporting concerns arising from clinical practice to the appropriate authorities. In cases of suspected child abuse or of suspected child pornography violations, physicians know they must (and invariably do) make a report. The same can be said for adults in need of protection. However, there is a long history of under-reporting report- able illnesses, which remains an ongoing con- cern in public health circles. A common responsibility arises with patients you consider no longer fit to drive. Unlike in most provinces, in Nova Scotia there is no mandatory responsibility to report this patient to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Nova Scotia’s legislation indicates that a physician may choose to report their patient if unfit to drive. I would argue that your broader professional duties to the public, combined with the legislated permission, should result in reporting. The physician who chooses not to report, or simply fails to consider the ques- tion of reporting, may expose the public to risk and may expose herself to civil liability. A not-so-common responsibility arises when a physician is criminally charged. Few physi- cians (and few criminal lawyers) are aware that physicians have a statutory duty to report to the College immediately upon being charged criminally. There is no immediate duty to report when named as a defendant in a lawsuit. However, if the lawsuit touches on your medical practice, you will be required to disclose this to the College at the time of your annual licence renewal. Depending on the nature of the lawsuit, your renewal may be delayed until the College has reviewed the matter. I have encouraged the CMPA to consider advising the College immediately upon being retained, if only to avoid such delays. As well, when renewing your medical licence, you will also be required to disclose to the College any restrictions to your hospital privileg- es. Do so well ahead of renewal to avoid delays. A physician’s duty to report extends beyond the College. For example, there are manda- tory legal obligations to provide information as requested by such organizations as the Worker’s Compensation Board or the Nova Scotia Prescription Monitoring Program. Most physicians have excellent instincts. Even when unsure whether an actual duty to report should be triggered, most physicians know that one might be triggered. In such situations, I encourage you to consult our guidelines or to call me or the CMPA. The consequences of failing to report far outweigh the inconvenience of making a call. Douglas (Gus) Grant, MD, is the registrar and CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. March 2018 | doctorsNS 19