Physician Health Concerns

When a doctor is unwell we have a responsibility to protect the public.  Our approach to physicians with health concerns is non-judgmental and our focus is on rehabilitation, appropriate treatment and recovery. Our aim is to help support physicians to practise safely and get back to full health.

Like all people, doctors can become unwell. Sometimes, physicians can develop a physical or mental health problem that impairs their ability to practise medicine safely, endangering patients and the public. Delaying intervention, treatment and assistance for doctors may negatively impact patient care. In our experience, early intervention may enable a doctor with a treatable illness to continue practising while receiving treatment. It is vital that patients, staff and and/or fellow physicians raise concerns about a doctor's health early so that the situation can be dealt with appropriately.

Examples of conditions that may impair a doctor’s ability to practise safely include drug or alcohol problems, mental health conditions, or a physical health condition. When doctors are impaired, it may affect their ability to:

  • make safe judgments
  • demonstrate the level of skill and knowledge required for safe practice
  • behave appropriately
  • control infection or other hygiene issues in their clinical practice
  • carry out the physical aspects of providing care

Any concerned member of the public may make a report to the CPSO

We understand that it can be difficult or uncomfortable reporting unwell doctors to their regulatory body. However, if those doctors do not get the support and help they need, they may put the community, patients and themselves at risk. 

Some doctors may be required to make a report to the CPSO

If you are a person in a leadership position in a health care facility where one or more people receive health services and you believe a doctor working with or under you is incapacitated you would be required to make a report to the College.  If you are a doctor with a physician patient and you have reason to believe that providing information about your patient’s condition may eliminate or reduce harm to their patients or others, you may make a report to the College.   For guidance about your reporting obligations please refer to the CPSO’s Mandatory and Permissive Reporting policy, which outlines your reporting obligations.

Can I discuss my concerns with the CPSO?

If you want to talk to someone about your concerns you can contact our Physician & Public Advisory Service at 1-800-268-7096 Ext. 603.

Will the doctor be told I notified the CPSO?

Our aim is to work in an open and transparent way with doctors. We will almost always provide them with information about the concerns you raise with us, with your name and personal contact details removed if necessary. Ultimately, though, we cannot promise that your name will not be provided to the doctor.  You can call us and talk about any concerns you have and how they might be managed.

What happens when I tell the CPSO about a doctor’s health concerns?

After receiving information, we work with doctors as sensitively as we can to explore steps they may be willing to take, or have already taken, with respect to the health concerns. Sometimes a College committee may require another physician to assess the doctor.

All doctors who have a mental health condition or problem with drugs or alcohol are encouraged to contact the Physician Health Program of the Ontario Medical Association.  Among other things, this program facilitates treatment and arranges follow-up supports and monitoring, including workplace monitoring. The CPSO generally supports these arrangements. Where there are other health concerns, we may set up a monitoring structure for that doctor.

The following are some of the possible outcomes of a College investigation into a doctor’s health condition:

  • the College may take no further action
  • the College may ask the doctor to agree to some form of health and/or workplace monitoring
  • the College may ask the doctor to voluntarily restrict their practice
  • the College can impose restrictions on the doctor’s practice
  • the College can refer the doctor for a hearing before the Fitness to Practice Committee

In most cases doctors voluntarily agree to some form of monitoring or to stop working.