The Relationship between PLP and the RCDSO
Dentists occasionally express confusion about the relationship between PLP and the RCDSO. In short, PLP is a program of the RCDSO, but its mission and function are distinct from the rest of the College’s. The following describes the mandates of PLP and the RCDSO, as well as the policies and procedures that exist to prevent information about a PLP matter being disclosed to the regulator, and vice versa.
The RCDSO is responsible for regulating Ontario dentists. According to the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, its mandate is to “serve and protect the public interest”. In other words, the RCDSO does not exist for the benefit of Ontario dentists, but rather for those they serve.
Since March 2014, all Ontario health profession regulators are required to ensure their members have professional liability protection to respond to claims for compensation by patients injured as a result of clinical negligence. More than 40 years before it was ordered to do so, the RCDSO created PLP to provide this service.
As the malpractice protection provider for Ontario dentists, PLP owes a duty of good faith to its members. And while one of PLP’s main objectives is to maintain the integrity of the dental profession in Ontario, as a program of the RCDSO, it also shares the College’s public protection mandate. PLP balances these obligations by defending members who have done nothing wrong, even if it would be less expensive to settle a claim, but providing early, reasonable compensation to patients with meritorious claims for injuries caused by dental negligence. This principled approach to file management ensures the funds required to meet the RCDSO’s duty to the public and PLP’s duty to members and patients continue to be available.
Maintaining separation and confidentiality
PLP staff have a legal, professional and ethical duty to keep information received from members in the strictest confidence. PLP staff take this obligation seriously, but some dentists are still skeptical that their communications with PLP are not somehow transmitted to other parts of the RCDSO.
Since members are required to immediately report incidents to PLP that might reasonably be expected to give rise to a patient claim, i.e. a demand for money or services, it is important that they are not deterred from contacting PLP because of fears that the information will come to the attention of the regulator. The following steps have been taken to alleviate any such concerns:
- Although PLP is part of the RCDSO and its staff work in the same building as other RCDSO employees, PLP’s space is enclosed and access is restricted.
- PLP’s file room is off-limits to non-PLP staff and PLP staff are strictly prohibited from viewing files from other RCDSO departments.
- Other RCDSO departments cannot access PLP’s electronic records and information. Similarly, PLP staff have no computer access to non-PLP records and information.
- PLP and other RCDSO staff may not discuss cases from their respective departments on penalty of immediate termination for cause.
- PLP-specific email addresses and a PLP website have been created.
Ontario dentists are fortunate that the RCDSO’s governing body in the 1970s had the foresight to establish PLP, which has since grown into a robust and sophisticated vehicle for meeting members’ malpractice protection and risk management needs and providing protection to the public. Members should not hesitate to contact PLP to report an incident or for general dental-legal advice, since they can have full confidence that any information they convey to PLP will remain within its walls.