When a practitioner retires or leaves the practice (i.e., resigns as a member of the College), the original patient records must be kept for the ten-year retention period (unless the records have been transferred to another practitioner who will maintain the records).
The member needs to ensure that the patient has access to the patient chart for the ten-year window. This will require the member to maintain the patient chart in a safe and protected manner. It will also require the member to ensure that patients know who to contact if they wish to obtain their patient chart.
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario recommends custodians implement a succession plan to address changes in practice and prevent abandoned records. For more information, please see the Succession Planning to Help Prevent Abandoned Records Fact Sheet.
Also, as outlined in the College’s Safety Program Handbook, if there is a situation where the practitioner, using professional judgment, decides to terminate the practitioner-patient relationship, it must be done carefully and thoughtfully in order to ensure the health of the patient and the continuity of care needed for the patient. The practitioner must provide written notification to the patient, outlining the specific reasons for termination and the date that care will be terminated. This written notification must also be retained in the patient record. If applicable, the practitioner must identify the need for continued care and establish processes to allow for the efficient transfer of records to the new practitioner.
You may wish to inform your patients of the availability of alternate members, which can be done by, for example, referring the patient to the College’s public register or providing them with other members’ contact information.