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Closing Down a Medical Practice

Patients and their medical records

The continuity of patient care is important, and patients must at all times have reasonable access to their records.

While no provincial or federal privacy laws indicate specific timelines with respect to retention of patient medical records, physicians must meet the statutory requirements in their province. If there is no statute, physicians may look to their provincial college guidelines.

The Canadian Medical Protective Association recommends a 10-year retention period and although not enforceable in law, the CMPA guidelines provide physicians with a framework in the event of future litigation.

Notification of closure
A patient notification period of three months is a good practice, although a longer period is ideal. Patients should also be provided instructions on how to obtain their medical records.

There are a number of other key stakeholders that physicians should notify about a practice closure. They include:

  • Employees
  • Colleagues (and/or partners)
  • Provincial health-care insurance provider (e.g., OHIP)
  • Provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • Provincial medical association
  • Canadian Medical Association
  • Canadian Medical Protective Association
  • Health region
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Referring and consulting physicians and surgeons
  • On-call group
  • Pharmacies
  • Lawyer, tax accountant, financial advisor, banker, insurance agent, etc.
  • Landlord
  • Municipal tax office (particularly if a residential dwelling is utilized for the practice)
  • Canada Revenue Agency (employee payroll and GST account, if applicable)
  • GST account, if applicable)
  • Telephone, utility and internet service providers
  • Janitorial service
  • Computer vendor
  • Canada Post
  • Credit and debit card companies
  • Fringe benefit plan provider
  • Medical and office supply vendors
  • Laboratories

Practice assets

Transferring or selling office furniture and equipment
Consider advertising in medical journals, listing items with your provincial medical association, posting notices at healthcare facilities, etc. Ideally, if leasing equipment, the lease termination date will coincide with the closure of the practice. Transferring the lease to the physician who is taking over the practice is another option.

Disposing of drug samples
The disposal of all health products must be undertaken with sufficient care to avoid contamination of local water and ground systems. Also keep in mind municipal, provincial and federal legislative requirements. Options include:

  • transferring custody to a physician successor
  • returning them to the appropriate pharmaceutical representative
  • hiring a medical waste company

After the practice closes

It is advisable to retain the practice’s telephone number—with a recorded message informing callers that the practice is closed—for a period of approximately three months after the practice closure. This message should instruct callers of their options, particularly if they wish to have a copy of their medical record forwarded to another physician.

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