Manitoba needs to regulate chiropractors better after public inquiry over Facebook post: expert

A leader in the field of professional regulation says a move to better regulate chiropractors could improve the complaints and discipline process for an association that tried to discipline someone for posting a pro-vaccine news article on her social media. 

The Manitoba Chiropractors Association acts as both regulator and advocate for all chiropractors in the province.

Harry Cayton, an international adviser on professional regulation and governance, told CBC News the best course of action is for the profession to follow suit with nurses, paramedics and doctors and separate the two roles.

“They are clearly in conflict. If you’re there to promote the profession … You’re there to promote the occupation in the sense of attracting potential customers,” Cayton said.

“If you’re the regulator, you’re there to protect the public and not the occupation.”

A portrait of a man with no hair and classes and a blue shirt.
Harry Cayton, an international adviser on professional regulation and governance, says the complaint process would improve if chiropractors were regulated by a separate college. (Submitted by Harry Cayton)

Cayton said the separation would make for a better complaints process.

“You’d expect to see there is better-managed complaints systems, better and more focused investigations, better decisions about which complaints are legitimate,” he said.

This comes after CBC News reported that a Manitoba chiropractor, Carolyn Weiss, faced internal discipline and a public inquiry by the association after posting an article about vaccines on her personal Facebook account.

At the inquiry, her lawyer raised questions about a fellow chiropractor, Dan Therrien, who is the vice-president of the association and runs a neurofeedback clinic that claims to help with symptoms related to ADHD.

“Dr. Therrien does something similar — if not goes beyond — what my client is accused of,” Kevin Toyne told the inquiry panel at Weiss’s code of conduct hearing last year. 

“Because if that’s [neurofeedback clinic] not offside, I can’t fathom how what my client is accused of could possibly be offside.”

A man smiling wearing a jacket and shorts with his hand on his hip, beside a woman whose face is blurred out. Beside her is a poster for BrainCore Therapy, which says it is a drugless non-invasive approach to symptoms related to ailments such as ADHD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Dan Therrien in a June 2022 Facebook post from BrainCore Inc: Winnipeg Neurofeedback. The poster beside Therrien says that BrainCore can treat symptoms related to ADD/ADHD and other ailments. CBC has blurred the face of the other person in the picture. (Facebook/Braincore Inc: Winnipeg Neurofeedback)

Therrien declined an interview with CBC News about the matter, but in a written statement he said when he is operating as a chiropractor, he complies with “all required regulations and expectations.”

Letter sent to association from deputy minister

CBC News learned around the same period Weiss was being investigated, Manitoba’s then-deputy health minister reached out to the board in a letter to the chair of the association. 

The letter said that “significant issues” have been raised with the health minister about the governance of the association “in respect of complaints and disciplinary matters.”

“This has in turn raised concerns that, at a minimum, there has been an erosion of trust by the public and members of the profession in the MCA [Manitoba Chiropractors Association],” said the letter dated Oct. 26, 2021.

Terry Shaw, the association’s president, declined an interview. In a prepared statement he told CBC News that “bylaw changes were made” but did not go into greater detail.

Eleni Hague, a spokesperson for Health Minister Audrey Gordon, refused to answer questions about this letter or say if the minister’s office has seen improvements. 

Manitoba partially covers chiropractic fees

Manitoba is the only province in the country that universally covers a portion of chiropractic treatments for all residents. 

Currently, all Manitobans are eligible for partial coverage of seven annual visits to a chiropractor. 

Manitoba Health has paid over $35 million to chiropractors in the past five years as part of this coverage, according to numbers provided by the department.

Introduced in 2009, the Regulated Health Professions Act will eventually see all health professions such as chiropractors, physiotherapists and counselling therapists governed in similar fashion.

Once chiropractors are under the act, it would establish a College of Chiropractors of Manitoba and change the framework for how professional bodies investigate complaints and discipline members, providing more transparency to the process.

Licensed practical nurses, physiotherapists and medical laboratory technologists are all in the review process and will soon fall under the act.

Shaw said the association is in regular communication with government and although no date has been set for the start of the transition under the act, the association “is ready for when one is.”

Winnipeg chiropractor says change is needed

Winnipeg chiropractor Greg Stewart says further regulation of the profession is an absolute necessity, and bringing his colleagues under the act will improve things for both the public and for chiropractors. 

He spent thousands of dollars in legal fees after a barrage of code of conduct complaints from his peers.

None were about patient care. One was a complaint about the type of stretches he had advertised on his website. Eventually, all were dismissed before heading to a public inquiry.

A man with grey hair standing and looking at the camera wearing a suit.
Winnipeg chiropractor Greg Stewart says the association is a toxic environment and needs further regulation. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

“We need change … a profession that is misguided, that is fractured, that is toxic, is not putting the energies they should towards the public,” he said.

“The only way this can get better is if hopefully soon we’re under the RHPA [Regulated Health Professions Act]. And then we can have a kind of a consistent legislation with the other health-care bodies.”