12/13/2012 05:41 EST | Updated 02/12/2013 05:12 EST

Health minister willing to strengthen sex abuse protections

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews is willing to pursue any steps necessary to further protect patients from abuse at the hands of their doctors, whom she believes must be held to a high standard.

Reacting to a recent CBC News Toronto investigative series about the way that sexual abuse complaints involving doctors are handled in Ontario, Matthews said that the number of offenders may be small, but they must be disciplined appropriately.

"I want every patient in Ontario to have confidence in their physician," Matthews told CBC News in an interview on Thursday.

"You know, there are very few doctors that we’re talking about. A tiny minority, but one is too many. So anything I can do to protect the people of this province, I will be there."

Citing the intimate relationship that doctors share with their patients, Matthews said that physicians and other health professionals "must be held to a very, very high standard."

Matthews said that it is in the best interest of the medical profession for the tough prosecution of identified offenders.

"It's to the benefit of all doctors that those very few outliers are appropriately disciplined," she said.

Part of the CBC News Toronto investigation looked at the types of conditions that are placed upon doctors who return to practice after being disciplined for sexual abuse.

Those doctors who have faced discipline can be required to post signs that explain to patients the conditions that have been put in place.

When CBC News Toronto showed examples of these signs to women in downtown Toronto, the women interviewed found the signs confusing and unclear.

The health minister was asked if there was a reason the signs should not explicitly state that a doctor has been disciplined for sexual abuse.

"I will undertake to do whatever I can do, working with the [College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario] to strengthen protections," Matthews said.