Complaints about Medical Professionals
Filing a Complaint about Medical Professionals
Older adults often have complaints about the medical treatment and services they have received. If you have a concern about your medical professional that involves communication, his/her conduct, or the treatment you have received, you should feel free to openly discuss these issues with them. Here are the usual steps in the complaint process:
Step 1 – The first step in making a complaint is to speak to the medical professional involved if possible (NB – don’t settle and sign a release without getting advice).
Step 2 – Next, complain to the professional body for their medical profession.
Step 3 – If you are not satisfied with the response of the professional body, the next step would be to request a review by the Health Professions Review Board [see end of page].
Time Frame – There is no specific time frame within which to file a complaint. However, it maximizes accuracy and assists in the investigation process if your complaint is filed shortly after the alleged incident.
Illegal Conduct – if you think the medical professional has broken the law (e.g. – physical assault) you should contact the police or a lawyer.
Compensation for Damages – If you believe the medical professional has harmed you and you want to claim compensation, you should review the Dial-a-Law script on medical malpractice [see Dial-a-Law section below – while it is about doctors, much of the advice has more general application] and see a lawyer for advice on suing the medical professional. Note that there are time frames (limitation periods) for commencing a lawsuit against a medical professional – see a lawyer about this. Professional bodies don’t usually award monetary compensation.
NOTE – Even if you complain to their professional body, you can still take the other legal actions against the medical professional described above – seeing a lawyer or the police, or both.
Hospitals – If you have a complaint against a medical professional while you’re in the hospital, you can also go to the head of the division or the hospital’s medical director, who will follow the hospital’s complaints process.
Professional Organizations – We set out below the contact information and addresses for most of the professional organizations in BC. It is a good idea to call them and confirm their complaint process before you begin.
Review of Decision – At the end of this page we set out some information about the Health Professions Review Board, which can review decisions of the professional organizations.
For most complaints, unless there is an online complaint form, we recommend mailing (and keeping a copy) or faxing a signed letter setting out:
- Your full name, address and telephone number
- The full name and address of the medical professional involved
- The issue(s) of your complaint
- The full name and address of any and all other medical professionals you consulted
- Any medical records you may have in your possession
- How you want your complaint resolved by the professional organization your permission for them to send a copy of your complaint to the medical professional for their response
It is important to set out the facts relating to the incident, without involving personal biases. Details are critical in making a comlaint, and precise documentation will also help ensure the matter is dealt with expeditiously. Keep in mind the “Who? What? When? Where? & How?” questions when drafting your complaint and assembling your documentation in support.
NOTE – You might consider reviewing the Dial-a-Law information, and getting legal advice before drafting your complaint letter. Some issues to consider are whether you want to provide names of other medical professionals you have consulted, if their evidence will not support your complaint. Another thing to consider is whether any of the medical records you have may be prejudicial to your complaint.
Lawyer Referral Service – If you do not have the name of a lawyer, you can contact the Lawyer Referrral Service, and ask for a lawyer involved in health law or medical malpractice. You will be entitled to a 1/2 hour consultation with that lawyer for $25 plus taxes. Note that after that half hour, the lawyer’s regular hourly fees would apply. You can reach the Lawyer Referrral Service weekdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at 604-687-3221 Toll Free – 1-800-663-1919.