Whether or not you receive legal advice that a lawsuit is warranted, you may wish to pursue other steps against a doctor or hospital. In general, there are two main avenues of complaint/investigation. These are as follows:
- Complaint to the physician’s professional regulatory association
- Complaint to the hospital/health region.
While these processes do not typically involve any possibility of financial compensation, you may wish to proceed through one or both of these processes as an alternative to, or in addition to, the litigation process.
In many cases, medical malpractice clients elect to pursue all three of these available processes (a professional regulatory complaint, hospital or health region administrative investigation, and litigation). These processes are not mutually exclusive. But it is important to note that the only process through which you can seek financial compensation is the litigation process.
Complaints to a professional regulatory association
Most health care practitioners, including physicians, nurses, chiropractors, pharmacists, and dentists, are members of self-regulating professions. This means that the provincial government does not directly regulate these professions, but instead has established a legislative framework under which these professions regulate their own members. In most jurisdictions, physicians are licensed and regulated by a College of Physicians and Surgeons.
There are certain cases in which a complaint to a professional body is particularly warranted. These would include situations of unprofessional or unethical conduct or one in which the physician or other health care practitioner has exhibited a serious lack of skill or knowledge.
In the vast majority of cases, a complaint to a professional regulatory association does not lead to disciplinary action against the health care practitioner. However, you may feel that it is important to ensure the regulatory association is aware of your concerns, in the event that there has been a pattern of behavior with the particular medical practitioner involved.
Complaints to the hospital/health region
In most provinces, hospitals are operated and administered by a health region or health authority. Each region/authority will typically have an internal complaint or administrative investigative process available for patients who have concerns with the care provided to patients at that facility. This may be a Quality Services department, Patient Relations department, a “Patient Advocate”, or “Client Representative”. In most cases, you can determine the general process by looking at the website of the relevant health region.
In most of these facilities or health regions, this internal complaints process is intended to respond to patient concerns, and also to ensure quality improvement within the facility/region. While the process will vary from region to region, it is typical that once a complaint is received, the “Client Representative” (or other similar individuals) would make inquiries of involved staff, together with the appropriate department heads.
In some instances, you or your family will be invited to attend a meeting of the relevant individuals. Often, a consolidated written response is provided to you in response to the concerns you have raised. In some rare instances, this process may result in disciplinary action or termination of staff. More commonly, it may lead to a change in policy or protocol to improve patient outcomes if similar circumstances arise in the future.
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To get more detail on these processes, see our free eBook on Birth Trauma Claims, where we discuss this topic in depth.