What kinds of patient concerns or complaints does the College deal with?

The College will discuss with you any concerns you have regarding:

  • your medical treatment,
  • your doctor’s behavior,
  • your medical record,
  • your communication with your doctor or your doctor’s staff, and
  • any other concerns you may have.

However, the College suggests that you consider contacting your doctor about your concerns before contacting the College. If that is not possible or if you are uncomfortable doing so, then you may either telephone the College, at the number listed below, and speak with a College registrar or you may write a complaint to the College.

The College will investigate complaints that a doctor did not meet the standards of practice or the standards of conduct of the College. The standards are based on certain principles including:

  • A doctor must put the well-being of the patient first,
  • A doctor must be competent,
  • A doctor must not practice medicine if he or she is impaired by a medical condition or by drugs or alcohol,
  • A doctor must follow the standards of practice of the College and of the medical profession,
  • A doctor must follow the Code of Ethics of the College.

How do I make a complaint?

To help you with making a complaint, the College has a Complaint Form that sets out the information the College requires in order to start reviewing your complaint.

In order to ensure privacy, please do not send a complaint by e-mail or fax.

You may drop off your complaint at the College office or send it by mail to:

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador
Attn: Registrar
120 Torbay Road W100
St. John’s NL A1A 2G8

Telephone: (709)-726-8546 (within the St. John’s area) or 1-800-563-8546 (outside the St. John’s area)

What information will I have to provide in my complaint?

Provide as much detail as possible about your complaint:

  • Include the name of the doctor you are complaining about.
  • If your complaint is about a visit to your doctor, tell us where and when the visit happened.
  • If your complaint is about the medical treatment you received from your doctor, tell us what you can about the medical condition being treated and about the medical treatment you received for that condition.
  • Whatever your complaint is about, describe what it is that the doctor did or did not do and why you think it was wrong.
  • If other people witnessed what happened, and you can identify them, tell us who they are.
  • If you have documents that you think would help explain your complaint, please provide the College with a copy.
  • If you are making a complaint against more than one doctor, please us a separate complaint form or a separate letter for each doctor.

What happens after I send my complaint?

The College will contact you to let you know that the College has received your complaint. The College may also need to ask questions to make sure that your concerns are understood.

The College will, with your permission, send a copy of your complaint to the doctor. The College will ask the doctor to respond in writing to your complaint. The College will send you a copy of the doctor’s reply. You may respond to the doctor’s comments.

A doctor may need to review your hospital medical records, or other information about your complaint. The College will ask for your permission to provide your hospital medical record and the other information to the doctor.

The College expects to get answers from you or the doctor within 30 days. The College does that to make sure there are no needless delays. If more time is needed for your response, the College should be contacted with your request.

If the Registrar of the College believes the complaint can be resolved, then with your consent and the consent of the doctor the Registrar will attempt to resolve it.

If the Registrar does not resolve your complaint, the College will send your complaint to the College’s Complaints Authorization Committee (CAC). The College will let you know when your complaint goes to the CAC.

What is the Complaints Authorization Committee (CAC)?

The CAC is a committee made up of at least three members of the College’s governing body, the Council. At least one person, who is not a doctor, sits on the CAC to represent the public interest.

What does the CAC do?

The CAC reviews all complaints that have not been resolved. The committee has the authority from the Medical Act to investigate complaints.

After assessing your complaint, the CAC will decide if there are reasonable grounds to believe there was professional misconduct* by the doctor. The professional misconduct may be a breach of the standards of practice or conduct.

If the CAC decides there are no reasonable grounds to believe that there was professional misconduct, the CAC will dismiss the complaint. In doing so, the CAC may give the doctor advice.

In cases where there is less serious professional misconduct, the CAC cautions or counsels the doctor. A caution or counsel is the College’s strong disapproval of the doctor’s conduct; a warning to the doctor not to repeat the conduct; and notice to the doctor to take steps to avoid repeating the conduct.

The CAC will send a letter to you explaining the reasons for the decision. You have the right to appeal the decision to dismiss the complaint to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Referral of the complaint to a hearing

In cases of more serious professional misconduct, the CAC will refer the complaint for a hearing. An adjudication tribunal will hear the evidence about your complaint. In many ways, the hearing is similar to a trial in a court of law. You will likely be called as a witness to testify. Hearings are usually open to be public, although they may be held in private in certain circumstances. If the adjudication tribunal decides that the doctor has engaged in conduct deserving of sanction, the doctor’s license to practice medicine may be restricted, suspended, or revoked.

*   The term professional misconduct is one example of conduct deserving of sanction as defined in the Medical Act. The term professional misconduct is used in this document for simplicity and refers to the various kinds of conduct deserving of sanction listed in the Medical Act.

For more information on complaints:

The Medical Act
By-Law 5