A guide to the complaints process
Are you concerned about medical care that a doctor has provided?
We can help you deal with the situation. If you are unhappy about a professional interaction with a doctor, you have some choices to make. Almost always, your best first step is to speak to the doctor directly about your concern. If you do not wish to speak to do so or if talking does not resolve matters, you can call the Complaints Coordinator at the College (709-726-8546). We can suggest next steps—including filing a complaint about the doctor.
Filing a complaint is a serious matter that may harm your relationship with your doctor—but it can bring attention to an issue that may protect the public. It is the College’s duty to review all complaints. That process can take a few months or longer, depending on the complexity of the complaint.
Making a complaint starts with a form
To file a formal complaint about a doctor you must fill out the form on the College’s website (see link on the left side of this page). We will send you a letter when we receive your completed complaint form.
Your complaint is sent to your doctor
The College sends your complaint to the doctor and asks for a written response. When we get the reply, we send you a copy and give you an opportunity to respond. The complaint process can be stopped at this point. If you are satisfied with the doctor’s response, you can tell the College’s Complaints Officer (in writing) that you want to withdraw your complaint. Or you may wish to continue to pursue the matter.
We can help resolve some cases . . .
The College Registrar reviews your complaint file and may try to resolve matters to everyone’s satisfaction if you and the doctor agree to this approach. If that is not possible, your case moves to a College committee for further review.
. . . most complaints go to the College’s Complaints Authorization Committee
This Committee is made up of members of the public and doctors. Its job is to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a doctor has engaged in misconduct. In most cases, an investigator is appointed. The investigator can contact people and institutions who may have information about your complaint. This often includes obtaining copies of personal health records relating to the complaint.
After the Committee reviews all relevant information, it has four choices:
- Dismiss the complaint (sometimes giving the doctor direction)
- Give the doctor a warning or guidance (“caution or counsel”)
- Send the complaint to alternative dispute resolution
- Ask the College Registrar to refer the complaint to a public hearing
Public hearings deal with the most serious complaints
Public hearings are run by an appointed “tribunal”—three people who listen to evidence presented by the College and the doctor. The College presents your complaint and you may be called as a witness. The process is usually open to the public.
The tribunal makes a ruling on the evidence. It can dismiss the complaint, or it can:
- restrict a doctor’s practice
- suspend the doctor’s licence
- require the doctor to re-train
Some complaints are outside our scope
The College of Physicians and Surgeons has the power to deal only with complaints about the professional behaviour of its members (doctors). It cannot deal with complaints about:
- hospitals, clinics or correctional facilities
- medical professionals who are not doctors (e.g., nurses, dentists, pharmacists, etc.)
Legally, our process means that we. . .
- cannot give medical opinions, diagnoses, referrals, or treatment—we cannot direct any patient’s care
- must tell a doctor when a complaint is filed, so they can respond
- must share relevant information about the complaint with the doctor
- cannot provide financial compensation—to complainants or doctors or anyone. The College’s complaint process is different from a civil (court) process.