Health Blog

Navigating the complaint system

Navigating our grievance resolution system

Guidance on offering feedback regarding your healthcare encounter.

What is your intent?

  • I hope to express my appreciation
  • I wish to express my frustration with myself or another individual
  • I am considering taking legal action

How to accentuate the positive

Let’s celebrate the commendable! It’s a great idea to let the people who run the place where you had your encounter know why it was commendable. This gives them a chance to learn from your experience. It’s as good as a criticism to encourage a patient and family-centered approach.

Most healthcare organizations have rules for dealing with complaints. Why not use these for positive feedback as well?

Here are several fundamental measures to adhere to:

  • Chronicle the facets that rendered your encounter commendable—do so promptly
  • Document the involved parties
  • Specify the date and time of your encounter

By documenting your experience, you contribute to reinforcing the type of attention that patients cherish.

How to register a grievance for yourself or another individual

You might harbor a grievance concerning a specific healthcare practitioner’s demeanor, the setting in which you received care, or the management of your medical documents.

Under typical circumstances, it feels justified to voice concerns following an adverse experience. However, articulating apprehensions about healthcare services can pose challenges, dissuading many from vocalizing their concerns for fear of facing differential treatment from the provider community.

Valuable pointers for lodging a grievance about your healthcare

Express your grievance promptly

Addressing a concern when it arises can obviate the often labyrinthine and stressful ordeal of lodging a formal grievance. This is because challenges frequently—though not invariably—emerge due to unclear communication between a patient and healthcare practitioner. By elucidating your concern directly and being receptive to feedback, you may resolve the issue promptly.

As aforementioned, grievances can be expeditiously resolved sans the involvement of a third party (e.g., Patient Representatives, the healthcare network, etc.). Should you find the resolution satisfactory, there’s no imperative to proceed further. Nonetheless, it’s advisable to meticulously document the grievance process, just in case. Endeavor to do so expeditiously, for important details are easily forgotten.

Post-addressal documentation

  • Particulars of the incident
  • Date and time of occurrence
  • Names of individuals involved and, where feasible, witnesses
  • Reaction to your grievance
  • Assessment of whether the grievance was satisfactorily resolved (If not, elucidate your expectations when lodging the grievance and rationale for their non-fulfillment)

Failure to promptly address the issue

Addressing a concern when it arises may sometimes prove impracticable, inconvenient, or discomforting. It’s not uncommon to act on a negative encounter following contemplation.

Before reaching out to anyone, ensure that you’ve documented your grievances, along with the reasons for your vexation. It’s natural to experience apprehension when lodging a grievance, and documenting your sentiments not only helps pinpoint the underlying issue but may also bolster your confidence in providing feedback.

In addition to detailing the incident, delineate the outcomes you envisage stemming from voicing your grievance. Reflect on whether you seek any of the following:

  • An apology
  • Procedural or systemic modifications to enhance care quality
  • Attention directed towards a specific healthcare professional or staff member
  • Financial recompense or legal recourse (refer to the legal section)

Pondering these queries will elucidate your grievances and expectations before initiating the grievance process.

I’ve documented everything. What next?

Many Canadian hospitals have a Patient Representative or Patient Advocate Office that can help facilitate the complaint process. We recommend that you make use of this resource when you are admitted to a health care facility.

You should also familiarise yourself with your hospital’s complaint protocols before you begin the process. This will help you understand the process and possible timeframe.

Protocols may be described on a health centre’s website or a hard copy may be available from a patient representative’s office. If you are unsure about where to find information on how to make a complaint, it may be helpful to contact the centre to find out who to contact to start the process.

It’s not invariably a straightforward process

Ideally, the facility where you received care will address your complaint and resolve it appropriately. However, you may find it necessary to escalate your complaint to a higher health authority.

Currently, the Canadian health care system lacks standardised best practice procedures for resolving complaints.

The nature of your complaint may affect how it is handled or who is responsible for resolving it. It’s also plausible that your complaint may be handled by more than one body.

To address more complex scenarios, we provide province-specific information on complaint mechanisms. Where possible, we outline the steps involved in the complaint process, the expected timelines and contact details. A province that does not have a specific category indicates that we are unable to obtain the information.

Lodging a grievance regarding another individual’s healthcare

Obtain consent from the person on whose behalf you’re making the complaint and authorisation to access their medical records. OR, obtain power of attorney from the patient on whose behalf you’re making the complaint, authorising you to access their medical records.

If contemplating legal action

Initiate a dialogue with the healthcare professional involved before seeking legal advice. A frank discussion may be enough to resolve the issue amicably.

If the issue remains unresolved, seek legal counsel before filing a formal complaint. Legal counsel will guide you through the grievance process.