Advice for Health Professionals: Responding to Complaints

Watch Elyse Sunshine tell health professionals what to do upon receipt of a Complaint and provide some strategies for dealing with same.


Toronto health lawyer, Elyse Sunshine, has advice for health professionals on what to do if they receive a letter of complaint. Well Elyse, who typically complains?

The bad news for health professionals is really anyone can complain. Of course, the most common type of complaint is from a patient. But, complaints can come from colleagues, from former or current employees, from ex-spouses or people the health professional has been in a relationship with, from insurance companies or other third party payers. Basically anyone could make a complaint about a health professional to their regulatory body.

Well what are the complaints that you hear most often?

So again, they really run the gamut. Probably the most common ones [complaints] have to do with the standards of practice. So if someone was unhappy with the type of health care services they provided. A lot of complaints stem from communication issues: there has been a mis-communication between the health care provider and the other individual; there are complaints in relation to billing issues; complaints in relation to behavioral issues;  they don’t like the way they have been spoken to etc. There are more serious complaints, of course, about things like sexual abuse etc.

What do they do when it happens?

So the first thing to do is not to panic. It is very distressing to receive that letter from your regulatory body informing that you have received a complaint. Of course, the next thing to do is contact a lawyer and that does sound self-serving, but even if the complaint doesn’t seem serious on its face, we have seen complaints that may not seem so serious expand into something far more significant for the health care provider. The next thing to do is to really sit back and reflect upon on what happened with that individual. So in essence, create a time line or draft response for your lawyer to look at because obviously your lawyer was not there during the events in question and you have the best recollection as to what happened. You should also gather any necessary records or documents that might assist your lawyer in preparing the response and take time to think about whether there were any other witnesses; was your receptionist present or an assistant or a nurse of some type? and provide all of that information in detail to your lawyer.

To sum it up, take a deep breath and then see your lawyer.

Exactly, that’s my best advice.


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