General Process

Filing a complaint

To file a complaint about a physician, patients or their designate must complete a Complaint Form, and an Authorization for Representation form if the complaint is being submitted by a designate.

A written letter is also acceptable with the following information:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • address
  • telephone number (day and evening)
  • the full name and address of the physician(s) involved
  • a description of the incident in as much detail as possible
  • the date of the incident
  • your signature

Note: If someone is representing a patient regarding a complaint, the written letter must also include:

  • full name
  • contact information
  • relationship to the patient
  • consent to access/receive the patient’s medical information

Handling a patient complaint

The process of reviewing and adjudicating complaints about physicians is defined by the Health Professions Act, the Regulations and the Bylaws made under that Act. Handling a patient complaint consists of several steps:

  1. The College receives a patient complaint letter/form
  2. The College will send the patient a letter to confirm receipt
  3. The College will contact the physician(s) involved in the complaint
    • The College will send a copy of the patient’s complaint to the physician(s), and ask the physician(s) to respond
    • The College may contact other physicians who have been involved in the patient’s care to obtain additional relevant information
  4. Once received, the College will provide the patient with a copy of the response obtained from the physicians involved in his/her care, and an opportunity to respond
  5. The College may request copies of the patient’s medical records from the treating physician, hospital or health-care facility
  6. The College compiles all documents and information into a complete file

Reviewing a patient complaint

Once the College has received all the relevant information from the patient, the physician(s) involved, the hospital(s), and/or other physicians, the complete file will be reviewed by one of the College's staff physicians who summarize the complaint and provide that summary, along with all relevant documents, to the College’s Inquiry Committee.

The Inquiry Committee includes both physician and public members of the College's Board and other appointed physicians or non-physicians with specific areas of expertise. The committee is divided into different panels as a way of reviewing complaints more efficiently. The committee members review and discuss all of the information pertinent to the complaint. In some circumstances, they may also choose to conduct interviews with the physician(s) involved in the patient’s care, as well as seek input from independent experts.

The review process requires time; however, the College tries to resolve complaints within six to eight months.  As set out in the Health Professions Act, complaints which are very unlikely to lead to limits or conditions on a physician’s practice may be responded to by one of the College’s staff physicians directly. A summary of the response and all pertinent documentation are submitted to the Inquiry Committee for review and confirmation.

Responding to a patient complaint

Upon completion of the investigation, the patient (and the physician(s) involved) will receive a written explanation of the College's review and opinion in response to the complaint. This explanation will include a summary of the physician's response, a description of other information considered, and an opinion, along with reasons for that opinion.

If the College is critical of the physician, the College may:

  • inform the physician why there was criticism and/or where s/he erred
  • provide advice to the physician on how to improve his/her conduct or practice; including the requirement to take educational courses
  • request that the physician attend the College for an interview
  • provide guidance and reminders to all physicians on expected standards of care through communication in its official publications
  • warn the physician that, if similar conduct occurs again, more serious disciplinary action may be considered
  • order a general review of the physician’s practice
  • issue a citation for a hearing by the Disciplinary Committee if remediation is not appropriate or sufficient to address the concerns

Whether or not the College is critical, all complaints about physicians remain in the physician's file at the College.

Health Professions Review Board

Under the Health Professions Act, the provincial government has established the Health Professions Review Board (HPRB).  The HPRB is an independent tribunal tasked with reviewing the thoroughness of the investigation and the reasonableness of the decision.

Patients who are dissatisfied with the College’s review and adjudication of their complaint have the right to submit the matter to the HPRB for further evaluation and review of the College’s action and conclusions within 30 days of receipt of the College's adjudication letter.

Health Professions Review Board
Suite 900, 747 Fort Street
Victoria BC  V8W 2E9

Telephone: 250-953-4956
Facsimile: 250-953-3195

Toll-free telephone number (within BC): 1-888-953-4986

www.hprb.gov.bc.ca

Mailing address:
PO Box 9429 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC  V8W 9V1