What to Expect

In general, most physicians are willing to address a patient’s concerns directly. Patients who have a concern about their physician, which involves communication, conduct, or the treatment they have received, should feel free to openly discuss these issues with their physician. If the conversation is unsuccessful, patients may choose to file a complaint with the College for further investigation.

There is no specific timeframe within which to file a complaint. However, it assists in the investigation process if a complaint is filed shortly after the alleged incident.

Note: To protect patient privacy and ensure confidentiality, the College does not accept complaints by email or telephone. A complaint must be sent to the College in writing with a handwritten signature. For convenience, a Complaint Form can be found here, which outlines the information required to initiate a review of a patient's concerns.

The investigation into a complaint is an unbiased process based on the physician’s response to the complaint and a comprehensive review of medical records and other available documentation. Every complaint is reviewed and assessed on its own merits by the College’s Inquiry Committee and others who act on behalf of the committee. The College attempts to resolve most concerns in a remedial and/or educational manner – seeking to understand the circumstances surrounding the event, and how a similar situation can be avoided in future.

What the College is able to doWhat the College is not able to do

Most complaints are addressed and resolved by the College’s staff through review of relevant records, and discussion or correspondence with the complainant(s) and the physician(s) involved, under the authority of the College's Inquiry Committee.

If the College finds reason to be critical, the physician may be expected to change aspects of his/her practice, or undertake further education.

The College can also issue remedial advice or reprimands to physicians if there has been a failure to meet current standards of care or a significant departure from the ethical principles set out in the CMA Code of Ethics.

In extraordinary circumstances, subject to a formal disciplinary process, the College might restrict or prohibit a physician’s ability to practise medicine. Before the College can enforce restrictions, it needs substantiated evidence of a significant degree of a physician’s misjudgment, unprofessional behaviour, lack of current skill or knowledge, or impaired fitness to practice. This evidence must be tested at a Discipline Committee hearing, or alternatively, be agreed to by the physician as part of alternate dispute resolution.

The College does not have the authority to:

  • provide any financial compensation to patients
  • provide diagnoses or treatment recommendations, or direct the specifics of patient care
  • compel a physician to treat or prescribe in a particular manner
  • deal with concerns or complaints about hospitals, or other health care providers such as nurses, pharmacists, dentists, optometrists, psychologists, chiropractors, naturopaths, or any other health professional who is not a registered physician or surgeon
  • contact the police on behalf of a patient where illegal activities are suspected without the patient’s specific consent
  • adjudicate complaints without offering the physician(s) the opportunity to respond