Inquiries, Reports and Complaints
Anyone can lodge a complaint against a member of the College. If an individual has a problem with the care being provided by an optometrist, the College is here to help. We encourage members of the public and optometrists to communicate directly with each other in an effort to reach a solution to the problem. If this approach is unsuccessful, do not hesitate to telephone the College. College staff may act as an intermediary between the parties in an attempt to reach a reasonable solution. If the problem cannot be resolved by informal means, a formal complaint may be lodged with the College. All complaints are dealt with confidentially and all the parties involved are treated with respect.
For a copy of the Complaints Form, click here.
Complaints of a sexual nature
The College has a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse of patients by optometrists. If you believe that you are the victim of sexual abuse or physically or verbally inappropriate behaviour by an optometrist, contact the College or e-mail the Director, Investigations and Resolutions of the College. The Patient Relations Committee of the College works to educate optometrists and the public about the “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual abuse of patients. To learn more about the Patient Relations Program, click here.
The Complaints Process
You may wish to lodge a formal written complaint if the problem has not been resolved successfully. The Health Professions Procedural Code requires that a complaint must be filed in writing or recorded on tape, film, disk or other medium.
A member of the College staff will review the information in your complaint and you will be sent a letter confirming receipt of your correspondence. You may be asked to sign a consent form for your optometrist to release information from your clinical file to the College. To ensure that the College and the optometrist involved have a proper understanding of your complaint, you may be asked to confirm a summary statement of your complaint. If it is determined that the matter is an “inquiry” and not a complaint, an explanation will be provided to you either by telephone or letter.
If it is determined that the matter is a formal complaint, a letter is sent within 14 days to the optometrist involved, notifying them of the complaint. It is the policy of the College to send a copy of your complaint to the optometrist.
Every complaint has two sides
The optometrist is invited to provide a written response to the complaint and is given thirty days to do so. If the optometrist chooses to respond to the complaint, a copy of their response is sent to you. In this way, you have the opportunity to understand the optometrist’s side of the story. Just as the optometrist was invited to respond to your letter of complaint, you will be invited to comment on the optometrist’s response.
Where there is more than one practitioner
If you have been examined or treated by more than one practitioner, either before or after the matter in question, and if it appears that another practitioner might have information relevant to the matter, you will be requested to provide consent for the College to obtain a report from that practitioner.
In some cases, other persons may have information that would help the College make a fair and appropriate decision. In such cases, those persons would be contacted too.
The Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC)
Once the investigation is completed, all of the available information is presented to a panel of the ICRC for its consideration and decision. Each panel of the ICRC is made up of a minimum of 3 persons, at least one of whom is a member of the public appointed by the government.
Additional information may be required
If the issues involved in the matter are clear, a panel of the ICRC may arrive at a decision based on the written material presented to the panel. At other times, the optometrist and/or the complainant may be asked to clarify certain information.
Consideration by the Committee
The Health Professions Procedural Code allows a range of possible outcomes of an ICRC investigation. In its decision of the matter, the panel of the ICRC may:
- determine that the complaint is about sexual abuse of a serious nature and refer the matter to the Discipline Committee with specified allegations of professional misconduct.
- determine that the member may have committed an act of professional misconduct or may be incompetent and refer the optometrist for a formal hearing before the Discipline Committee;
- determine that the member may be incapacitated and refer the optometrist for incapacity proceedings;
- determine that the treatment was less than ideal or the behaviour was inappropriate, but not serious enough to warrant a referral to the Discipline Committee. In such a case, the Committee may caution the optometrist, either in person or in writing, and/or require them to take a continuing education program to improve their skills, knowledge, or conduct;
- issue a reminder or make recommendations to the optometrist regarding behavior or other matters, so that the optometrist might avoid a similar situation in the future;
- determine that the optometrist did nothing improper and dispose of the mater with no action taken; or
- decline to investigate a complaint if it considers it to be frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith, or an abuse of process (this decision rests solely with the Committee).
The ICRC has no authority to assess damages against an optometrist or to direct reimbursement of funds by the optometrist to the complainant. Only the courts can do this.
The Written Decision
After a panel of the ICRC has considered the complaint, a written decision is prepared. This decision is sent to both the complainant and the optometrist. Reasons for the decision made by the panel will be provided unless the decision is to refer the optometrist to the Discipline Committee or for incapacity proceedings.
The Right to Appeal
The Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (the Board) is the body established by the government to review the decisions of the ICRC. If either the complainant or the optometrist feels that the Committee’s investigation was inadequate or the decision was unreasonable, a review by the Board may be requested. The only exception to this right to appeal is if the ICRC decision is to refer the matter to the Discipline Committee for a hearing into allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence, or to refer for incapacity proceedings.
You’ve Decided to Lodge a Formal Complaint
All complaints are dealt with promptly, but cannot be considered as a formal complaint unless they are in writing or recorded on a tape, film, disk or other medium. The nature of a complaint and details pertaining to it should be forwarded to the ICRC.
Many people are reluctant to lodge a complaint and are particularly concerned that their identity not be revealed. However, anonymous complaints cannot be considered by ICRC and, therefore, serve no purpose in protecting the public. The College urges people who have valid complaint to identify themselves. Please note that there is nothing to stop you from contacting the College to simply discuss your concerns.
If you wish to make a complaint against a member of the College, please complete and submit the Complaints Form.
If you have any questions about the complaints process or how to file a complaint, please feel free to contact us at:
College of Optometrists of Ontario
1867 Yonge Street, Suite 901
Toronto, Ontario M4S 1Y5
Toll Free: 1-888-825-2554
Reports differ from complaints. If a matter comes to the attention of the Registrar which leads the Registrar to believe that a member has committed an act of professional misconduct or is incompetent, he or she may ask the ICRC to approve the appointment of an investigator to obtain additional information. After reviewing the investigator’s report, the Registrar submits a Report to the ICRC. The member who is the subject of the Report is sent a copy of the Report and given an opportunity to respond. The ICRC will then consider the information and render a decision in the matter.
The powers of the ICRC are limited. They may refer specified allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence to the Discipline Committee, they may refer the optometrist to a panel of the ICRC for incapacity proceedings, they may caution the optometrist with a written or verbal caution, and/or they may take other action that is not inconsistent with the health profession Act. For example, they may require the optometrist to undertake specific continuing education activities.
There is no appeal mechanism for ICRC decisions related to reports.