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.
The information in your complaint will be reviewed and a letter confirming receipt of your complaint will be sent to you. The College will need your consent for your optometrist to release information from your clinical record to the College. 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.
Once you file a formal complaint, the optometrist will be notified of the complaint, in writing, within 14 days. 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. A copy of the optometrist’s response to your complaint will be sent to you. This way, you have the opportunity to hear and 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 initial 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 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 care provided fell below the standards of practice or that 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 and/or require them to take a continuing education program to improve their skills, knowledge, or conduct;
- make recommendations to the optometrist regarding behaviour 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 matter 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.