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  • 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 of a sexual nature by an optometrist, contact the College or e-mail the Coordinator, Investigation and Hearings of the College.

    The Patient Relations Committee works to educate optometrists and the public about the College’s “zero tolerance” policy regarding the sexual abuse of patients. The Patient Relations Committee also administers funding for therapy and counselling for patients who allege that they have been victims of sexual abuse by optometrists. A patient is eligible for funding from the time a complaint/report of allegations of sexual abuse by an optometrist is filed with the College. The funds are payable directly to the therapist. 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.

    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.

    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.

    Some people are reluctant to lodge a formal complaint and may be concerned that their name will be disclosed to the optometrist. However, anonymous complaints cannot be considered by the ICRC. The basic principle of the complaints process is that it is objective and fair to both parties and in order to provide a meaningful response, the optometrist has the right to know who has brought up allegations against him/her. In addition, most investigations include a review of the patient record that the optometrist is asked to provide, which requires that the complainant’s name is disclosed. Please remember that you can always contact the College to simply discuss your concerns first and then decided if you wish to proceed with a formal complaint.

    If you wish to make a complaint against a member of the College, please complete and submit the Complaint 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

    coo-home-blue65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 900, Toronto, ON M4T 2Y3

    coo-phone-blueMain  416 962 4071  •  Toll Free  1 888 825 2554  •  Fax  416 962 4073