Patient Ombudsman of Ontario A New Complaint Process

I recently had the pleasure of attending a reception with Christine Elliott Ontario’s new Patient Ombudsman. The office of the Patient Ombudsman was created to respond to complaints from patients regarding care provided by public hospitals, community care access centres (CCAC) and long-term care facilities. Before her appointment Christine was a long-time member of the legislature where she served as health critic for her party.

Patient Ombudsman Process

The purpose of the Patient Ombudsman is to help meet the needs of patients who have not had their concerns resolved through existing complaint mechanisms. In effect it will provide an independent and impartial¬† third party review of the patient’s complaint if it was not resolved to the patient’s satisfaction. Following an investigation of the complaint the Patient Ombudsman may make recommendations to the involved health sector organization.

Early Resolution Specialists

At the reception Christine Elliott outlined a key aspect of the complaint process. Once a complaint is filed with her office an Early Resolution Specialist will be appointed to handle the complaint. The Early Resolution Specialist will identify what the patient wishes to achieve through the complaint. Resolution suggestions will be offered to both the patient and the health sector organization. That dialogue will continue in an attempt to resolve the complaint. Hopefully Early Resolution Specialists can arrange for complaint resolution without the need for time consuming investigations.

We are often contacted by patients who have valid concerns about the level or quality of healthcare service they are receiving. In many cases legal action is not a suitable remedy. I am hopeful that the office of the Patient Ombudsman will be helpful in these situations.

Primary Patient Care Complaint Mechanisms

It is important to note though that the patient must first seek to have the complaint addressed by the public hospital, long-term care home or community care access centre. In the case of a hospital patients should contact the hospital’s Patient Advocate or Patient Relations Office. Community care access centres have a formal complaints process and should be contacted directly. Complaints about long-term care facilities can be made to the Long-Term Care Action Line at 1-866-434-0144.

The Patient Ombudsman will not deal with complaints about individual health professionals. Those complaints are made to the governing College of the particular regulated health professional. For doctors this would be the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Complaints about nurses are filed at the College of Nurses of Ontario.

More information about the office of the Patient Ombudsman and the complaint process may be found at its website



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