Frequently Asked Questions

 

The Patient Ombudsman is a champion for fairness in Ontario’s health sector organizations. Her office facilitates resolutions and investigates patient and caregiver complaints – without taking sides – about patient care and health care experiences in public hospitals, long-term care homes and home and community care services coordinated by the LHINs (including services formerly coordinated by the CCACs).

Patient Ombudsman receives written complaints from patients and former patients in public hospitals; residents and former residents of long-term care homes; clients and former clients of LHIN home and community care services (including home care services previously coordinated by CCACs); their substitute decision-makers; and, caregivers of current and former patients, residents and clients.

You can contact Patient Ombudsman by regular mail, by phone (toll free and TTY), by fax or in-person – click here for more information. You can make a confidential complaint through our online complaint form.

The Patient Ombudsman has delegated her authority to her staff to carry out specific activities of her office, including facilitating a resolution and conducting investigations. There will be some cases in which the Patient Ombudsman gets involved directly.

Patient Ombudsman may be able to help you if your complaint falls within Patient Ombudsman’s jurisdiction and you have already sought to have your complaint addressed by the health sector organization.

Your complaint must have the following elements:

  • It must be about an action or inaction of a health sector organization;
  • It must involve the care or health care experience of a current or former patient, resident or client of the health sector organization; and,
  • Your complaint cannot be within the jurisdiction of another person or entity.

Patient Ombudsman is generally an office of last resort. This means that you need to try to address your issue through any available complaint process at the health sector organization before contacting our office. If you are not sure about your next steps, please give us a call and we can try to help refer you to the right place or direct you to someone who may be able to assist you.

Every experience matters. Your willingness to bring forward your complaint may improve the future health care experience for you and others.

The Patient Ombudsman receives written complaints online, in-person, by fax or by regular mail. You can also call us for assistance in filing your complaint. An appointment is recommended for in-person (walk-in) complaints.

The Patient Ombudsman’s services are free of charge.

If you wish Patient Ombudsman to proceed with your complaint, yes, we will require your name and other relevant personal information in order to proceed.

All complaint information is kept strictly confidential and only disclosed for the purpose of facilitating a resolution, conducting an investigation or otherwise required by law.

Yes. Patient Ombudsman will require your consent to proceed with resolving your complaint. We will not identify a complainant without permission.

Our first step will be to work toward finding a reasonable resolution to your concerns through mediation and negotiation. We will hear from you; we will hear from the health sector organization; and, we may collect documents and other relevant information. With this information, our staff will work toward achieving a resolution. However, if we are not successful at this stage, we may consider conducting an investigation.

If we are unable to come to a satisfactory resolution, Patient Ombudsman may consider conducting an investigation. An investigation is a formal process which involves providing notices to the health sector organization and complainant that an investigation is going to take place. Patient Ombudsman has the power to compel the production of information from health sector organizations and anyone who provides services through or on behalf of the organization, obtain warrants for entry, summons people to give evidence under oath and make recommendations to the health sector organization.

The Patient Ombudsman is required to conduct investigations in private. Your name may be provided to others for the purpose of attempting to facilitate a resolution to your complaint, or to conduct an investigation. This will be done with your consent. Otherwise we will only disclose your name when required by law.

The Patient Ombudsman must make a report to the Minister at least annually, and to the local health integration networks as she considers appropriate. These reports will be available to the public on this website. Although the subject-matter of your complaint may be included in such a report, no personal or personal health information will be included in a public report.

It is difficult to say how long it will take to address your complaint. The length of time will depend on a number of factors, including: the complexity of the complaint; access to witnesses; and, access to other relevant information. We will be able to close some complaints in a couple of days, while others may take several months or even longer.

The Patient Ombudsman can start an investigation on her own initiative, without a specific complaint. Generally, these investigations will focus on systemic concerns in health sector organizations.

Patient Ombudsman is fully compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Accommodation will be provided to meet the needs of individuals wishing to access our services. In an effort to make our services accessible, we provide, for example: interpretative services when communicating with our staff; information pamphlets in multiple languages; and, an AODA compliant website.

Yes. It was released on November 9, 2017 and provides insights from our first year of operations July 1, 2016 to June 30th, 2017. It can be read here.

The Patient Ombudsman’s office has received approximately 2,000 complaints from patients and caregivers since we opened our office on July 1, 2016. Many complaints we’ve received so far include issues that are outside of our jurisdiction and we play a significant role in helping people to make connections with other complaints processes and services including mental health and disability services, access to financial, housing and legal resources and access to health benefits programs. Overall, we’ve made over 1,000 connections to other complaints bodies in our first year.

To date, the types of issues people have been complaining to us about shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Normally, many of the complaints we receive are complex and identify multiple issues. Across our jurisdictions, the most prominent theme; however, even if it not the main reason for complaining, is communication or perceived lack of communication. This issue seems to be the opportunity for greatest improvement in healthcare.

The top five issues being monitored by our office right now are:

  • Inappropriate Discharge

  • Miscommunication or Lack of Communication

  • Understanding and Improving Policies and Procedures

  • Access to Service

  • Poor Care

In our second year, the office is committed to learning from and using productively the information and evidence gathered from our first year to identify issues and situations that would benefit from more in-depth investigations. We are committed to building capacity and strong relationships to make recommendations and help shape healthcare system improvements.

 

 

 

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