Questions from Patient Advisors

 

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You asked and we answered!

Health Quality Ontario’s Patient and Family Advisors wanted to know more about the Patient Ombudsman.

Here are the questions submitted to us.

 

The Excellent Care for All Act is the legislation (provincial law) that guides our work. It gives the Patient Ombudsman powers to seek information and question individuals from the health sector organizations in our jurisdiction.

The privacy and confidentiality of patients is very important to Patient Ombudsman. We require consent from the patient, or the patient’s substitute decision-maker if the patient is unable to consent, before we ask for specific information like medical records or patient charts.

If your complaint is about the clinical decisions of a regulated health professional like a doctor or nurse, we will refer the complainant to one of the appropriate regulatory college like the College of Physicians and Surgeons or the College of Nurses Ontario, for example.

Patient Ombudsman is happy to listen and provide informal advice about any complaint related to a health sector organization. If you don’t know where to start, please call us. We may be able to help.

In order to open a formal complaint file, we must receive a summary of your complaint in writing. The easiest way to submit a written complaint is through the form on our website (www.patientombudsman.ca), but a letter, fax or e-mail will work as well. If writing is hard for you, we can always make arrangements to record and transcribe your complaint, or you can visit our office in person.

When you come to us, we will ask you if you have attempted to resolve your complaint directly with your care provider. If you haven’t -- you will be asked to try this first. We hope to hear from you if you have tried to resolve your complaint and are unsatisfied with the official response.

Your complaint also has to be in our jurisdiction. Patient Ombudsman has jurisdiction over Ontario’s public hospitals, long-term care homes, and home and community care coordinated by the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), including placement in long-term care homes.

Patient Ombudsman can’t resolve complaints that are:

  • About a regulated healthcare professional,

  • About a private retirement home, or

  • Are the subject of court or other proceedings.

It’s okay if you are uncertain if Patient Ombudsman is the right place for your complaint. Our early resolution specialists can help you get to the right place if a complaint it outside of Patient Ombudsman’s mandate.

All Ontarians have the right to raise concerns about their healthcare experiences. No one should fear consequences or reprisals in their quality of care from raising a legitimate complaint or concern. In our experience, most health care organizations take complaints seriously, and recognize the importance of trying to find a fair resolution. If you think a health sector organization is threatening to or is retaliating against you for making a complaint to our office, you should tell us about it right away.

Patient Ombudsman recognizes that it takes a lot of courage to come forward with your concerns, both at the point of care and to our office.

Voicing complaints is important and leads to better care for everyone. Your courage helps identify bigger issues in the healthcare system and prevents others from going through a similar experience.

Patient Ombudsman does not take sides. We work with all sides (the complainant and the health sector organization) to find a fair resolution. We are not advocates, but rather focus on achieving outcomes that are fair and impartial.

We listen compassionately to your concerns but we also work rigorously to solve complaints through early resolutions or investigations if needed.

Patient Ombudsman does not enforce standards or practices at a long-term care home, but we can shine a light on issues and make formal recommendations to a long-term care home, public hospital or home and community care that are coordinated by the LHINs.

Our goal is that any suggestions or recommendations we propose to health sector organizations are an opportunity to improve.

Patient Ombudsman can choose to report publicly our recommendations.

Any cases of abuse or neglect are reported to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care for action.

Ontario’s Patient Ombudsman has a fully accessible office at 393 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario.

We are open for walk-in appointments (in-person) Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 4:00pm.

Most people access us through the comfort of their own homes by telephone or the internet.

If you have a complaint or concern, please feel free to call us at 416-597-0339 Toll free: 1-888-321-0339 or TTY: 416-597-5371

You can also access our complaint form or learn more about us online at https://patientombudsman.ca/

About a fifth or 20% of the complaints received by Patient Ombudsman are about mental health care. That is a significant number of complaints.

Many of those complaints reflect issues that we already know. Many patients are waiting for access to appropriate mental health of psychiatric services. Many caregivers are having concerns about the quality of care provided to their loved ones.

We also see complaints about a lack of courtesy, respect or sensitivity from providers in mental health settings.

Patient Ombudsman is tracking and monitoring mental health and addictions-related complaints closely so that we can share the insights with our stakeholders in the mental health and addictions system in Ontario.

Patient Ombudsman is also enhancing our own capacity to address these complaints by investing in the training of our front-line staff to better assist complainants with mental health challenges.

The Patient Ombudsman is required to publish an annual report about our activities and recommendations in our year of operations. The annual report provides the numbers of complaints we receive and highlights the types of issues that emerge from our complaints.

The Patient Ombudsman delivers the annual report to the Minister of Health and Long-term care and to the public.

Every experience matters and every complaint is unique. There are some complaints that can be resolved within a day. There are other complaints that are more complex or may require an investigation. Those complaints can take up to several months to resolve.

We complete the bulk of our cases in the early resolution phase. This often gives many patients peace of mind around their health care concerns.

Patient Ombudsman has created a Feedback Working Group from Health Quality Ontario’s network of Patient and Family Advisors so that we can benefit from their lived experience. This Working Group has given valuable advice on how to improve customer service through some of our communications materials.

In 2019, Patient Ombudsman will be reaching out to complainants who have gone through our process and asking for their feedback through a service experience survey.

Patient Ombudsman is open to on-going feedback from patients and caregivers about our service. If you have any comments or concerns about your experience with our office, we invite you to send us an email at feedback@patientombudsman.ca

Patient Ombudsman’s team consists of six early resolution specialists, three investigators, a manager of complaints and an early resolution/investigation assistant.

Early resolution specialists are typically working on 30 to 40 cases at any given time.

In addition to conducting investigations, investigators will be responsible for approximately 25 of the more complex cases.

One of the strengths of our office is the diversity and inter-professional array of experience of our team.

We have clinicians who have worked directly with patients. We have skilled arbitrators and mediators who are experts in resolving conflict. We have other staff members with backgrounds in law, law enforcement, human rights, health professional standards, patient relations, health equity, health administration, policy and education.

Having a broad base of expertise and experience helps us to understand the context of a complaint and the perspectives of patients and health care providers – it also helps us propose meaningful solutions to complaints and make recommendations to health sector organizations that will have a real and positive impact.

 

 

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