The Complaints Process
In order to fulfil its mandate, the College must investigate complaints against physicians. Such are usually in the form of a letter to the Registrar. Occasionally, complaints may be prepared with the assistance of College staff.
Once a complaint is received, the Registrar forwards a copy to the physician, requesting a response. In addition, the Registrar arranges for additional information, such as hospital records or records from other physicians, to be obtained.
It should be noted that the Medical Act prevents any documentation produced as the result of a complaint, including the physician's response and any rulings from the College, from being used as evidence in any civil proceeding.
Once the investigation is complete, the matter is presented to the Complaints Committee of the College. The Committee consists of four physicians and three public members. This Committee reviews all of the material and makes a recommendation to the Council. It may recommend that the matter be referred to a formal hearing before a Board of Inquiry, or that no further action be taken. The Committee can also refer the matter to the Review Committee.
The Review Committee consists of six physicians and two public members and is mainly charged with the investigation of quality of practice or possible incapacity to practice.
The Council of the College consists of seventeen people, including twelve physicians elected directly by the membership, one physician appointed by the Minister of Health, and four public members appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. This body has the ultimate authority within the College.
If Council accepts a recommendation to take no further action, it will approve a response to the complainant detailing the reason for that decision.
If a Board of Inquiry is appointed it usually consists of two physicians and a public member. These are individuals not otherwise involved in the College process. Unlike in other provinces, the College does not use a standing Discipline Committee to hear such matters. The hearings themselves are conducted much like a trial, with evidence taken under oath, full disclosure of documents and full cross-examination of witnesses. Recent amendments also provide for hearings to be held in public, with some specified limitations. In the end, the Board of Inquiry makes a finding on the guilt or innocence of the physician. The Board then requests submissions regarding penalty and, on hearing these, makes a recommendation on such to the Council.
The final word goes to the Council. Council has the authority to impose one or more of the following: revocation of licence, suspension of licence, fine, or reprimand. Various conditions may also be imposed. Physicians have the right to appeal any order from Council to the Court of Appeal.
For more information see also:
Code of Ethics
Regulation #9, Professional Misconduct