Filing a Complaint About Health or Social Services

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Our health system is complicated. It can be difficult to know where to turn, especially if you have a problem.

This article explains how to file a complaint about health or social services provided by an institution or one of its staff members or health professionals.

Important!

The word "institution" in this article refers to any institution or body in the public health and social services network.

If your problem concerns a private clinic, please see our article Filing a Complaint Against a Private Clinic.

 

Reasons for Filing a Complaint

You have several rights as a user of a health and social services institution. For example, you have these rights:

  • receive quality services that are appropriate on a medical, personal and social level
  • receive personalized services tailored to your state of health
  • receive continuous services, which means without interruptions, unless they are justified
  • receive safe services

You also have these rights:

  • receive information about your state of health, available treatments and the risks, side effects and benefits of those treatments
  • receive information about the services available to you and how to get them 
  • be treated with respect
  • make decisions on issues that affect you (for example, to agree to or refuse treatment)

Therefore, you can file a complaint if you feel that an institution, staff member or health professional working in a public institution did not provide good service or did not respect your rights.

For a complete list of your rights, visit the website of the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (ministry of health and social services).   

 

Who Can File a Complaint

These people can file a complaint:

  • a user who is not satisfied with the services provided or who believes his or her rights have not been respected
  • someone representing the user,if the user is a child or is not able to file a complaint (The representative can be a parent, tutor, curator, mandatary in anticipation of incapacity, spouse, close relative or someone who has a particular interest in the user's well-being.)
  • the heirs of a deceased user

Also, any person who realizes that the rights of a user or group of users are not being respected can report the situation directly to the Quebec Ombudsman (see below).

 

Talking Things Over Before Filing a Complaint

If you are not satisfied with the services you received, or if you think that your rights have not been respected, you can first try to speak to the people in charge of the institution where you received the services. If this does not settle the problem, then you can file a complaint. 

 

Filing a Complaint About Health or Social Services

In different institutions, different people are responsible for handling complaints. The table below outlines your options based on the type of institution:

Target of Your Complaint First Level of Action Second Level of Action

Health and social services institution:

  • integrated ealth and social services centre (CISSS)
  • hospital
  • residential and long-term care centre (CHSLD)
  • local community service centre (CLSC)
  • rehabilitation centre
  • child and youth protection centre (CPEJ)

Resource, person or body connected to an institution through an agreement:

  • "intermediate" resource:
    • supervised apartment
    • rooming house
    • shelter
    • group residence
  • "family-type" resource:
    • foster family
    • foster home
  • private clinic connected to a public institution to offer health services
  • a community organization
  • a private seniors' residence or other similar housing
  • housing for people with substance abuse problems or addiction to gambling

File your complaint with the service quality and complaints commissioner responsible for the institution that provided the services.

See the bottom of this Web page for the commissioners' contact information. 

If you do not get the results you were hoping for, you can file a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman.

For more information on this topic, see our article The Quebec Ombudsman: A Second Place to Turn for Complaints.

Doctor, pharmacist or dentist who practises in a health and social services institution

  • Example of a complaint: A doctor prescribed the wrong medication.

File your complaint with the service quality and complaints commissioner responsible for the institution.

The commissioner forwards your complaint to a medical examiner who will look at your file and send you a letter with an answer within 45 days.

See the bottom of this Web page for the commissioners' contact information.

If you are not satisfied with the medical examiner's conclusions, you can ask for the review committee of the institution to re-examine your complaint.   

The medical examiner's letter will have all the information you need to ask for a review.

Ambulance service There is an exception for ambulance services in Montreal and Laval. You must file your complaint with the commissioner of Urgences-Santé (website in French only) rather than with a complaints commissioner. 

 

 

Filing a Complaint With the Commissioner

A complaint to a service quality and complaints commissioner can be verbal or written. If necessary, you can ask the commissioner to help you file your complaint. The commissioner must help you through the process.

Soon after you file your complaint, the commissioner will confirm in writing that your complaint was received.

The commissioner then examines the file, and sends you conclusions about your complaint. This must be done within 45 days after the commissioner received your complaint. If you do not receive the commissioner's conclusions by then, you can contact the Quebec Ombudsman.

Your file is kept confidential at all times.

 

Filing a Complaint With the Quebec Ombudsman

Before filing a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman, you must first try to exercise your rights with a service quality and complaints commissioner. In the area of health and social services, the Quebec Ombudsman usually only becomes involved as a second level of action.

For more information on how to file a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman, please refer to the article The Quebec Ombudsman: A Second Place to Turn for Complaints.

 

Help With Filing Your Complaint

Centres d'assistance et d'accompagnement aux plaintes (complaint assistance and support centres or CAAP)

The CAAPs help users and their representatives file complaints involving health and social services. To contact your local CAAP, website of the Fédération des centres d'assistance et d'accompagnement aux plaintes (federation of complaint assistance and support centres or FCAAP) (website in French only).

The CAAP can do the following things:

  • provide information about the complaint process
  • help you write your complaint or write it for you
  • accompany you throughout the complaint process
  • encourage conversations with the institution involved to help find a solution
 

Users’ Committees

There is a users’ committee in many health and social services institutions. The committee can tell you how to file a complaint and help you through the complaint process. To learn more, visit the website of the Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (provincial association of users’ committees) (website in French).

 

Policy to Combat Maltreatment

Health and social services institutions, such as CLSCs, CHSLDs and hospitals, must adopt a polity to combat maltreatment of seniors and vulnerable adults before November 2018. Such a policy must also be adopted by private seniors’ residences, intermediate or family-type resources and home care resources. To learn more, visit the Quebec government website on this topic (in French only)

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.