The Quebec Ombudsman: A Second Place to Turn for Complaints About Health or Social Services

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The Quebec Ombudsman can help if you are not satisfied with the health care or social services you received from an institution or one of its staff members or health professionals. The Quebec Ombudsman can also help if you feel that your rights have not been respected or you have not received the services you are entitled to as a user.

This article explains how the Quebec Ombudsman can help.

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.

Before Filing a Complaint With the Quebec Ombudsman

Before you can file a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman, you must first file your complaint with a service quality and complaints commissioner. Usually, if you have a problem with an institution in the health and social services network, the Quebec Ombudsman can only help as a second level of action.

To learn how to file a complaint with a commissioner, which institutions you can file a complaint against and your rights as a user, please see our article Filing a Complaint About Health Care or Social Services.

Exceptions

The Quebec Ombudsman can sometimes become involved as a first level of action.In the situations listed below, you are allowed to contact the Quebec Ombudsman first, even if you have not yet filed a complaint with a commissioner:

  • It is an emergency.
     
  • The rights of a user or group of users are not being respected and you want to report the situation so the Quebec Ombudsman will become involved.
     
  • You believe that the safety or life of a person is in danger and action must be taken immediately.
     
  • You are afraid of retaliation for having complained or planning to complain.

Types of Complaints the Quebec Ombudsman Handles

You can file a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman if you are not satisfied with the commissioner's conclusions and the results of your first level of action.

You can also file a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman if you do not receive a reply from the commissioner within 45 days after your complaint is received.

Exceptions

The Quebec Ombudsman cannot become involved if your complaint concerns the following:

In case of doubt, you can contact the Quebec Ombudsman for more information.

Who Can File a Complaint With the Quebec Ombudsman

These people can file a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman:

  • the user
     
  • the user's representative,if the user is a child under the age of 14 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.)
     
  • the heirs of a user who has died

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.

How to File a Complaint

You can file your complaint verbally or in writing, that is, by telephone, fax or mail.

However, the Quebec Ombudsman recommends that, if possible, you file your complaint by completing the secure online complaint form on its website.

The services of the Quebec Ombudsman are free, and all information you provide about your complaint will be treated confidentially.

How Complaints Are Processed

Initial Contact

The office of the Quebec Ombudsman will contact you by phone within two business days after you file your complaint. If necessary, you will be asked to answer a few questions so the Ombudsman can get a better understanding of your case.

Following an initial analysis of your complaint, you will be contacted about the next steps involving your file:

If the Quebec Ombudsman CANNOT HELP YOU with your complaint An employee of the Ombudsman's office explains the reasons and tells you about the other options available.
  • If your complaint was verbal, this information is usually given by telephone.
  • If your complaint was in writing, this information is given to you in writing.
If the Quebec Ombudsman CAN HELP YOU with your complaint The person in charge of your case, who is called a "delegate", contacts you by telephone.

Then you will have a chance to discuss your complaint in greater detail. You can give all the information the delegate needs to follow up with the institution in question.

Investigation

The Quebec Ombudsman's delegate begins the investigation. She can ask questions and request documents from any person involved in the file.

To get this information, the delegate has most of the powers of inquiry of commissioners appointed under the Act respecting public inquiry commissions. For example, a health-care institution and its employees cannot refuse to answer the delegate's questions or provide documents requested.

At any time during the investigation, you can give your comments to the delegate in order to complete your file.    

Once the file is complete, the delegate tries to settle your complaint within three months.

Conclusions                                                            

Once the investigation is over, the delegate contacts you by phone to inform you of her conclusions. She usually follows up the phone call with a letter. These are the three possible results:

The delegate decides that the health or social services you received were appropriate, and no recommendations will be made to the institution. The delegate explains the reasons and closes your file.
The delegate made recommendations to the institution, and the situation has been corrected. The delegate informs you of the steps taken by the institution and closes your file.
The delegate made recommendations to the institution, but the situation has not been corrected. The delegate informs you of the recommendations made to the institution and does a follow-up.

For more information on how complaints are handled, you can refer to the complaints examination procedure on the website of the Quebec Ombudsman.

Complaint Follow-Up and Recommendations

The Quebec Ombudsman does a follow-up to determine whether the institution has actually put its recommendations into place.

However, some recommendations take longer to apply, and it may take a while before you see the changes.

Because of its role as a mediator and an independent, impartial body, the Quebec Ombudsman's recommendations are followed in almost all cases. It is often just a matter of time.

Obviously, if your situation is urgent,your case will be given priority.

Other Ways to Get Things Moving

The Quebec Ombudsman has different tools available to encourage the institution to take action if your situation is not settled within a reasonable amount of time:

  • It can advise the Ministerof Health and Social Services or advise the governmentof the situation in writing.
  • It can publicly mention the case in its annual report to the National Assembly (Quebec legislature) or in a special report.

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.