The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) is the governing body for all doctors licensed to practise in Ontario. The CPSO is responsible for setting practice standards for doctors and investigating any complaint made by a patient against a doctor in Ontario.
If you have concerns about your doctor’s competence, or the treatment you have received, you can make a complaint to the CPSO. The complaint must be filed in writing and contain a detailed explanation of the events that transpired. The complaint must also include specifics such as the date of the treatment and a list of all the doctors and/or surgeons involved in your care. The College can only investigate complaints against licensed physicians and surgeons and will not investigate a health care practitioner such as a nurse or dentist who is regulated by a different professional College.
Is a CPSO Complaint Similar to a Civil Lawsuit?
A CPSO complaint is very different from a civil lawsuit. For instance, you cannot receive financial compensation for damages based on the outcome of a CPSO complaint. Furthermore, College complaints and investigations are not admissible in a civil lawsuit. However, it can still be beneficial to file a formal complaint. The results of the formal investigation may provide you with useful information, such as a list of witnesses and further information in support of allegations of negligence against the doctor or surgeon. This information could assist you in a civil proceeding, should you wish to issue a lawsuit.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Complaint?
There is no time limit for filing a CPSO complaint against a doctor or surgeon, however the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to gather evidence and witness testimony about your situation. If you are considering filing a lawsuit, it is very important to remember that in Ontario there is a limitation period of two years. This means that you must commence a civil lawsuit within two years from the date of the wrong doing. Making a formal complaint to the CPSO does not stop or pause the civil limitation clock.
What Happens Once a Complaint is Submitted?
It is important to know that the CPSO is obligated to provide your doctor with a copy of your complaint as the doctor is entitled to respond to the allegations made in the complaint. Once a formal complaint is submitted, the College will undertake a detailed investigation into the care provided to you. The CPSO’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee will review the investigative report and recommend additional steps, up to and including referral to the College’s Discipline Committee. The investigation can take upwards of a year. Both you and your doctor will receive a copy of the Committee’s report.
Possible Outcomes of a CPSO Investigation
Once the College has completed its investigation, there are a range of possible outcomes. Depending on the circumstances, the College may:
- Take no action where it deems the physician’s conduct and care were appropriate
- Compel the physician to participate in continuing education or self-study
- Request that the physician curtail their practice (e.g. restricting surgical privileges)
- Compel the physician to attend before the Discipline Committee
- Compel the physician to resign from practising
If you are dissatisfied with the College’s decision, you can appeal the decision to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board. If you are within the two-year limitation period, you might also consider launching a civil suit against your doctor.
At Howie, Sacks & Henry, we have extensive experience advising clients on medical malpractice issues. We can let you know what your options are, what compensation you might be entitled to claim, and the important deadlines to meet in order to put your best case forward. We want to help – if you suspect that you or a loved one are a victim of medical negligence, please contact Samantha Shatz at 647-796-0086 or SShatz@hshlawyers.com.