Complaints against Saskatchewan doctors hit record
SASKATOON The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan investigated a record 61 complaints against physicians last year prompting the college to add another person to their legal team.
In the college’s 2017 annual report, published this month, president Alan Beggs and registrar Karen Shaw noted that one of the college’s biggest challenges in 2018 would be dealing with “an everincreasing number of complaints and discipline matters.”
In fact, the number of complaints and subsequent investigations has increased so much that the college hired a third lawyer last year to assist its in-house legal team. This comes two years after the college hired a second lawyer in 2015.
Last year, the college’s complaints department fielded 2,905 calls, up nearly 500 from the 2,408 received in 2016.
Half of the complaints were deemed unfounded. Founded “lower-level” complaints are dealt with by the college communicating with physicians and clinics.
Bryan Salte, a spokesperson for the college, said just a small per- centage of complaints end up being investigated by a preliminary inquiry committee.
Last year, 61 complaints were investigated by such a committee. Twenty complaints were of a “miscellaneous” nature, while 12 were about boundary violations (which can include improper sexual behaviour with a patient), and 10 were about breach of patient confidentiality.
The college laid 13 charges of unprofessional conduct last year and conducted 13 penalty hearings.
In 2016, the college investigated 34 complaints and laid 12 charges of unprofessional conduct. In 2015, it investigated 10 complaints and laid five charges.
Salte said it’s impossible to say whether there are more instances of physicians acting inappropriately or if more people are simply reporting things, but he believes it’s the latter.
“What our impression is, is that it’s not based upon an increase in inappropriate behaviour, but rather a better knowledge out there of the college, what the college does and more willingness to express dissatisfaction when the individual feels that they haven’t been dealt with appropriately,” he said.
“My impression is that with the MeToo movement and with other things that are out there encouraging people to come forward that it’s more likely to be an awareness of individuals and a willingness of individuals to complain.”
Since 2015, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan has hired two additional lawyers and an additional physician to work with the college’s quality of care advisory committee, which deals with complaints against physicians. Salte says this has resulted in a “reasonably significant” financial investment by the college.
Yet he said it’s important the college have the resources to deal with all complaints as quickly as possible.
“It’s stressful for complainants if matters continue to be out there for a long period of time, it’s stressful for physicians if things are not resolved quickly,” he said.
It’s stressful for complainants if matters continue to be out there for along period of time.