Com­plaints against Saskatchewan doc­tors hit record

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - AN­DREA HILL [email protected] Twit­­dreaHill

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.

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