About the complaint process - providers
In the Australian Capital Territory (the ACT) individuals have a right of access to their health information and to make complaints about the provision of health services. The Health Services Commissioner (HSC) at the ACT Human Rights Commission (the Commission) is an independent statutory authority established to receive and resolve complaints about health services. The HSC also handles complaints about disclosure of health information and access to health information.
Key features of the complaint process
• It is impartial and confidential.
• The Commission does not charge fees.
• Participation in the complaints process is voluntary from the perspective of consumers.
• Complaints are resolved through co-operation.
• HSC encourages open discussion, with all parties asked to give their point of view.
• It can be an alternative to legal proceedings.
Who can be complained about
A complaint can be made against any health service provider, for example:
• alternative therapists
• ambulance services
• psychiatric services
A complaint can also be made against:
any person or organisation that collects, holds or discloses health information.
What happens when a complaint is made
When HSC receives a complaint the first step is to send it to the health service provider to give them the opportunity to respond. A copy of the response will be sent to the complainant.
Many complaints are resolved through the provision of an explanation, detailed information or an apology where needed. This can be achieved at an early stage without the need for direct intervention by HSC. Most people who complain to HSC want to know what went wrong and why, and they want to know that there have been improvements made to prevent similar incidents in the future.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the response
If the response does not satisfy the complainant’s concerns, HSC will identify the unresolved issues. The complainant may be asked to provide information to support their complaint. This can include reports from current treating doctors, copies of hospital records etc.
What happens next
If the complaint remains unresolved, a decision will be made about what should happen next. This will depend on the circumstances of the case and what outcome the complainant is seeking. There are several options:
No further action
The HSC may decide that no further action is needed, and can close the complaint.
Further investigation or consideration
The HSC may decide that further information is required before proceeding.
Under the Human Rights Commission Act 2005, the Health Services Commissioner must send complaints about registered health professions, and all material relevant to that complaint to AHPRA. Likewise, AHPRA must send to the Commisssion any complaints that it receives. The Health Services Commissioner and the relevant National Boards are obliged to jointly discuss complaints and reach agreement as to how matters are to be dealt with.
Referral for conciliation
The complaint may be referred to the HSC conciliation section for confidential and impartial conciliation. This might happen where there is a claim for damages or remedial treatment, or where there is a need for a meeting between the consumer and the health service provider. At this point you will receive more information about what conciliation involves.
Most complaints that are unresolved after the initial assessment phase are either closed or referred for conciliation.
Making a complaint through HSC can achieve a number of possible outcomes. These may include, but are not limited to:
• an explanation of what happened or more detailed information about the treatment or medical condition,
• an opportunity for the complainant and provider to discuss what happened in a face-to-face meeting,
• an apology,
• a change to systems or procedures so a similar incident does not happen again,
• provision of remedial treatment,
• payment of compensation.
Last updated 21 Oct 2010