The Finding Home Blog
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A few weeks ago, on a Facebook group I joined, someone posed a question about whether or not (and when) they could expect the Long-Term Care Action Line – an Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) service – to respond to their concerns. I noted that Action Line is supposed to respond to non-urgent complaints within two business days. I can’t say how often the Action Line meets this target, but from the replies to the initial post and based on a follow-up report of the Auditor General (Long-term care home quality inspection program), it seems there is a backlog of issues related to long-term care home complaints and critical incidents requiring inspections: as of April 2017, the backlog had increased by 20% to about 3,370 over the prior two years.
Later on that same week, I received a call about someone who needed more home care services than their LHIN was offering but didn’t know how to petition for more. I decided a closer look into our health care systems’ complaint processes was warranted and what I found was yet another set of navigational challenges.
Here’s an example: in the course of my research, I noticed reference to a time-limit on certain appeals to health care coverage decisions. So I called to confirm the time-limit with the board responsible for hearing these appeals. Instead of providing me with the time-limit information, the person I spoke with suggested I review the corresponding legislation to find out. Let me repeat that: The appeal board couldn’t tell me how long I had to submit a request for an appeal to them, so they suggested I read the legislation to find out. I can’t say whether or not the person on the other end of the line heard my jaw drop, but I dare say that advice wasn’t particularly user-friendly.
Don’t get me wrong: I am very grateful to live in a country where we are able to voice our concerns. But I can’t get over how many different avenues one might have to navigate to do so. The initial advice is mostly the same: if you have a concern about an organizations services or staff, try to first raise that concern with the organization. It gets complicated when that route is either not possible or doesn’t resolve the issue.
The next steps in making a complaint depend on what the issue is about. Home care? Hospital care? A health professional’s care? An independent health facility? Your Local Health Integration Network? A long-term care home? A retirement home? You name it, there are processes for it.
And there are multiple levels of complaints processes in case an issue cannot be resolved at a prior level. Depending on your concern, you might find yourself submitting a complaint with a College for one of the regulated health professions, the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board, the MOHLTC Independent Health Facilities Program, the Long-Term Care Action Line, the Health Services Appeal and Review Board, the Patient Ombudsman, or the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority.
Have your eyes just glazed over? Mine too. The point is, making a complaint is not always easy. In fact, trying to figure out who to speak with about a problem may deter people from even making complaints. And that’s not good for the individual who has the concern. It also doesn’t help organizations understand and address common issues.
So, what to do? Well, for my part, I collected all the information I could find from 20 different sources and boiled it down into a guide called “Righting wrongs: Voicing concerns about care or treatment in Ontario.” The guide cannot address or attempt to give advice on when you may wish to seek legal counsel or take legal action, but it does refer the reader to legal information sites. My goal in creating the guide was to provide you with a tool in your advocacy kit. It is meant to provide Ontarians with a starting point when they have a concern about care or treatment they or their loved ones have received – whether they are living in the community or in a retirement or long-term care home. I’ve also included response time goals whenever I could to help readers know what to expect after they’ve made a complaint. It’s organized by service provider type.
You can obtain your free copy here. I hope you do. And I hope you share this blog so others can also benefit from knowing where to turn and how to raise issues with care.
About the author
Teresa Schnurr felt called to open Home Once Again while searching for long-term care for her mother, then for a retirement home for her mother-in-law. Teresa's background in long-term care research helped a great deal but she realized through these searches that most people faced with such tasks had little background knowledge to guide them through their many choices, rules and regulations.