The Ontario government recently released two informative reports regarding physicians and surgeons in Ontario. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care of Ontario retained former Justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Stephen Goudge (“Justice Goudge”), to provide recommendations to the government regarding the physician complaints process in Ontario and medical liability and associated costs in Ontario.
In his first report entitled “Streamlining the Physician Complaints Process in Ontario”, Justice Goudge found that Canada’s largest medical regulator, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (“CPSO”), is taking too long to resolve public complaints.
In his second report entitled “Report to Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Re: Medical Liability Review”, Justice Goudge found that Ontario’s medical malpractice cases are taking too long and costing taxpayers too much money.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PHYSICIAN COMPLAINTS PROCESS IN ONTARIO
Justice Goudge was asked by the Ontario government to provide recommendations to maintain fairness and reduce the number of hearings held by the CPSO.
Justice Goudge submitted his report to the government more than 2 years ago. At that time, there were an average of 2,412 complaints filed annually to the CPSO between 2010 and 2014. This number has increased to 2,685 in 2016 and is predicted to be 3,076 in 2017.
Justice Goudge found that complaints from the public against doctors are the most expensive and resource-consuming aspects for both the CPSO and the Canadian Medical Protective Association (“CMPA”). CMPA is a non-profit group that provides legal representation and defence to doctors in Canada, with the premiums mostly paid for by provincial governments.
The government of Ontario began subsidizing CMPA fees in 1987 at a rising cost to taxpayers. In 2015, the Toronto Star found that taxpayers paid 81% of the total bill for CMPA fees, resulting in more than $200 million in costs.
Justice Goudge’s report indicates that Ontario physician discipline cases cost the CMPA more than those in all other provinces in Canada combined, with 80% of complaints having so little merit that they result in nominal, if any, action.
The CPSO is legally required to investigate and review every complaint made against a physician within 150 days, however, Justice Goudge found that the median time period for review was 200 days.
One of Justice Goudge’s recommendations to Ontario was to create the position of “complaints director”, following the example set by the Alberta College of Physicians & Surgeons. This individual could conduct initial reviews of public complaints and dismiss a complaint early on where it is clear there is no reasonable prospect of an outcome other than “no action”. In cases where a complaint had been dismissed, patients would then have a right to appeal.
Justice Goudge also recommended the creation of a “patient advocate” position. These individuals would interact with patients immediately upon the filing of a complaint. This simple interaction may resolve some of the misunderstandings regarding the limits and scope of the authority of the CPSO and direct the patient to look for a solution elsewhere.
Finally, Justice Goudge recommended that the CPSO establish an alternative dispute resolution system to modernize the complaint process and settle cases without lengthy investigation.
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASES IN ONTARIO
Justice Goudge was also asked to review and report on medical malpractice cases in Ontario and concluded that these types of cases are taking too long to resolve and are too costly. Justice Goudge found that changes are required to ensure that those who suffer medical mistakes receive fair compensation and are provided fair process.
Medical malpractice occurs when a serious injury is suffered as a result of something your doctor does incorrectly or with lack of care.
Justice Goudge’s report stated that lawsuits that are dismissed last an average of 40 months; lawsuits that settle out of court last 55 to 60 months on average; and those cases that proceed to trial last 80 months on average. The report also stated that costs for such cases rose by up to 700% between 1990 and 2015. These cases were found to be more expensive in Ontario than in any other province in Canada.
Justice Goudge recommended creating a government entity to take responsibility for the payment of future care costs of injured patients, changes to future income loss and discount rates, capping compensation for family members and making changes to the justice system (i.e. case management techniques tailored to medical liability cases and setting early fixed trial dates).
Justice Goudge also specifically recommended that Ontario establish an “advisory committee” comprised of experienced judges, plaintiff and defence counsel to institute his recommendations, monitor their execution and provide suggestions for improvement.
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious permanent injuries as a result of a negligent act or omission by a health care professional, the experienced lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers can help.
Some of the most common types of medical malpractice include:
- birth injuries;
- delayed treatment;
- improper treatment;
- lack of informed consent;
- surgical errors;
- pharmaceutical errors;
- wrongful death; and
- hospital negligence.
We have previously blogged about medical malpractice and identified three preliminary questions to ask yourself to determine whether you may have a legitimate claim.
- Did a Calgary medical professional cause you harm through a “bad act” (i.e. surgery on the wrong body part, failed diagnosis that would have been made by a competent medical professional)?
- Did negligence lead to prolonged injury or illness, or additional symptoms?
- Did you sustain serious injuries and/or medical complications?
If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury from improper medical care, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages you have suffered. Please contact the award winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers either online or by calling 403-571-0555. We can get started with a free case evaluation and are dedicated to providing you with the legal help you deserve.