As of 2008, New Brunswick is divided into two regional health authorities: Horizon Health Network and Vitalite Health Network.
Horizon Health Network offers Patient Representative Services. You are encouraged to call the Patient Representative in your Health Authority. There is a contact email address listed on the Horizon website but most complaints are lodged via phone. Contact cards are available in all the hospitals. The Patient Representative encourages staff to deal with the issue at ground level before a formal complaint is submitted. Families, patients and staff in all of Horizon's facilities can contact the service for information, support, encouragement and assistance.
The Representative (or designate) acts as a liaison between the contact person and the hospital, with the goal of resolving misunderstandings or problems. They are not responsible for nursing homes but are responsible for out-patient clinics, hospitals, mental health, public health, and acute care settings. Horizon deals with complaints regarding anything from the outcome of care, behaviour of medical staff, information problems or communication problems, environmental issues, quality of care, wait times, and/or policy or rule problems.
There are two Patient Representatives in the Horizon Network. Moncton does not have a Patient Rep but instead uses the Risk Manager to deal with issues. Risk Managers work for the health authority and not for the patient. The current Representative at Horizon has a nursing background and her colleague is a nurse lawyer.
The Vitalité Health Network is the result of the amalgamation of four Regional Health Authorities. The main website is currently under construction and does not offer contact information specifically for lodging complaints. Contact information is available for the Network as a whole and apparently there is one patient representative currently available. The website also offers the links to the four Health Authorities' websites. None of these sites refer to a Patient Representative, though two of them give contact information for Quality Management Coordinators. They recommend contacting them only if you are not satisfied after bringing your complaint to the service directly involved. The information is a bit difficult to find on the sites, so we have listed these contacts below:
Beauséjour Zone phone: 506-862-4356
Restigouche Zone phone: 506-789-5023
Steps in the complaints process
- When a complaint is received, the Representative will meet with you to discuss and document the complaint. They also attempt to outline the your expected outcomes.
- If the concern is hospital-related, the concern is forwarded to the manager in the specified area and also to their director. The manager then conducts an investigation.
- Depending on the type of complaint, it is decided whether a manager needs to be contacted, or if it is sufficient to simply provide you with further information. If the manager needs to respond, they do so via the Health Care Incident Reporting System (HIRS), which allows for computerized documentation. Nothing is printed as per confidentiality protocol. All communications go through HIRS, and the manager is responsible for sending a response to the patient.
- The Representative reviews the report from the investigation and makes recommendations or closes the file.
- The Representative can encourage and make recommendations, but the final actions are up to the manager or physician.
If patients are concerned about care, the Representative will ask if they wish to see their health records. The Representative collects the record and meets with the complainant. After signing a release form the complainant may receive copies of the complete files.
How long will this take?
The Patient Representative is meant to respond to the patient within three days. They aim to close the file in one month but this period can vary depending on the how soon the staff can be available to have discussions with the manager.
The possible outcomes depend on the issue. The Representative can encourage and make recommendations, but the final actions are up to the manager or physician. If the complainant is not satisfied, they can arrange to meet with the Representative again. If the concern is about nursing or professional practice issues, they are referred to the Nursing Association or Physicians College. The Representative can also forward the issue to the head of that service and/or any physicians who are involved and facilitate any necessary meetings. At the highest level of inquiry external reviews by physicians may be required.