Nova Scotia's health services are provided by nine district health authorities (DHA) and the IWK. These health authorities deliver healthcare services to residents and are responsible for all hospitals, community health services, mental health services and public health programs in their districts. Complaints procedures vary between Health Authorities, with some websites describing the process in detail and others offering only contact information. All the DHA's provide at least a phone number for submitting feedback.
Helpful tips for navigating the sites
To move the complaint process beyond the health care organization where your concern arose, you need to first identify which Health Authority you fall under. Hospital websites should specify which DHA they are within and also provide a link to all other Health Authority sites. Once you have accessed the appropriate DHA website you can usually find the relevant information for lodging a complaint by locating the Contact Us section. Since the Health Authorities differ so much in the amount of information they provide and the terminology they use, we have provided some useful information for each below:
Provides a Patient Feedback Line as well as a link to a web-based complaints form which can be filled out and sent electronically.
Gives contact information for their Quality Management Department. Upon receiving your feedback, the department will connect you with a Patient Representative. The site provides a link to its District Administrative Policy: Compliments and Complaints brochure which gives a helpful breakdown of its complaints process. Although the brochure seems to have been written for staff, it is still a useful guide for patients. It includes topics such as who can make a complaint, time-lines and informal and formal complaint resolution.
Contact information (phone and email) for Patient Representative Services are provided along with a brief description of the role of a Patient Representative.
Explicit information on how and where to give feedback could not be found on the website. Contact information (address, phone and fax) is given for the Cumberland DHA as a whole. There is also a list of email addresses for the members of Cumberland`s Leadership Team including for the Chief Executive Officer and the Vice President of Patient Care Services.
Guysborough Antigonish Strait (GASHA)
Provides a GASHA Comment Line.
IWK Health Centre
Lists a Dedicated Feedback Line and email address for an IWK Feedback coordinator.
Provides a Patient Feedback Line and a link to a web-form which you can fill out in order to submit your complaint.
Among the DHA's, the South Shore District site provides one of the more comprehensive explanations of its complaints process. They first advise patients to fill out their Client Experience Survey. It also gives contact information for a Patient Relations Director as well as a description of their role. This site also describes some of the steps that will be taken when dealing with concerns, including a review of any complaints record by a Chief Executive Officer.
South West Nova
There is a heading for Compliments and Complaints within the site's Contact Us page. The section states that feedback will be directed to the most appropriate person and efforts will be made to resolve any concerns as quickly as possible. Contact information in the Complaints section is the same as for the South West DHA main desk with the addition of an email link.
Steps in complaints process
- Talk about your concern with someone involved with your health care, such as the doctor or nurse.
- If this is not a feasible option, or if your concern was not resolved to your satisfaction, then there are a few other options. You may phone, write or make an appointment with the Departmental Manager, Clinical Leader or the Administrative offices at the Nova Scotia hospital where you were treated.
- Upon receiving your complaint, a Complaints Response Record will be started and the complaint will be forwarded to the appropriate manager for investigation.
- Managers may talk with all staff involved to find out what happened and decide the appropriate action to be taken.
- If your complaint isn't resolved at the hospital level, you can direct your complaint as per the process dictated by your District Health Authority (see above). As indicated, DHA processes differ broadly and so it may be useful to ask the quality manager at the health centre where your concern occurred to help direct you. It may also be useful to ask for the latest copy of your complaints record.
How long will this take
The various Health Authorities indicate contact times ranging from 48 hours to three business days after your complaint has been received. Time lines after this initial contact are not explicitly stated apart from broad promises by the Health Authorities that attempts will be made to resolve complaints within 30 days or as quickly as possible.
A written response with an explanation is provided to the complainant in an attempt to resolve the issue. Other than this written response, no standard list of possible outcomes is provided. If the provided resolution does not suffice, the complainant must write a letter describing their dissatisfaction. This letter, and the completed Complaints Response Record, are forwarded to the CEO of the service provider to review. A meeting may be arranged with the Vice President of the Service, the Departmental Manager and the CEO. If an appropriate resolution cannot be found, the complainant will be provided with information so that they may contact the Health Authority Board chairperson, the Department of Health and Wellness or the ombudsman.