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Navigating our complaints system

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How to give feedback about your health care experience.

How to make the positive count

Share the good news! Tell the organization where you had your experience why it was positive so that they can learn from it. Positive feedback can be just as useful as a complaint to creating a patient and family-centred system.

Most healthcare organizations have feedback procedures that focus on complaints. Try to use these for positive feedback as well.

Here are a few basic steps to follow:

  • Write down what made your experience positive - do it as soon as possible
  • Note who was involved
  • Include the date and time your experience occurred

By recording your experience you can help to reinforce the kind of care that patients value.

How to make a complaint for yourself or someone else

You may have a complaint about a specific healthcare provider's behaviour, the environment where you received your care, or about how your medical records were handled.

Under most circumstances, we feel justified in raising a concern after a negative experience. However raising concerns about health services can be more difficult, and many people refrain from voicing their concerns out of fear that they will be treated differently by the provider community.

Helpful tips for making a complaint about your health care

Raise your complaint at the time it occurs

Dealing with a concern at the time it occurs can mean avoiding the often confusing and stressful process of filing a formal complaint. This is because difficulties often - but not always - arise because of unclear communication between a patient and healthcare professional. By explaining your concern directly and being open to a response, you may be able to immediately resolve the problem.

As mentioned above, complaints can be efficiently resolved without involving a third-party (eg. Patient Representatives, the health network, etc.). If you are happy with how your complaint was dealt with then there is no need to move to the next step. However, it is always recommended that you keep a detailed record of your complaint's process, just in case. Do this as soon as possible as it's easy to forget important details.

What to record after you have raised your concern(s)

  • Details of what happened
  • Date and time of the occurence
  • Names of anyone involved and, if possible, others present
  • Record the reaction to your complaint
  • Record whether you feel the complaint was effectively resolved or not (If not, record your expectations when you complained, and why they were not met)

I didn't complain at the time the issue arose. What now?

It is sometimes not possible, practical or comfortable to raise a concern at the time it occurs. It's common to act on a negative experience after some consideration.

Before contacting anyone make sure that you have recorded your concerns, as well as why it caused you frustration. It is normal to feel anxious when raising a complaint, and writing down how you feel not only helps you clarify what caused the issue, but may also help you feel more confident in sharing your feedback.

In addition to recording what happened, write down what outcomes you are hoping for as a result of voicing your concern. Consider whether you may be looking for any of the following:

  • An apology
  • A change to the procedures or current system to improve quality of care
  • Attention drawn to a specific health professional or staff member
  • Financial compensation or legal action (see the legal section)

Asking these questions will help clarify your concerns and expectations before you file your complaint.

I've recorded everything. Now what?

Many hospitals in Canada have a Patient Representative or Patient Advocate Office which can help you through the complaints process. We recommend that you look into this resource when you are admitted for healthcare services.

We also recommend that you look into your hospital's complaints procedures before starting the process. This will educate you on the process as well as the potential timeline.

Procedures may be listed on a healthcare centre’s website or a printed copy may be available for pick up at a Patient Representative's office. If you're not sure where to find the feedback information, it can be useful to contact the centre so they can direct you to the right contact for initiating a complaints process.

It’s not always an easy process

Ideally, the institution where you received your care will process and sufficiently resolve your complaint. However, you may need to bring your complaint to a higher health authority.

Presently the Canadian medical system has no best-practice procedures when it comes to complaints mechanisms.

The specifics of your complaint can dictate how your complaint is handled, or who handles it. It is also possible that your complaint could be handled by more than one institution.

To help guide you through more complicated situations, we have provided complaints mechanism information by province. Where possible, we have included the steps to be followed in complaints procedures, expected timelines and contacts. A missing category for a province indicates that we were unable to find the information.

How to make a complaint about someone else's health care

A) Have the agreement of the person on whose behalf you are complaining, as well as their agreement to your viewing their medical records


B) Hold the Power of Attorney for the patient on whose behalf you are complaining, entitling you to their medical records

If you are considering legal action

First talk with the healthcare professional in question before talking with a lawyer. You may be able to resolve the problem with a personal conversation. 

If your concern is still not resolved, talk with a lawyer before starting a formal complaint. The lawyer will guide you through the complaint process.

NOTE: The information provided here is limited. If you choose the legal route, a legal suit is often lengthy and difficult.

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Are you considering legal action?

If so, consult a lawyer BEFORE you register your complaint with your health care provider.

Your lawyer will guide you through the process.

By email:


By phone:

(416) 900-2975