Filing a complaint can be a positive gesture

 In my role as a community organizer, I have received calls from community members who have concerns about Quebec’s health and social services system. Most times, the caller just needed a safe and private place to vent.

Try as I might to refer them to the right person at the institution involved to make a complaint, very few will take this step. What people may not fully realize, however, is that filing a formal complaint can be a positive gesture that helps ensure users’ rights and actually improves services.

It takes a great deal of will and courage in a small community like ours to file a complaint. We may worry that our privacy might not be respected, that our services will be affected, or that the loved one we are trying to defend may end up being worse off.  We also remain silent because we don’t want to speak badly of any place we can get services in our first language.

Fear not, because Quebec’s Act Respecting Health and Social Services provides for tactful and fair complaints examination process. You can use it to flag an area that needs improving in a wide range of health and social services, in specific as follows:

  • Hospital centres
  • Residential and long-term care centres (CHSLD)
  • Adaptation, rehabilitation and social integration services:
  • Protection and rehabilitation services for youths in trouble of adaptation and their families
  • Local community service centres (CLSC)
  • Intermediate resources:
  • Family-type resources:
  • Community organizations
  • Drug or gambling addiction housing resources
  • Private seniors’ residences
  • Ambulance transport services
  • Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSS) or Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre (CIUSSS)
  • Any other person, company or organisation with whom the health and social services institution works

Before proceeding with a complaint, the very first step is always to talk with the person in charge of care and services at the institution concerned. If their reply is not to your satisfaction, your next step is to file a complaint with a Service Quality and Complaints Commissioner.  

These Commissioners answer only to the board of directors, which allows them to stay neutral in terms of resolving issues with staff and management. An agent from the Commissioner’s office will listen to your version of the facts and then collect details from the others involved. Within 45 days of receiving your complaint, you will receive an official reply, including solutions to correct the problem and suggestions made to the institution to this end.

The non-profit organization called the Centre d’assistance et d’accompagnement aux plaints – Capitale-nationale (www.caap-capitalenationale.org) can accompany you as you file a complaint. Their services are confidential and free of charge.  The users’ committees of each public institution can also support you in this process.

You are always welcome to share positive comments when you are happy with the quality of the services you have received. You can send your kudos to the Commissioners or to Users’ Committees. There is nothing like thanks for job well done to encourage staff members to give their best each day.

In the end, an effective complaints process improves the safety and quality of health and social services for all of us, so please speak out.  It is simply the right thing to do.

To learn more about the complaints process, please visit this English-language web page, and scroll to the bottom for a list of all the Commissioners by region and establishment: sante.gouv.qc.ca/en/systeme-sante-en-bref/plaintes