You have rights when you receive health or social services. If your rights have not been respected or you are not satisfied with the services you received, you can file a complaint about an institution, a staff member, or a health care professional.
The word “institution” in this article refers to any institution or facility in the health and social services network.
If your problem concerns a private clinic, please see our article Filing a Complaint Against a Private Clinic.
Talking Things Over Before Filing a Complaint
If you are not satisfied with the services you received, or if you think that your rights have not been respected, you can first try to speak to the people in charge of the institution where you received the services. If this does not settle the problem, you can file a complaint.
You can also get help filing a complaint. See the Resources section at the end of this article.
Reasons for Filing a Complaint
As a user of the health and social services network, you have the right to receive:
- quality services that are appropriate on a medical, personal, and social level,
- personalized services tailored to your state of health,
- continuous services, which means without interruptions, unless they are justified,
- safe services,
- respectful services, especially for end-life care.
You also have the right to:
- receive information about your state of health, available treatments, and their effects
- receive information about the services available to you and how to get them
- make decisions on issues that affect you (for example, to agree to or refuse treatment)
- know the existence and the content of the anti-maltreatment policy to protect seniors and vulnerable adults
Therefore, you can file a complaint if you think you did not receive satisfactory services or your rights were not respected.
For a complete list of your rights, visit “The Health and Social Services Network Complaint Examination System” page on the Quebec government’s website.
Who Can File a Complaint
These people can file a complaint:
- a user who is not satisfied with the services provided or who believes their rights have not been respected
- someone representing the user, if the user is a child or is not able to file a complaint (The representative can be a parent, tutor, mandatary a protection mandate, spouse, close relative, or someone who has a particular interest in the user’s well-being.)
- the heirs of a deceased user
You can also file a complaint if you have been mistreated and you are a senior or an adult in a vulnerable situation. Anyone you know who suspects mistreatment can alert the service quality and complaints commissioner. If you have been mistreated, you can also call the Elder Mistreatment Helpline (1-888-489-2287). In an emergency, call the police (9-1-1).
Also, any person who realizes that the rights of a user or group of users are not being respected can report the situation directly to the Quebec Ombudsman (see below).
Where to File a Complaint
In most cases, you can file your complaint with the service quality and complaints commissioner for your integrated health and social services centre (CISSS or CIUSSS).
Here is a list of institutions, services, and persons who can be the object of a complaint as well as the steps to follow. For the complete list, visit “The Health and Social Services Network Complaint Examination System” page on the Quebec government’s website.
Health and social services institution *
* Health and social services institution:
• Integrated health and social services centre (CISSS or CIUSSS) • Hospital • Long-term care centre (CHSLD) • Local community service centre (CLSC) • Rehabilitation centre • Child and youth protection centre (CPEJ)
Resource, person, or organization connected to an institution through an agreement *
* Resource, person, or organization connected to an institution through an agreement:
• Intermediate resource (RI) (supervised apartment, rooming house, foster home, group residence) • Family-type resource (RTF) (foster family, foster home) • Private clinic connected to a public institution to offer health services • Community organization • Private seniors’ residence (RPA) or other similar housing • Resource offering addiction lodging (alcohol, drugs, gambling)
Doctor, pharmacist, or dentist who practises in a health and social services institution
You must file your complaint with the service quality and complaints commissioner.
The commissioner forwards your complaint to a medical examiner who will look at your file and send you a letter with an answer in 45 days.
If you are not satisfied with the medical examiner’s conclusions, you can ask the review committee of the institution to re-examine your complaint.
The medical examiner’s letter will have all the information you need to ask for a review.
Pre-hospital emergency services *
* Pre-hospital emergency services:
Among others, ambulance services
How to File a Complaint
Step 1: Filling a Complaint With a Commissioner
A complaint to a service quality and complaints commissioner can be verbal or written. If necessary, you can ask the commissioner to help you file your complaint. The commissioner must help you throughout the process.
Soon after you file your complaint:
- The commissioner will confirm in writing that your complaint was received.
- The commissioner then examines the file and sends you conclusions about your complaint. This must be done within 45 days after the commissioner received your complaint.
- If you do not receive the commissioner’s conclusions by then, you can contact the Protecteur du citoyen (Quebec Ombudsman).
Your file is kept confidential at all times.
Step 2: Filing a Complaint With the Quebec Ombudsman
In the area of health and social services, the Quebec Ombudsman usually becomes involved as a second level of action, after a complaint with the service quality and complaints commissioner.
For more information on how to file a complaint with the Quebec Ombudsman, see our the article The Quebec Ombudsman: A Second Place to Turn for Complaints.
Filing a Complaint Against a Member of a Professional Order
If your complaint involves a member of a professional order, you also have the option of filing a complaint with the syndic (trustee) of that professional order. For example, for a doctor, you can file a complaint with the Collège des médecins du Québec (college of physicians), for a nurse with the Ordre des infirmières et des infirmiers du Québec (order of nurses) (French only), and for a psychologist with the Ordre des psychologues du Québec (order of psychologists), etc.
This process makes it possible to discipline the professional. The professional might have to pay a fine or could be suspended. For more information, see the website of the Office des professions du Québec (French only).
Protection from Retaliation
All users of the heath and social services network can make sure their rights are respected. They cannot be penalized for filing a complaint.
Users who believe they have been the victim of retaliation can alert the service quality and complaints commissioner. The commissioner must intervene immediately.
Ressources to Help You
Centres d’assistance et d’accompagnement aux plaintes (CAAP or complaint assistance and support centres)
The CAAPs help users and their representatives file complaints involving health and social services. To contact your local CAAP, visit the website of the Fédération des centres d’assistance et d’accompagnement aux plaintes (FCAAP or federation of complaint assistance and support centres).
The CAAP can do the following things:
- provide information about the complaint process at both the first and second steps of the process
- help you write your complaint or write it for you if necessary
- accompany you throughout the complaint process
- facilitate conversations with the institution involved to help find a solution
There is a users’ committee in many health and social services institutions. The committee can tell you how to file a complaint and help you through the complaint process. To learn more, visit the website of the Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (provincial association of users’ committees).