Have you or someone you know been hurt by the Canadian Healthcare System?

You are not alone. Millions of Canadians are affected by medical error
resulting in death or injury during their lifetimes.

We're glad you came here. We invite you to join us as we form an organization which strives
to improve patient safety and enshrine patient rights, because every patient matters.

Join us. Contribute your voice and talents. Make a difference.

Email: impatient4change@gmail.com
Facebook: ImPatient for Change
Twitter: @Right2SafeCare


Friday, November 12, 2010

Why Ombudsman Oversight is Essential (Part 1/3): Accountability

MPP Rosario Marchese's private member's bill to amend the Ombudsman Act to include hospitals and long-term care facilities, Children's Aid societies and school boards will give Ontarians a window of opportunity to change the system.*

Other bills have been introduced to attempt this before, but the provincial government defeated them, caving to lobbying pressure by the medical industry. This is our second chance; we need as much public support as possible.


We lack a culture of accountability.

The government-funded medical industry has a large piggy bank with which to protect their interests, but suing is too expensive for the common person, so the odds are stacked against most patients should a complaint find its way to Canadian courts. Even if you win, your case will not likely result in any direct improvements for others.

If you go the other route and take your complaint to the self-regulated colleges for doctors and nurses, you may have to parse your complaint to death, and there probably won't be significant consequences for the offending professional if he or she is found guilty.

Neither the courts nor the colleges deal with patterns of error across the system, and neither generates binding recommendations which will improve the system.

But most people don't even make it to the courts or the colleges - they get smoothed over by the hospital's Patient Relations team, or they send a letter to their MP or MPP which gets shelved, or they give up and cry to their family, friends or therapist.

Because it is so onerous for patients to complain using current channels, to get justice, and to make changes, the message is that patient safety doesn't matter.

Efforts are made to improve the appearance of safety in order to prevent public alarm, and individual professionals may do their utmost to uphold safe practices. However, the medical community is not confronted with sufficient independent public reports which hold them accountable for preventable systemic error and include binding recommendations for improvement. And the Disclosure Act allows them to offer empty apologies without assuming liability. For these reasons, the industry continues to say, "to err is human", instead of acknowledging that they are negligent when they don't act in good faith to prevent dangerous situations, or when they actively contribute to them.

All Canadians are patients and we are all at risk. The only way to make patient safety a bigger priority is to hold the doctors, nurses, hospitals and others accountable for individual, group and systemic errors. If something bad happens to us, we want to know that there is a mechanism in place to help us. And we want to know that the experience of others before us was used to create a culture of care.

Ombudsman oversight will mean that if you or your loved one has a bad hospital experience, you can call his office and he may independently investigate it. He will generate reports which will pressure the government to implement changes designed to prevent another similar event - and hopefully to encourage best practices.

*Note: The amended Act is being introduced for First Reading at Queen's Park on Monday, November 15 at 1:00 P.M.


  1. As an American, I had no idea about these issues of Canadian health care. Why aren't more people up in arms about this?

  2. That's a good question. Here are some answers:

    1 - Some people are totally up in arms about this. Patients who've been hurt. Families and friends who have lost husbands, wives, parents, siblings, children and close associates. People who know about it.

    But these people are often isolated from each other and overburdened. And they don't know where to turn. They're scattering their energies complaining to too many different people and sometimes they get tired and give up.

    It's time we get organized and work together. I hope people will come here and work with us, because I strongly believe that change is possible. Amazing change. The way I see it, it's a civil rights movement. And you Americans have some great civil rights movements that we can use for inspiration.

    2 - Some people aren't up in arms about this. Why not? Because they don't know about it. Because they haven't been affected by it personally. Because they're too busy coping with their lives and when they do have free time, they just want to relax or watch something that isn't so heavy, you know? And thinking about medical error can be a scary thing; sometimes people would rather just hope the dice roll in their favour.

    But here's the thing: we really are all at risk. I had no idea about this problem before it hit me in the gut, out of nowhere, one night in a restaurant. But what I've found out since is that there is a whole other world out there, that you fall into, once you get seriously ill. And that world is full of dark corners, with dangerous situations and mistreatment.

    We need light shone into those corners and rules to make things safer. And we need to help the survivors. We need to do it because one day it could be you. And the thing is, we're not asking everyone for all their time. Just for them to learn a little about the situation and to support us in our struggle. We've all done this before, with other issues, and Canada is better for it. We know how to make change. I believe we can do it again.

    3 - Some people know about it but aren't doing anything, and are actively putting up obstacles to prevent change. That's kind of a heavy accusation, isn't it? But it's true. And who are these people? Some politicians for whom this kind of change is not politically expedient. Some medical groups for whom this change is threatening - because it involves discussing their liability. And sometimes people are kind of bureaucratic about things, and they get bogged down by what's already done rather than what's possible. Dreams are amazing that way, aren't they? They can change the world.