Responding to Complaints at the College of Denturists of Ontario: What Denturists Need to Know
When anyone files a formal complaint against a denturist, this initiates regulatory proceedings at the College of Denturists of Ontario (“CDO”). This process has the potential to result in professional consequences, and can happen to any denturist. To assist, we have prepared this basic guide for responding to complaints at the CDO.
Denturists who are subject to a formal complaint will typically receive the following from the CDO: notification of the complaint, a copy of the complaint, and their prior complaint history, if applicable. Following an investigation, a panel of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (“ICRC”) will decide on the matter. The ICRC is comprised of both denturists and government appointed public members.
The CDO is generally required to address all formal complaints, and has the ability to request interviews with denturists. Failing to comply with this or any other requirement may result in professional discipline.
Whether or not denturists consider complaints to be legitimate, they should typically prepare a response. The complaint process operates by way of documentary exchange and review rather than oral hearing, which means that responses must be made in writing. Denturists will generally not be able to provide an in-person explanation of their care, so their written response should be comprehensive.
The CDO typically requires a response from denturists within 30 days. Preparing a response may be time consuming and challenging. Denturists may find it prudent to speak with a lawyer who has experience with professional regulation. Once retained, legal counsel will typically become the main point of contact with the CDO, assisting with the response and any other issues.
When writing their response, denturists should consider any unique aspects of their case, including when they provided care, the complexity of care, and the possibility of a civil lawsuit. In our experience, it is often helpful to format the response as a chronological account of the event.
Denturists should enclose any relevant patient records and materials in their response to the CDO. As a general practice, denturists should always keep their records in compliance with the guidelines of the Denturism Act, 1991. The ICRC can evaluate a denturist’s records at any time, and can make a negative disposition on the basis of inadequate recordkeeping.
Once an investigation into a denturist’s matter has concluded, the ICRC will receive and review the complaint file, and may make any of the following dispositions:
- Take no further action;
- Caution a denturist in person before the ICRC;
- Inquire into a denturist’s professional capacity;
- Refer the matter to the Discipline Committee; or
- Make any other appropriate action, including ordering further investigation.
Denturists will typically receive written reasons explaining the ICRC’s decision. The ICRC will not provide written reasons if it has referred a denturist to discipline or for incapacity proceedings.
The CDO must post details of the following ICRC dispositions on the Public Register: Specified Continuing Education or Remediation Programs (“SCERP”); cautions; and referrals to discipline. Anyone accessing the denturist’s online profile will be able to view this information.
In serious cases where a denturist’s alleged conduct exposes or is likely to expose patients to harm or injury, the ICRC may impose an interim order. Interim orders are imposed prior to final dispositions, and can last for the entirety of the formal complaint process. Interim orders can take the form of terms, limitations, or conditions on a denturist’s certificate of registration, including licence suspension. The Registrar may also appoint a special investigator to investigate serious complaints against denturists. Under section 75 of the Health Professions Procedural Code, this investigator has much broader powers than in the standard complaint process.
Denturists and complainants are both entitled to request a review of the ICRC’s decision. Reviews take place before the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (“HPARB”), which will consider whether the CDO’s investigation was adequate and whether the ICRC’s decision was reasonable. A review at HPARB will be based on the documents and materials that were available to the ICRC. HPARB will typically provide these materials to denturists and complainants in advance of the review.
Undergoing regulatory proceedings at the College of Denturists of Ontario can be understandably stressful. Legal counsel can guide denturists through this process. Complaints at the CDO can result in a negative disposition, so denturists should take care when responding.