Responding to Complaints at the College of Homeopaths of Ontario: What Homeopaths Need to Know
Complaints against homeopaths at the College of Homeopaths of Ontario (“CHO”) have the potential to result in professional consequences, and can be understandably stressful. To assist, we have prepared this introductory guide on responding to complaints at the CHO.
At the outset of the formal complaint process, homeopaths will typically receive notification of the complaint against them, a copy of the complaint, and their prior complaint history, if applicable. The CHO generally must address and investigate all complaints. After its investigation concludes, a panel of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (“ICRC”) will make a disposition. The ICRC is comprised of homeopaths and government appointed public members.
Regardless of how they feel about a complaint, homeopaths generally must comply with interview requests and any other requirements, or potentially face professional discipline. They should also prepare a response. As the formal complaint process operates through documentary exchange and review rather than oral hearing, responses must be made in writing. Homeopaths will likely not have another opportunity to explain their conduct to the ICRC.
The CHO typically requires a response from homeopaths within 30 days. Preparing a response may be time consuming and challenging. Homeopaths should consider seeking assistance from lawyers who are experienced in the area of professional regulation. Once retained, legal counsel will typically become the main point of contact with the CHO, and will assist with the response and any other issues.
Homeopaths should consider any unique aspects of their case when drafting their response, including when they provided care, the complexity of care, and the possibility of a civil lawsuit. In our experience, it is often useful to draft a chronological account of the event.
When submitting their response, homeopaths should enclose any relevant patient records and materials. As a general practice, homeopaths should always keep their records in compliance with the guidelines of the Homeopathy Act, 2007. The ICRC can evaluate a homeopath’s records at any time, and can make a negative disposition on the basis of inadequate recordkeeping.
Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the ICRC will receive and review the complaint file, and may make any of the following dispositions:
- Take no further action;
- Caution a homeopath in person before the ICRC;
- Inquire into a homeopath’s professional capacity;
- Refer the matter to the Discipline Committee; or
- Make any other appropriate action, including ordering further investigation.
Unless the ICRC has made a referral to discipline or for incapacity proceedings, homeopaths will typically receive written reasons explaining the decision.
The Public Register will include details of the following ICRC dispositions: Specified Continuing Education or Remediation Programs (“SCERP”); cautions; undertakings; and referrals to discipline. This information will be available to anyone accessing a homeopath’s online profile.
In serious cases where their alleged conduct exposes or is likely to expose patients to harm or injury, homeopaths may be subject to an interim order. Interim orders can take the form of terms, limitations, or conditions on a homeopath’s certificate of registration, including licence suspension. Interim orders can last for the entirety of the formal complaint process. Under section 75 of the Health Professions Procedural Code, the Registrar may also appoint a special investigator to investigate serious complaints against homeopaths. This investigator has much broader powers than in the standard complaint process.
Comparatively less serious complaints may qualify for the CHO’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) process. ADR provides homeopaths and complainants with the opportunity to reach a mediated outcome with the assistance of a neutral facilitator. Homeopaths cannot request ADR. When available, ADR will only proceed upon the mutual consent of the parties. A resolution reached through ADR is not final until ratified by the ICRC. If ADR is unsuccessful, the discussions will generally remain confidential, and the formal CHO complaint process will resume.
Homeopaths and complainants may request a review of the ICRC’s decision at the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (“HPARB”). HPARB will consider whether the CHO’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, which will typically be provided to homeopaths and complainants in advance of the review.
It can feel challenging to receive a complaint at the College of Homeopaths of Ontario. Legal counsel can assist homeopaths through this situation. When subject to a complaint, homeopaths should be aware of the potential consequences, and should respond accordingly.