Globe and Mail

Ontario hires consultants to review doctors' college

KRISTA FOSS
Health Reporter
The Globe and Mail
Friday, December 31, 1999

Toronto -- Ontario's Ministry of Health has hired a consulting firm to tackle the controversial subject of how well the province's self-regulating body for doctors handles complaints from patients and disciplines its own members.

A ministry spokesman confirmed yesterday that Toronto-based consulting giant, Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG) LLP, has already started a review of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

"This is the first time the ministry has initiated an independent review of a college process," ministry spokesman Dan Strasbourg said. "The primary focus of the review is to determine how well the interest of the public is being served through the discipline and complaints process and the outcomes."

The ministry has been talking about doing such a review since last December after staff prepared a special report on the college for Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer in the wake of publicized cases that pitted patients against doctors.

But it has taken the ministry a year to hire an independent reviewer for the inquiry into the long-running controversy over whether patients who complain about a doctor get their due in Ontario, and whether the doctors who are the subject of these complaints are properly disciplined.

According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's latest annual report, only 1 per cent of the nearly 1,200 new complaints received each year are referred to the college's discipline committee. More than 2,000 complaints are carried over every year.

Of the 4,523 complaint investigations handled by the college in 1997, 19 were forwarded to the college's discipline committee and the licences of only two doctors were revoked between 1996 and 1997.

The review is being conducted "in response to public expressions of concern," Mr. Strasbourg said.

Public access to reviews conducted for the Ministry of Health has been a sticking point lately. Last summer, a review of how Ontario's 21 colleges for health professions handle sexual-abuse allegations was completed by the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council for the ministry. The public never saw that report.

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