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Health care complaints to BC Ombudsperson highest in ten years

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Victoria –The BC Ombudsperson’s 2021/22 Annual Report, released today, highlights that complaints about health care from British Columbians were the highest in a decade. The office received almost 1,300 complaints and enquiries focused on programs and services provided by the Ministry of Health and B.C.’s health authorities.

“Whether it was visitor restrictions in long-term care, surgical delays, COVID measures, quality of care or access to services, clearly health care is top of mind for the public,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke.

The office received 8,215 complaints and enquiries last year about a wide range of public sector organizations. The Ministry of Health, ICBC and the Ministry of Children and Family Development were the top three most complained about public bodies.

Notable Ombudsperson investigative outcomes last fiscal year include:

  • The registration processes for foreign-trained doctors was clarified by the Health Employers Association of B.C. after a foreign-trained doctor who had hoped to practice medicine complained to the Ombudsperson that they received inaccurate and misleading information about eligibility requirements.
  • A man, who was suffering significantly as a result of surgical cancellations and delays by Interior Health, received expedited surgery following an Ombudsperson investigation.
  • A historic train station was saved from imminent demolition following an investigation that concluded the District of Hope failed to consider the full range of proposals for the building.
  • The Residential Tenancy Branch adopted a policy to allow people to participate in hearings in more accessible formats after the Ombudsperson investigated a complaint from a person who had language barriers.
  • A person who complained to the office had a $19,000 debt erased after an investigation highlighted communication issues related to the application of the Speculation and Vacancy Tax.
  • A lottery winner whose $150,000 cheque was withheld because the British Columbia Lottery Corporation tried to insist on signed waivers from friends who were with her when she purchased the ticket, received her winnings following an Ombudsperson investigation.

The office also issued three public investigative reports last year, which made recommendations to address significant issues of fairness in local government, youth custody and workers’ compensation. While governments accepted all of the recommendations in two of the Ombudsperson’s reports, the Ministry of Labour rejected the recommendations in Severed Trust, a report that focused on a gap in the workers’ compensation system that had significant consequences for an injured worker.

“The ministry’s rejection of our recommendations that would assist injured workers harmed by WorkSafeBC’s own actions is extremely disappointing,” said Chalke adding he is renewing his call for the Legislative Assembly to mandate a legislative committee to consider all Ombudsperson’s reports. “As I have previously stated, automatic referral of our reports to a legislative committee is a practical, cost-effective way to ensure the issues that are raised in our reports receive focused attention and government is held to account if recommendations are not implemented.”

The Office of the Ombudsperson receives and investigates complaints and enquiries from all British Columbians and provides oversight over more than 1,000 public bodies. The office’s services are free.

“There’s no question that members of the public need a place to raise their concerns,” said Chalke. “My office can provide an impartial ear and our investigations can make things right, not only for individuals who bring complaints to us, but also future users of public services and programs. The improvements to public administration that result from our work have real value for members of the public.”

To view the annual report, please click here.