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The Court of Appeal of Alberta recently released a decision, Makis v College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (Complaint Review Committee), discussing the rights of a complainant and the obligations of a Complaint Review Committee under the Health Professions Act.
Dr. Viliam Makis filed a complaint, including 11 allegations, with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta of professional misconduct against another physician. His complaint was dismissed. Dr. Makis requested a review of this decision, but he missed the deadline for applying and his request was also dismissed.
Dr. Makis then filed a second complaint, including 10 allegations. This complaint was dismissed because 9 of the allegations had been included in the first complaint and one did not warrant further action. Dr. Makis requested a review of this decision, which was dismissed.
Dr. Makis then applied for judicial review of the second complaint.
The Court held the following:
1. A complainant does not have the right to have their complaint investigated.
The Complaints Director did not conduct a full investigation before dismissing Dr. Makis’ complaints. The Court held that a complainant is entitled to a fair procedure, but that does not include the right to an investigation. The Complaints Director has the power to investigate, but has no obligation to conduct an investigation and is entitled to dismiss a complaint if it appears to be trivial or if there is insufficient evidence. The Court also held the Complaints Director is entitled to dismiss a complaint that essentially repeats a previously dismissed complaint, which occurred in this case.
2. A complainant should be given a reasonable opportunity to provide input.
Dr. Makis provided extensive details in his complaints, including over 900 pages of information. The Court found that, based on the amount of information Dr. Makis provided, he was given a fair opportunity to make his case.
3. A complainant in a professional disciplinary matter is only entitled to a low level of procedural fairness.
Based on this entitlement, the Court held a complainant does not have a right to an oral hearing. Therefore, the Complaint Review Committee can conduct a review based on written material, as long as it provides sufficient information.
4. The complainant in a professional disciplinary matter is not entitled to challenge the merits of a decision regarding their complaint.
The Court held that a complainant may only challenge a decision of the Complaint Review Committee on procedural grounds. If there are no procedural fairness issues, the complainant is unable to appeal the decision.
The Court found there were no procedural fairness issues in this case and Dr. Makis’ appeal was dismissed.