Complaints about health care in B.C. — everything from COVID-19 measures to surgical delays — are at the highest level they’ve been in a decade, says the annual report by the province’s ombudsperson released Tuesday.
The ombudsperson’s office received almost 1,300 complaints and enquiries about programs and services provided by the Ministry of Health and B.C.’s health authorities. There were 509 complaints and questions about the Health Ministry alone in 2021-2022, up by 208 from the previous fiscal year.
“Whether it was visitor restrictions in long-term care, surgical delays, COVID-19 measures, quality of care or access to services, clearly health care is top of mind for the public,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke in a statement Tuesday.
The office received 5,982 complaints and 2,233 enquiries overall last year regarding a range of public bodies, with 1,246 cases or 16 per cent assigned to teams of investigators.
The Ministry of Health was one of the top three most complained about public bodies, along with ICBC (487) and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (477).
The top five non-ministries after ICBC on the list were Fraser Health (179), Vancouver Coastal Health (173), WorkSafeBC (172) and Island Health at 150, up 10 from 2020-2021.
Investigations into the Health Ministry or health authorities by the Office of the Ombudsperson in the last year resulted in:
• The registration processes for foreign-trained doctors being clarified by the Health Employers Association of B.C. after a foreign-trained doctor received inaccurate and misleading information about eligibility requirements.
• A man awaiting a leg amputation received expedited surgery after complaining to the ombudsperson he was suffering significantly as a result of surgical cancellations and delays by Interior Health.
• The case of an unvaccinated man told by Island Health he couldn’t visit hospital after his spouse was admitted following a stroke that was expected to prove fatal was reassessed after the ombudsperson’s office contacted the health authority and examined exemptions available to unvaccinated people in certain circumstances, including end-of-life visits. The health authority arranged for the man to visit his spouse.
Chalke renewed his call Tuesday 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,” he said.
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. While there are numerous ways to contact the office, the majority of complaints are made by phone. The office’s services are free.
The office provides an impartial ear and investigations can lead to issues being rectified not only for individuals who bring complaints but also for future users of public services and programs.
The full report can be found here.