The Health Complaints Commissioner (HCC) has experienced a year of action and growth, having received 6835 complaints, taken 18,893 telephone calls through a complaints and inquiries line, commenced 16 investigations and delivered 52 training and information sessions in the 12 months to June 30 2018.
Commissioner Karen Cusack said the past year had marked a significant phase for the office as it fully embraced its powers and responsibilities to protect Victorians from dangerous and unethical health service providers under the Health Complaints Act 2016.
The HCC 2018 Annual Report, tabled in parliament today, is the first annual report covering a full financial year of the HCC after it replaced the former Health Services Commissioner in February 2017.
Ms Cusack said the HCC had recorded a steady increase in complaints received for 2017-18, up 13% from 2016-17.
“Alongside our core business of complaints resolution the office has increasingly taken action through investigations and prosecutions, commencing 16 investigations in 2017-18.
“We’ve launched an inquiry into the practice of conversion therapy and, once this is complete, we’ll report to the Minister for Health on the findings and any recommendations. We’ve also initiated a sector-wide investigation into private drug and alcohol rehab services after we received an alarming number of serious complaints about this sector in our first year of operation.
“In the last year we’ve issued six orders, which prohibit a health practitioner or organisation from providing health services, and six public warning statements.
“What these figures don’t show is the amount of worth that goes into building a case for a successful investigation or prosecution, including gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, in some cases executing search warrants and preparing investigation reports and briefs of evidence.”
Ms Cusack said she was proud of the HCC’s positive impact on the experiences and outcomes of health service consumers and providers in Victoria.
“Customer service and resolution officers have closed 69% of complaints in less than one month, and 87% of complaints in less than three months,” she said.
“The continuing professionalism and patience of my staff in managing an increasing workload is commendable and I’d like to thank them for maintaining a strong commitment to our important work during such a significant stage for the office.”
What complaints were about:
- General health service providers (anyone not regulated by AHPRA, including but not limited to ambulance service, diagnostic imaging services, pathology services and alcohol and drug services): 468 complaints.
- Hospitals: 1822 complaints – a 14% increase from 2016-17.
- Medical clinics (including but not limited to group practice and 24-hour clinics): 722 complaints – a 34% increase from 2016-17.
- Medical practitioners (including but not limited to general practitioners, psychiatrists, surgeons and obstetricians/gynaecologists): 1244 complaints – an 18% increase from 2016-17.
- Dentists: 347 complaints – a 20% increase from 2016-17.
- Other registered providers (practitioners registered with AHPRA, including but not limited to pharmacists, optometrists, nurses, and radiologists): 312 complaints – a 45% increase from 2016-17.
- Prison health service providers: 1641 complaints – a 0.02% increase from 2016-17.
Issued raised in complaints:
- The most common issues raised in complaints involved treatment (3187, 35%), access to services (2446, 27%) and medication (1011, 11%).
Issues raised in complaints by provider type:
- Medical practitioners: 1835 complaints. The most common issues were access to services (298), records (258) and conduct and behaviour (239).
- Public hospitals: 2465 complaints. The most common issues were treatment (1142) and access to services (455).
- Dental services: 497 complaints. The most common issue was treatment (279).
- Private hospitals: 370 complaints. The most common issue was treatment (159).
Outcomes of closed complaints:
- The most common outcomes for health service complaints in 2017-18 included advice given by HCC staff (4259, or 69%), explanations obtained from health service providers (884, or 14%), service obtained (255, or 4%) and refunds or compensation (231, or 4%).
The power to investigate and take action following an investigation increased significantly under the Health Complaints Act 2016. The HCC can launch investigations based on information it receives, on the Commissioner’s own initiative or by referral from the Victorian Minister for Health.
- In 2017-18 the HCC commenced one Minister-referred investigation, eight Commissioner-initiated investigations, seven complaint investigations and one inquiry.