Mental Health Complaints to the Ombudsperson (14:X)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 18, 2021.



Complaints concerning provincial mental health facilities, their practices or their treatment of patients may be taken to the BC Ombudsperson. This office has the authority to investigate patient complaints, make recommendations to the facility, mediate any problems arising between a patient and the facility, and to make recommendations to the Lieutenant-Governor and the Provincial Cabinet concerning the results of these investigations.

Complaints must be made in writing. The office is careful to ensure that, where necessary, the identity of the complainant is withheld from hospital staff. Common complaints include concerns about over-medication, seclusion, or providing information about patient rights. In such cases, the Ombudsperson has the authority to take the issue to an outside medical source to verify whether the patient is receiving appropriate levels of medication, to ensure the facility follows necessary protocols and reviews for placing people in seclusion and provides immediate rights information for those involuntarily detained. Complaints can be filed through the website at https://bcombudsperson.ca or by calling the Ombudsperson’s office at 1-800-567-3247.

Pursuant to investigating these complaints, in March of 2019, the Office of the Ombudsperson released a report titled “Committed to Change: Protecting the Rights of Involuntary Patients under the Mental Health Act”. This report investigated many complaints alleging that the legislative safeguards we’ve outlined above were not followed. The report states that the Office was “disappointed to find significant levels of non-compliance” when reviewing the forms. “In many cases, forms were simply not completed. In many other cases, the forms were completed late or in a manner that did not provide anything close to adequate reasons” (p 6).

The report includes the office's methodology, findings, and recommendations, and it can be accessed at https://www.bcmhrb.ca/app/uploads/sites/431/2019/03/OMB-Committed-to-Change-FINAL-web.pdf.


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