Hospital complaints and investigations

Published: September 2022 / Revised March 2023

From time to time, physicians may face complaints from patients, their families or representatives regarding care received in a health authority or hospital setting. Physicians may also face issues arising from an investigation by a health authority or hospital with respect to the physician’s conduct or competence.

The CMPA will generally assist members with health authority or hospital matters relating to the professional practice of medicine where a member’s privileges are threatened. The CMPA’s role in assisting members with health authority or hospital matters is to ensure that members are treated fairly when there is a loss or threat of loss of privileges. However, the CMPA will not generally assist with health authority or hospital matters primarily arising from business or personal issues.1 The CMPA does not generally assist members in obtaining privileges.

When members face health authority or hospital complaints or investigations for which they are eligible for assistance, they will be assisted by the CMPA’s knowledgeable and experienced physician advisors. In some cases where legal advice is required, the matter will be referred to legal counsel. While the CMPA may provide legal representation, it does not typically pay costs imposed by a health authority or hospital (e.g. the health authority or hospital's costs for a hearing). The CMPA will also not typically assist members with an appeal or review of a health authority or hospital decision unless there are reasonable grounds to believe the physician was denied a fundamental procedural right (e.g. not being given an opportunity to respond to the allegations).

Undertakings or orders

In response to a complaint or investigation, a health authority or hospital may require a physician to sign an undertaking (or an agreement) or take specific steps or refrain from doing something for a defined period of time. For example, the physician may be required to practise under supervision or refrain from seeing certain patients.

Where a member enters into an undertaking with the health authority or hospital or is subject to an order, the member will be expected to comply with the undertaking or order. Failure to comply with an undertaking or order may affect a member’s eligibility for continued assistance from the CMPA with the issue related to the undertaking or order.

Sexual impropriety

Members are generally eligible for assistance from the CMPA to defend against allegations of sexual impropriety related to the professional practice of medicine.

However, upon a finding of sexual impropriety in a non-criminal matter, the CMPA will generally decline to assist or will generally withdraw assistance in matters:

  • arising from the same facts to which the finding relates; and
  • where the CMPA is satisfied there has been a clear finding based on a fair process and quality evidence.

For example, if a College committee finds a member guilty of sexual impropriety, the CMPA may decline to assist with any health authority or hospital matter relating to the same facts that led to the College finding.2 However, consistent with its principles of assistance for criminal matters, the CMPA would generally assist with an ongoing or new criminal matter arising from the same facts even following a finding made in a non-criminal matter.

Criminal findings

The CMPA will generally withdraw assistance and/or decline to assist with a hospital matter following a guilty finding in a criminal proceeding arising from the practice of medicine where the hospital matter arises from the same facts that led to the criminal finding.


  1. 1. Matters primarily arising from business and personal issues include such things as advertising, rental or leasing disputes, social media activity that falls outside health advocacy, employment issues, and marital and family disputes.
  2. 2. The CMPA always maintains discretion to assist with existing or future related matters that arise from the same facts to which a finding relates.