Information for Physicians Dealing with Complaints

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Policy: Information for Physicians Dealing with Complaints
Policy Nr: Sec 13 - 05
Target Review Date: 2020-01-31
Main Stakeholder: Associate Head - Diversity and Professionalism

“While all complaints must be taken seriously, of those with a known outcome, more than 75% are dismissed outright or dismissed with some concern (e.g. education, caution, advice).”

“Some physicians have difficulty coping even when the complaint is unfounded and the final outcome is favourable. Many are stressed by what might be perceived as an error or criticism. Physicians express feeling betrayed by patients who launch a complaint and a number admit to feeling ashamed and reluctant to talk about the issue with colleagues or even family members. Some physicians have difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and some slip into depression. Others admit losing confidence in their clinical skills and judgment, regardless of the outcome of the complaint. Some report being devastated. A few consider leaving medicine or changing the scope of their practice to minimize the risk of future complaints. As physicians struggle to maintain normal behaviour, members of their family can be affected as well.” (1)

Source: CMPA [Internet]. Ottawa (CA):Canadian Medical Protective Association. Coping with a College complaint: Suggestions for reducing anxiety [cited 2017 Dec. 11]; about 2 screens. Available from:

Being the subject of a complaint is a stressful process. Most physicians will face at least one college complaint during the course of their professional careers. We may not feel comfortable discussing these issues with one another and therefore a sense of isolation can occur. Many resources are available to navigate the legal and personal impact of this experience.


As a general rule, CMPA provides support for issues that arise involving patient care. The CMPA does not provide legal assistance to issues that involve conflicts that arose in your role as an administrator, unless these conflicts involve patient care issues. However, the distinction is best made by them, and it is always advisable to seek the CMPA’s advice with regards to any complaints that are initiated against you, including complaints made to the Max Rady College of Medicine.


This article provides additional information on how to handle a CPSM complaint.

Doctors Manitoba

The physician family support program is also a confidential resource that can offer personal support to physicians through any number of stressors.

The MD Care is funded by Doctors Manitoba. This program offers confidential and comprehensive psychiatric care for Manitoba physicians and their families. A message can be left on their confidential voicemail at 204-480-1310.

You are also free to contact Doctors Manitoba to find out whether they believe you are entitled to the advice of their in-house legal counsel, Matt Maruca.

Max Rady College of Medicine

Complaints can also originate from members of the Max Rady College of Medicine or other entities at the University of Manitoba. These complaints may be relayed informally or formally by your Section Head or department chair, depending on the seriousness of the issue.

Details regarding the actions that may be triggered by a complaint can be found here:

Further clarification about process (timing, next steps, additional information) can be sought from Dr. Michael West, Associate Dean of Professionalism.

While students have a mechanism for reporting mistreatment, it can be difficult for faculty to know what to do in the event of contra-harassment (harassment by someone with a lower level of “authority” or “power” than the faculty member, such as a student). If you believe you have experienced contra-harassment, an appropriate first resource is the Associate Dean of Professionalism.

University of Manitoba

To learn more about Respectful Work and Learning Environment (RWLE) policies and procedures:

For more Information

For more information, contact Dr. Jillian Horton, Associate Head - Diversity and Professionalism.

Prepared January 2019 by:

Dr. Jillian Horton, BA MA MD FRCPC

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