Can I complain?

Ever been subjected to a formal complaint?
Ever had one of those notices from AHPRA setting out the details of a complaint, allowing you a few weeks to respond, and then to sweat for months waiting for an outcome?
There has to be system I agree, whereby a legitimate error has occurred, whereby a patient has been harmed, or whereby even a worse outcome has occurred.
However, the system in my view has been abused for a very long time by opportunists who maximize their own attempts at public outrage over minor issues.
And I’m speaking from experience of these issues over many years!

Recently AHPRA has developed a new triaging system to reduce the amount of time it takes to deal with a complaint.
The main change is that a committee with a smaller-than-usual quorum examines complaints to see they they can be closed early.
AHPRA has previously been criticized for the time health professionals languish in the complains system, even though MOST NOTIFICATIONS LEAD TO NO SANCTION (my emphasis).

However, the new system is for doctors only, with no timeline for it to be extended to pharmacists and other health professionals.
The results in this change so far have been impressive.
The proportion of complaints assessed within 20 days has risen to 8% to 37%.
That’s an improvement at least in the process, and on the humanitarian side, far less stress has been placed on the person against whom the complaint has been lodged.

The sickening part in many instances is that the complainant can opt to remain anonymous.
It’s no wonder that PSS and other similar support organizations are swamped by genuine, caring health practitioners who perhaps, with a slight lapse in concentration, get a whack.
Another worrying aspect has been, up until recently I gather, the ability of an anonymous complainant to be part of the quorum hearing the complaint that has been lodged.

I attended an interesting address by the Victorian Health Complaints Commissioner who, I understand, mops up non-AHPRA registered practitioners and can also act against the AHPRA practitioners as well.
I guess we can expect a flood of complaints within that system too.
Questions directed to the Commissioner during that address were in many cases, not answered because of a fundamental lack of understanding of how the health system works – that is, a variety of dedicated, caring and involved professionals who endeavor to get the best possible outcomes for their patients.

Did I say that the Commissioner is a lawyer?

I know that we have competent professional indemnity caretakers like Professional Pharmacists of Australia (PPA) and PDL – they play a valuable role.
PPA indemnity is a recent arrival, but PDL has been around for (?) 50 years – why has this dreadful complaints system been allowed to propagate and potentially affect the mental state of a health practitioner during protracted delays.

My recent experience?

I dared to suggest that CoEnzyme Q10 taken regularly might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Complaint (anonymous but on an often-used template) lodged Oct 26th 2017.
Decision made by the Pharmacy Board on Dec 14th 2017.
Correspondence received on a letterhead dated March 1st 2018 with the heading “Notice of Board decision to take no further action”.

I’m an old fart now, and I’ve been through this wringer many times over the journey.
How might a recent graduate have coped?
Or the owner of a recently acquired pharmacy who is accompanied by financial obligations.

I rest my case Your Honour.

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