The SVMA Complaint Process

 

The Complaint Process

All veterinarians practising in the province must be registered and are governed by the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) which is the statutory body created by The Veterinarians Act, 1987 to oversee, in the public interest, the practice of veterinary medicine in Saskatchewan.  As the professional regulatory body, the SVMA is responsible for establishing and enforcing standards of professional competence and conduct for all practitioners and for responding to complaints about veterinarians.

The SVMA protects you and your animals by: 

Veterinarians are required in every aspect of the handling of a case, to meet the standard of care, skill, knowledge and conduct expected of a competent and ethical professional. They are also required to provide clients with a simple, complete and understandable explanation of the treatment recommended and ultimately provided for the animal, as well as an estimate of the anticipated costs before proceeding and an itemized account afterwards. They must provide the client with complete copies of all medical records for a reasonable fee upon the request of the client.

If you have a concern about the care your animal received or your veterinarian's conduct, often the best first step is to discuss the matter with your veterinarian.  Many concerns relate to misunderstandings that can be resolved by clear and forthright communication.  As well, when dealing with a major animal health issue, obtaining a second opinion from another veterinarian may give you a different perspective and additional helpful information.

SVMA Regulations

Under The Veterinarians Act, 1987, the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) handles all complaints and conducts all investigations as quickly as possible.  The PCC can direct an investigation on a public complaint, the report of a practice inspector, or on any information brought to its attention, bearing in mind the matters it is authorized to investigate:

A complaint may ultimately be resolved by consent with the veterinarian, sent to a discipline hearing or dismissed.

The professional conduct committee may dismiss complaints for the following reasons:

A licenced veterinarian must cooperate with an investigation, including providing information or records requested by the PCC.  The professional conduct committee may impose interim suspensions and restritions, as can the discipline committee pending the outcome of a hearing.

Complaints about Veterinary Bills
The SVMA may investigate and impose discipline for some types of bill-related complaints but does NOT have the power to direct a veterinarian to decrease the amount of a bill, give a refund or otherwise financially compensate a client.  

There is no mandatory fee guide or schedule for veterinarians.

The SVMA will investigate complaints about billing if there is evidence of the following: 

Making a Complaint

How does the complaints process start?
In order for the SVMA to review and investigate complaints from the public, the complaint must be received from the complainant in writing. The statement of complaint should clearly and precisely set out the following information: 

ƒAre all letters of complaint forwarded to the Professional Conduct Committee?  
Yes, all letters of complaint are reviewed by the Professional Conduct Committee. 

Who are the members of the PCC?
The PCC consists of up to nine members, all of whom are, or have been, practising veterinarians. All members of the committee are volunteers, appointed by council, who meet on a regular basis.  

How does the Professional Conduct Committee function? 
The committee reviews cases and assigns a sub-committee of two members to investigate each complaint. The sub-committee may interview the veterinarian and witnesses, and will review medical records and any other relevant information. The subcommittee then writes a summary of the case and presents its findings to the Committee. The PCC then makes a decision on disposition of the case or it may ask more information be collected.

What does the investigation involve?
The complainant is contacted by the SVMA to confirm receipt of the complaint. The veterinarian is notified of the complaint and provided with a copy. The veterinarian is given an opportunity to submit a written explanation, pertinent medical records, x-rays, logs and other documentation to the SVMA office. The veterinarian is then interviewed by a two person sub-committee of the PCC.  Other people involved in the case may be interviewed as well.

What happens if other veterinarians are involved? 
Other veterinarians involved in the treatment of the patient may be asked for their comments and medical records for the PCC to review. 

Then what happens? 
A case summary is written by the PCC sub-committee and the completed investigation file is reviewed by the entire PCC where a decision is made. 

The written decision of the PCC is sent to the complainant, the veterinarian and the discipline committee.  Decisions are not provided over the telephone by SVMA staff.

Who are the members of the Discipline Committee (DC)?  
The Discipline Committee consists of up to five general SVMA members who are volunteers appointed by council. In addition, there are two to three non-veterinary public representatives appointed by SVMA council.

How does the Discipline Committee function? 
The DC receives one of two types of reports from the PCC after it has investigated a complaint against a member. These reports will recommend either that no further action be taken or that the DC arrange a hearing of the results of the investigation.   

What happens at a disciplinary hearing?
The DC is not aware of any of the details of the case prior to the hearing and all evidence is given under oath. The DC, PCC and the veterinarian under investigation may have legal counsel in attendance to advise on points of law.

The DC shall hear the evidence and decide by majority vote whether or not the member is guilty of unprofessional conduct or a breach of a provision of The Veterinarians Act, 1987 or the SVMA Bylaws. The final decision may not be reached the day of the hearing.

What type of penalty can the Discipline Committee impose?
If a member is found guilty the DC may have the veterinarian: ƒ

Can the Professional Conduct or Discipline Committees award money or damages?  
No, only the courts can do this. 

Then what happens?
The DC drafts and sends a report of its decision to the veterinarian and a copy to the complainant.  A copy of all correspondence will be filed with the registrar who will then take the appropriate action according to the discipline measures ordered.

What recourse is there if the complainant or the veterinarian is dissatisfied with the decision of the Discipline Committee?
The veterinarian may appeal the decision to a judge of the court by submitting a notice of appeal. If the client is not satisfied with the decision made by the Discipline Committee, they may pursue action against the veterinarian though the court system.  

Complaints MUST be in writing, signed and original copy sent to the SVMA.
Please mail or deliver the original signed letter to:
Dr. J.A. Currie, registrar
Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association  
202-224 Pacific Avenue  
Saskatoon SK  S7K 1N9

Complaints will not be accepted by fax or email.