Currently, there are still no AODA healthcare standards. However, an AODA standards development committee drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA healthcare standards should include. These guidelines include accessible complaint processes in healthcare.
The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on the hospital setting. However, patients and healthcare workers with disabilities also face barriers in other parts of the healthcare system, including:
- Doctors’ offices
- Walk-in clinics
- Wellness centres
- Nursing homes
- Outpatient rehabilitation centres
- Health regulatory colleges
Therefore, all these settings should have accessible complaint processes.
Accessible Complaint Processes in Healthcare
When patients experience accessibility barriers in healthcare, they may be unaware that they can use complaint processes to alert their healthcare providers to the barriers. Moreover, these processes can help providers learn about frequent barriers that patients face, and begin removing or preventing these ongoing barriers. Therefore, the committee recommends that all hospitals should have timely and efficient processes for patients to express their concerns.
Hospitals should document their accessible complaint processes, and make these documents available to the public. Moreover, hospitals should inform new patients about their processes, and that patients can make complaints without reprisals. In addition, patients should be able to make their complaints in various ways, including in accessible formats. Patients should also be able to make complaints anonymously, if they wish. Hospitals should use these anonymous reports to discover repeated instances of the same accessibility barriers.
Hospitals should also create and implement processes to frequently review their policies and practices, based on patterns of inaccessible services patients have experienced. Staff should then update their policies and practices to improve accessibility.
Furthermore, the committee recommends that the government should amend requirements for patient complaint processes, under the Excellent Care for All Act (2015). For example, the Act should allow a fast process for urgent accessibility-related complaints during emergency situations or pandemic conditions, such as complaints about:
- Ableism and discrimination in medical triage protocols
- The need for visitors to be designated as essential, for accessibility reasons
Finally, the government should also amend the Act’s requirement for a robust patient relations process. This process involves a delegate whom patients can contact. The delegate’s contact information should be available in accessible formats for patients who request it. Likewise, patients should be able to contact the delegate in accessible formats.
These processes will improve hospital accessibility, for patients and staff.