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Complaints against a member

A person may file a complaint regarding the professional conduct of a speech-language pathologist or audiologist. All complaints are taken very seriously. The legislated obligations of ACSLPA in dealing with complaints with respect to the professional conduct of speech-language pathologists and audiologists in Alberta are stated in Section 4 of the HPA. Personal information of complainants, speech-language pathologists and audiologists, and other individuals will be collected by ACSLPA for use in the complaint, investigation, and discipline processes under the HPA. The Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) governs ACSLPA’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

The following provides an overview of the steps in this process.

Where to Begin

Any person who has a concern about the professional practice of a speech-language pathologist or audiologist is encouraged to first discuss their concern directly with that individual when appropriate. If the two parties are unable to find a mutually satisfactory solution and resolve their difficulties, then the person who has the concern may wish to pursue the matter with the supervisor or employer (if applicable) of the speech-language pathologist or audiologist. If the issue in question is still not resolved in a satisfactory manner or if the issue falls beyond what can reasonably be discussed with registered member, a formal complaint should be made to ACSLPA.

Who Can Make a Complaint?

Any person who believes that a regulated member of ACSLPA has not provided professional services in a competent, safe or ethical manner, may submit a written complaint to the Complaints Director of the College. A person making a complaint may be:

  • A patient/client or a member of their family
  • A regulated or former member of ACSLPA
  • Another health care professional
  • An employer
  • A member of the public

A complaint may also be made about a former regulated member within two years of the date that the individual ceased to be registered with ACSLPA.

Employers

Under the HPA, employers have a legal obligation to inform a College if the employment of a regulated member is terminated, suspended, or if the member has resigned for reasons related to unprofessional conduct.

Filing a Complaint

Complaints must be submitted to the Complaints Director in writing. Written complaints must include the following:

  • The name of the registered (or former registered) member involved
  • A detailed description of the key facts and events that occurred, including dates, times, location
  • Any other information/documents that support the allegations being made
  • The name, signature and contact information of the person filing the complaint

ACSLPA encourages those making a complaint to fill out the fillable Complaints Form which contains the minimum requirements required to initiate a compliant. In circumstances where individuals are unable to use the Complaints Form, individuals may contact the ACSLPA Complaints Director directly at complaintsdirector@acslpa.ab.ca or 1-800-537-0589

Acting on a Complaint

Once a written complaint has been received by ACSLPA, the Complaints Director will begin a review of the matter. The review is designed to ensure fairness to both the complainant and to the speech-language pathologist or audiologist, and involves the following:

  • The speech-language pathologist or audiologist in question will receive a copy of the written letter of complaint and be asked to provide a response.
  • Additional information may be gathered through one or more of the following:
  • Conversation with the complainant and speech-language pathologist or audiologist and other relevant parties
  • Contacting individuals or organizations who may have relevant information
  • Review of client files/records

Even if a written complaint is not received by ACSLPA, if the Complaints Director has reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct of a regulated or former member constitutes unprofessional conduct, the Complaints Director may treat the matter as a complaint and act on it.

Within 30 days of receiving a complaint, the Complaints Director must give written notice to the complainant of the action that will be taken. The Complaints Director may:

  • Encourage the complainant and investigated person to communicate with each other and resolve the complaint;
  • Attempt to resolve the complaint, with the consent of the complainant and investigated person;
  • Refer the complaint to an alternative complaint resolution process;
  • Request an expert to assess and provide a written report on the subject matter of the complaint;
  • Conduct or appoint an investigator to conduct an investigation;
  • Dismiss the complaint; and/or
  • Direct the investigated person to submit to specified physical or mental examinations if the Complaints Director has grounds to believe the investigated person is incapacitated.

Note: In cases involving allegations of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct, please refer to that section on our website for additional information.

Next Steps

The following provides a brief overview of what may occur next, depending upon the decision of the Complaints Director with respect to the action to be taken

Facilitated Resolution

Certain types of concerns and problems are dealt with more effectively through discussion and resolution between the concerned parties, rather than through a more formal process where the member of the profession is charged with unprofessional conduct and a hearing is held. When appropriate, the Complaints Director will encourage the concerned parties to communicate with each other and resolve the issues surrounding the complaint. With the consent of both parties, the Complaints Director may also work with the parties in an attempt to resolve the complaint.

The Complaints Director may also suggest to the parties that they pursue an alternative complaint resolution process to resolve the matter. This process includes involvement of a neutral third party who acts as a mediator to assist the parties to achieve a resolution and come to some form of agreement between themselves.

If none of these efforts to resolve a complaint are successful, the Complaints Director will determine which further action will be taken.

Note: Facilitated Resolution will not apply to allegations that may cause further harm to complainant including, but not limited to those allegations of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct.

Assessments and Investigations

During the process of dealing with a complaint, the Complaints Director may determine that an assessment or investigation is required for the purpose of obtaining further information regarding the matter. Specifically, the Complaints Director may:

  • Request an expert to review and assess the issues surrounding a complaint and provide a written report on the matter;
  • Investigate the matter; and/or
  • Appoint an investigator.

In some cases, the Complaints Director may perform the investigation and/or in some cases, an independent professional investigator hired by ACSLPA to conduct the investigation. At times the investigator may be a qualified, unbiased speech-language pathologist or audiologist. Investigators may electronically record interviews with the complainant, the registered speech-language pathologists and audiologists, and other witnesses, to ensure the integrity of the investigation by providing an actual recording of the interview.

The HPA states the process for an investigation, specifying the following:

  • The investigated person and the complainant are notified that the matter that has been referred to an investigation and provided with the name of the investigator.
  • The investigator will meet with the complainant and others who have direct knowledge of the matter for the purpose of gathering information and documents that relate to the complaint.
  • The investigator will meet with the investigated person, who may be accompanied by a representative, for the purpose of gathering information and documents that relate to the complaint.
  • During the course of the investigation, the investigator may require any person to answer any relevant questions (under oath, if deemed necessary), and to provide any documents or items relevant to the investigation.
  • The investigator may at any reasonable time enter and inspect any premises (except a private home) where the investigated person provides services.
  • The investigator has the authority to investigate other matters unrelated to the original complaint that are related to the conduct of the investigated person.

During the investigation process, the investigated person may be subject to conditions on their practice permit or suspension of their practice permit, pending the outcome of a professional conduct hearing.

Information that is gathered by ACSLPA during an investigation is shared for the purposes of conducting the investigation or discipline processes or when authorized by law. In addition to sharing written complaints with investigated speech-language pathologists and audiologists, certain other information or documents gathered during the investigation may be shared with parties or witnesses in order to confirm their accuracy or to obtain statements and evidence in relation to the investigation.

If a matter proceeds to a hearing, information gathered during the investigation will be provided to investigated speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Information gathered during the investigation or disclosed during a hearing may also become available to the public through the discipline process.

Upon completion of the investigation, a report must be prepared and submitted to the Complaints Director. Based on the information provided in the report, the Complaints Director will determine which of the following actions will be taken.

Dismissal of the Complaint

If the decision is made to dismiss the complaint, the Complaints Director must give notice to the complainant of the dismissal and of their right to apply for a review by the Complaint Review Committee.

Further Information

This document is designed to provide a summary of the complaint process. Members of the public and ACSLPA members are encouraged to contact ACSLPA should they require further information regarding the complaint process. Further information regarding the ACSLPA’s information handling practices can also be obtained by reviewing the ACSLPA’s Privacy Policy. In all cases, the HPA, the regulations under the HPA, the ACSLPA Bylaws, Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics of the College take precedence.

Members of the public and members of the College should obtain their own legal advice regarding specific interpretations of the HPA and regulations and the application of the process to their specific circumstances.

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