Complications and Complaint Procedure
However diligent and well prepared surgery is performed, there can always be a complication. It is important to realise and understand that:
1 It should always be the doctor's aim to prevent complications as much as possible
2 Some complications are inevitable
3 In the case of a complication there needs to be a good explanation to the patient and family and an adequate guidance of patient and family by the attending surgeon
Gone Wrong is not necessarily Done Wrong....
When things go different as expected, nobody is happy and the patient is the victim.
However, that things did not go as expected does not mean that a mistake was made or that someone is at fault.
A good example is a postoperative infection, even if all preventive measures are taken and protocol was followed we know that a postoperative infection can still happen. What's more, for different kind of surgeries, we know beforehand that certain complications can (and will) occur, however careful we are (e.g. anastomotic leak in bowel surgery, postoperative bleeding and thrombotic events in extensive surgery). In this, it is important that patients are well-informed beforehand of relevant risks and guided when these risks result in a complication.
From Complication to Complaint
A complication in surgery, or even a non-complicated surgery case, can result in dissatisfaction (for example due to bad personal treatment) with the received treatment.
It is the patient's right to voice this dissatisfaction and have his or her voice heard. If this is done properly it will be constructive to both the doctor and future patients. This will create a learning opportunity to improve future care.
To achieve this, it is very important that all parties be constructive and the dissatisfaction or complaint process be done correctly.
In case of dissatisfaction or a complaint:
First talk directly to your surgeon about the dissatisfaction or complaint.
A majority of dissatisfaction cases stem from bad communication between the treating surgeon and the patient or family, often a misunderstanding of facts or misinterpretation of events can be solved through verbal and direct communication.
Surprisingly, the way doctors look at and experience things and events sometimes can be different from how the patients they care for look at or experience things.
A good talk about the matter has the best chance for a constructive outcome with the deserved attention for patient and family and a better understanding of communication factors towards the future for the doctor.
If talking directly to the surgeon did not solve the dissatisfaction or the
complaint, the next step is the possibility to submit a complaint through
the complaint department of the hospital.
Submitting a complaint through the complaint department will lead to a process of the case by the Complaint Commission of the hospital, this will create a third party objective evaluation of the case or complaint. Once it is considered a more severe case and direct contact with the surgeon has brought no satisfactory solution for the patient and/or family, a process of fact finding and cause evaluation will put all facts and events in perspective. Every hospital should have a clearly reachable complaint department. The contact information of the hospital complaint department of the Antillean Advent Hospitals can be found under the Patient Resources tab in the menu above.
If talking directly to your surgeon and subsequent treatment of the case
through the complaint department did not solve the matter, the next
possibility is to submit a complaint through the Inspectorate of
Health. This step should not be taken lightly. Patients and family need to realise that submitting a complaint to the Inspectorate of Health is a serious action that should not be used in vain, however, if patients or family consider that the dissatisfaction or complaint is not solved after handling by the complaint department and they consider that there was a severe mistake, gross negligence or unacceptable behavior or personal treatment by a surgeon, it is their absolute right to contact the Inspectorate of Health. This institution will then conduct its own examination and handling of the complaint. Having followed the correct order of complaint through direct contact with the surgeon and the complaint commission of the hospital will help, as this shows a constructive intent and pre-assessment and fact finding by the complaint commission will help in expediting the matter.
The contact information for the local Inspectorate of Health can be found under the Patient Resources tab in the menu above
By following the correct order of these steps, and if the doctor or surgeon is transparent and open to criticism, we know from literature and experience that most dissatisfaction can and will be solved constructively through the first step without need for further action with an additional positive future impact on the care environment, as most dissatisfaction stems from bad communication or bad understanding of the facts involved.
In return, by following the correct dissatisfaction or complaint order the patient and family have the best chance of being heard and receiving the attention and answers to their questions or concerns in a constructive way that serves everybody and especially future patients.
Calamity and Mortality
In addition, for severe calamities and mortality cases there is a national protocol in place through the hospitals and Inspectorate for Health that ensures assessment and evaluation of these separate cases.