Patients must research own concerns about doctors
There is no system to automatically notify patients regarding concerns about their doctor's credentials, so people must take the initiative if they're concerned about competence.
While some say the information should be easier to find, other believe the real concern is improving the relationship and communication patients have with both doctors and the body that regulates them.
Some people have turned to popular websites like ratemds.com where patients comment on their doctors, but The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has different standards.
Some details about doctors practicing in Ontario are available by clicking on 'Doctor Search' on the CPSO website at http://www.cpso.on.ca/.
CPSO president Dr. Bob Byrick says "The public is encouraged to go to that website and to access this information anytime."
It has information like a doctor's practice or qualifications, any restrictions or even discipline, but it is up the public to call in or log on to find out.
But some say there should be an automatic system to alert people if there are concerns about a doctor's credentials.
That includes some of attorney Barbara Legate's clients, who are suing a St. Thomas gynecologist.
They claim they experienced complications following surgery and say they should have been told Dr. Cathy Frank's competence was a concern before they went under the knife.
At the time, Frank was under a review and supervision.
Legate says "If you knew enough to look on the website about her I guess you'd find that out. I'm not sure that anybody looks on a website before they go to see their obstetrician or gynecologist."
Some say it's also unfair for those without Internet access, like Harry May, whose Waterloo doctor resigned last month following a restriction of his prescribing privileges in 2011.
May says "I probably would have checked up on it if I had a computer. We can't afford a computer or the Internet."
The CPSO says it is one of the first in the world to have a site that details all restrictions.
But the Patients' Association of Canada says it's not just accessing the website that can be a concern for patients, but how much more patient input is needed when it comes to the college's decision-making process.
Sholom Glouberman with the Patients' Association of Canada says "I think that getting patients who are experienced and who understand more about the system would be of very great benefit to the college."
But CPSO members regulate themselves, Byrick says "Most physicians in Ontario accept that self-regulation is a privilege."
There is some public input and the college's governing body is made up of 16 elected doctors, three academic representatives and up to 15 public members appointed by the government.
Glouberman says "We would argue that those public, the people who represent the public on the college boards, would do very well by having some kind of independent training."
While many of the public members are part of the decision-making process, some say it takes too long to make them.
Legate says her clients are concerned that further restrictions to gynecological and obstetrical surgery were listed on their doctor's online profile more than a year after she resigned from St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.
The CPSO won't comment on specific cases, but says in some situations it can take a long time to investigate complaints.
"Occasionally the details of the investigation are such that another opinion, professional opinion, needs to be obtained and that takes time and delays it."
But other say it's not so much about professional opinions as about patient priorities.
Legate adds "I think that the people of Ontario need to be very, very firm about that and call upon the college to change the way it does its work; which is really to protect us, not the doctors."
For more information visit the CPSO website at http://www.cpso.on.ca/ or call 1-800-268-7096 Ext. 603.