The Commission’s Inquiry Service

The Commission's Inquiry Service provides information and assistance to people who have questions about health care complaints. In some cases they are able to help resolve concerns without the need for a formal complaint.

Case Studies – The Inquiry Service

Inquiry – Access to Medical Centre

The Commission received a phone call from a patient who was having difficulty booking in to their local medical centre for a procedure. The patient reported that she had been banned from the medical centre for several years after an incident with a family member. As she lived in a remote area there were no other facilities nearby that were able to perform the procedure.

The Inquiry Officer contacted the medical centre to discuss whether they may be willing to change their stance, given the circumstances and the length of time that had passed.

Shortly after, the Inquiry Officer received a telephone call from the patient who advised that the medical centre had contacted her and made an appointment for the procedure. She was very grateful that the Inquiry Officer had been able to assist her with accessing medical care so promptly.

Inquiry – Assistance with accessing medical records

A caller contacted the Commission seeking assistance with accessing his medical records. He had recently changed GPs and his old medical practice were refusing to transfer his records to the new practice.

The Inquiry Officer contacted the Practice Manager and discussed patients’ right to access their medical records and the specific circumstances in which such requests could be declined.

The caller contacted the Commission the following week to advise that their new doctor had received their medical records and extended their thanks for the Commission’s support

Ensuring appropriate follow-up care and treatment

A patient phoned the Inquiry Service advising that they had just had 17 teeth removed in the day surgery centre of their local hospital. The patient was distressed as they were in significant pain and claimed not to have been prescribed antibiotics or pain relief.

The Inquiry Officer phoned the hospital’s day surgery. The nursing unit manager (NUM) agreed with concerns expressed about the patient’s wellbeing and advised that the patient should return to the day surgery centre. The NUM said she would also directly follow up with the day centre in the meantime and would also phone the patient to provide further assistance and reassurance.

The Inquiry Officer phoned the patient to advise them to return to the hospital and that they could expect a phone call from the NUM shortly.

The caller was very appreciative of the assistance of the Inquiry Officer in helping them in such difficult circumstances.

Assisting with medical records

A caller to the Inquiry Service said he and his wife were moving from New South Wales to Queensland. As his wife was pregnant, they wanted advice on obtaining a copy of the records from the hospital in relation to the birth of their last child so that they could provide this to the doctors in Queensland. He said he had obtained a copy of the discharge summary and he was concerned that there may be an error with what is written. He was concerned that he may be providing incorrect information to the doctors in Queensland and that this could potentially cause problems for the upcoming birth if they have wrong information about her medical history.

The Inquiry Officer discussed strategies for addressing his concerns. The Inquiry Officer suggested he could speak with the Nursing Unit Manager at the maternity ward at the hospital to get an understanding of what is written on the discharge summary, and to try to better understand if there was an error or incomplete information, or a misunderstanding. The Inquiry Officer reassured the caller also that if he does go on to request a full copy of the records, these records would give a much clearer picture of what treatment his wife had and that he can provide these to the doctors in Queensland. Also, if the records are not complete, he may seek to have additional information added via the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The caller said he felt more at ease having spoken to the Inquiry Officer and that he would speak with the nursing unit manager as he has her name and contact details, and that he would also request the full copy of the records.

Fast, informed solutions

The caller advised that she attended her local GP to ask for her medical files, advising that she wanted them to hand over her records and not maintain a copy. The receptionist refused. The caller then asked for copies of her records, but was allegedly told that this would cost at least $500. The caller advised of the need for her medical records for Centrelink purposes and would like the Commission to intervene regarding the high cost quoted.

The Commission advised the caller of the legal obligations of providers to maintain copies of records for seven years, but that they are entitled to charge a reasonable fee for providing copies of records.

The Commission phoned the clinic which advised that the cost would be $1 per sheet plus a $30 access fee. The receptionist also noted that the patient’s records are very extensive and that it would cost $200-$300 for her full set of medical records to be provided.

The Commission asked whether the patient could book a billed appointment with the doctor to look at her records and determine exactly what details she needed for Centrelink so she could request only the relevant information, thus reducing her cost. The medical practice agreed.

The caller was happy with the outcome and that the Commission was able to provide a solution so promptly.

Addressing problems immediately

A recently widowed caller rang about her late husband’s death certificate. The doctor had incorrectly written on her husband’s death certificate that he had a particular medical complaint for 20 years, which was not correct. She had advised the hospital staff but had not received a response.

The Commission phoned the Nursing Unit Manager who acknowledged that the doctor made a mistake on the death certificate. She advised that they would have the certificate amended, arrange for the doctor to phone and apologise, and check up on the patient’s wife periodically in her home to make sure she was doing okay.

Ultimately the corrected death certificate was sent with a written apology for the mistake. The patient’s wife was understandably displeased that the matter occurred in the first place, but satisfied that the Commission was able to liaise with the hospital and have the matter resolved for her and she was very grateful to the Inquiry Officer.

Concerns about infection control

A caller was understandably concerned about the quality of the food and the infection control practices at the aged care facility where her father was in care.

The inquiry officer talked in greater depth with her about the concerns to ensure that there were no clinical issues that may warrant a complaint to the Commission. This established that the caller was satisfied with the quality of the care her father was receiving but not satisfied with overall hygiene and infection control e.g. how the facility left food trays in the corridors, the quality of the hand washing facilities available to staff, etc. The possibility of raising these issues directly with the Director of Nursing were discussed with the caller who said that she had raised them with the registered nurses on the ward who had told her that the Director of Nursing was not likely to be sympathetic to her concerns. The inquiry officer then informed the caller about the Aged Care Complaints Scheme, explaining its role in looking at overall quality and car standards for aged care services including their inspection and accreditation function. The caller was helped in making contact with the Scheme to lodge her complaint regarding the aged care facility.

Still need more information

If you would like to speak to someone at the Commission for more information before you lodge a written complaint you can contact the Inquiry Line during business hours, Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm on 1800 043 159 or submit an online inquiry.

Online inquiry

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