A reception service is available for anyone who calls the CMQ. Based on the reason for the call, it will be transferred to whichever division of the CMQ will be best able to respond.
A report will not necessarily lead to an inquiry. When appropriate, a brief intervention may be carried out with the physician, with the agreement of the person who has requested the inquiry, in order to assist them. When an inquiry is opened, the physician concerned may not, as stipulated in their code of ethics, contact the person who requested the inquiry.
Inquiry into a physician’s professional practice
The Syndic’s Office receives more than 2000 inquiries from the public, health professionals, hospitals or organizations every year regarding the actions of physicians. All requests are examined and may lead to an inquiry. The Syndic’s Office opens some 1000 inquiries every year. If necessary, other people who have relevant information may also be contacted. A physician who is contacted by the Syndic’s Office, whether they are the subject of an inquiry, a witness or possess information needed to conduct the inquiry, may not invoke professional secrecy and they have a duty to answer the Syndic’s questions or provide the Syndic with relevant documents in the course of the inquiry.
Once the inquiry has been concluded, the Syndic may choose one of the following interventions:
- The file is closed with no further action, if no breach is found;
- A preventive or educational intervention is carried out;
- A complaint is filed with the Disciplinary Council.
Preventive or educational interventions
When an inquiry highlights deficiencies in the physician’s practice, various interventions can be carried out, such as:
- Comments and suggestions in order to improve the physician’s practice;
- Participation in a refresher activity (workshop, training period, tutoring program);
- A practice restriction for certain medical acts;
- A prescribing restriction for certain medications (narcotics and others);
- A professional inspection visit;
- Cessation of practice by the physician.
In certain specific cases, the Professional Code (section 48) provides that the CMQ may order the medical examination of a person who is a member of the order, who applies for entry on the roll or who makes another application preceding admission to the profession where it has reason to believe their physical or mental condition is incompatible with the practice of their profession.
A complaint is filed with the Disciplinary Council
The Syndic may file a complaint about a physician who has committed a breach of ethics with the Disciplinary Council. The Disciplinary Council is an independent tribunal that hears complaintsagainst physicians and renders a decision on their guilt or innocence after hearing the Syndic’s evidence and the defence of the physician concerned.
If the Council finds a physician guilty of the alleged offences, it then determines the appropriate penalty, usually temporary striking off the Roll and a fine. When the Syndic decides not to file a complaint with the Disciplinary Council, the person who requested the inquiry may request an opinion from the Review Committee within 30 days of receipt of the Syndic’s finding. The Review Committee reviews the inquiry file and renders an opinion on the Syndic’s decision not to file a complaint.
In its opinion, the Review Committee may make any of the following findings:
- Find that there is no cause to file a complaint with the Disciplinary Council;
- Suggest that the Syndic complete their inquiry and render a new decision;
- Find that there is cause to file a complaint and suggest that another syndic be appointed to conduct a new inquiry and decide whether or not to file a complaint.
In addition, the Committee may suggest that a Syndic submit the file to the Professional Inspection Committee.