This article appeared in issue 110 of the Eighth Line Newsletter, and has been edited for easier viewing on the web. Some of the information in this article may be out of date. Refer to our current static website pages for correct information.

Protection of the Public

The ACAO’s top priority is protecting the public. That’s why it’s our responsibility to review every complaint of unprofessional conduct we receive, whether it comes from the public or from our members. Once the Complaints Director reviews a complaint, they decide how to proceed based on options outlined in the Health Professions Act (HPA). If a complaint doesn’t fall under our jurisdiction, we can offer advice on where to go next to address it through the proper channels.

Lodging an Official Complaint

Anyone can call into the office for advice on how to proceed, we call this an inquiry, but a complaint is not official until it is submitted in writing, either as a letter, fax, or e-mail. The ACAO is unable to act on verbal inquiries because they are considered unofficial. We also cannot act on anonymous complaints because accused optician has the right to know who filed the complaint against them in order to respond fully to the accusation.

Complaint Checklist

An official written complaint must include the following information:

  • Complainant’s full name, mailing address, and telephone contact information.
  • Complainant’s signature and the date of the written complaint.
  • Name of the offending optician.
  • Optician’s business name, business address, and phone number.
  • Clear and concise details and a summary of what happened. This could include the date and time of the incident, the order of events, and the names of any witnesses.
  • Any supporting documentation, such as copies of receipts and the products in question.

How Is a Complaint Resolved?

Ideally, we can resolve a complaint shortly after we receive it. The optician and complainant usually reach an agreement before any further action is taken. This is the Direct Resolve approach, which we encourage because it opens a line of communication between the parties, and an understanding can be reached quickly.

If the complainant and optician do not feel comfortable resolving the issue between them, the Complaints Director can step in and mediate, helping them reach an agreement. This approach is the Resolve with Consent method, and it’s usually used after the optician and complainant have already tried to resolve the issue on their own, or if one or both parties are too upset to discuss things together.

Most complaints can be resolved using these two methods, but when the consensual resolution process is ineffective, or inappropriate for the nature of the complaint, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Investigation

For some complaints, the usual method of resolution is not possible. If the Complaints Director determines that an investigation should be conducted, they will assign an investigator to carry it out.  An investigation is a formal process to determine if the optician’s conduct was unprofessional as defined by the HPA. The Investigator’s job is to conduct an objective investigation, to determine if the complaint is warranted. An investigation that finds no evidence of unprofessional conduct may still provide opticians with valuable feedback and an opportunity to make practice improvements. A Hearing Citation will be issued if there is evidence of unprofessional conduct.

Hearing Tribunal

Once a citation is issued, the Hearings Director coordinates a hearing and acts as an administrative support to the Complaints Review Committee (CRC); to ensure that the hearing is fair and unbiased the Complaints Director and the Hearings Director will not be the same person.

The ACAO’s hearing tribunal serves as the legal body that reviews the complaint, the investigative findings, and the accused optician’s response. At the hearing, the committee is presented with evidence about the complaint. Depending on their findings, they will then decide to either dismiss the complaint, or to take action as specified in the Health Professions Act. For example: they may decide to suspend or cancel the optician’s registration, and/or issue fines for unprofessional conduct.

We prefer to use educational remediation to ensure that the issue does not happen again; usually the complaint is due to an optician being unclear on the rules or regulations, and information is all that is necessary to ensure compliance. However, we will take a disciplinary approach when necessary.

Complaints Process Flowchart

The aforementioned steps are usually enough to ensure compliance and professional improvement. There are additional steps that can be taken by either a complainant or an accused optician depending on the situation; these additional steps ensure that the process is fair and just for all involved.

To learn more about the Complaints Process, visit our interactive flowchart. For a quick reference step-by-step look at how the ACAO complaints process works, you can also refer to the Complaints Process Flowchart attached.

Contact Information

The college encourages both the public and our members to report unauthorized practice or unprofessional conduct. To file a report, please contact the ACAO by phone, fax, mail, or e-mail:

Attention: Complaints Director
Alberta College and Association of Opticians
201, 2528 Ellwood Dr SW
Edmonton, AB, T6X 0A9
Email: general@acao.ca
Phone: 1-780-429-2694  Toll Free: 1-800-263-6026
Fax: 1-780-429-5576        Toll Free: 1-800-584-6896