The New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association (NBVMA) is empowered by the Veterinarians Act as the regulatory body for the veterinarian profession in the Province of New Brunswick. The NBVMA’s purpose is to advance and maintain the standard of veterinary medicine by governing and regulating those offering veterinary care and providing for the welfare of members of the public and the profession.
Part of these duties and responsibilities is to help the public by investigating complaints against Veterinarians and Registered Veterinary Technicians/Technologists (RVT). To hear and consider these complaints the NBVMA has established a two-level system consisting of the Complaints Committee and the Discipline Committee. These Committees consist of members of the NBVMA.
WHEN SHOULD A COMPLAINT BE CONSIDERED?
Members of the veterinary profession are expected to meet ethical and professional standards including, among other things, competency and professional conduct towards members of the public and the profession. If a member of the public believes that a member of the NBVMA, which includes practicing and non-practicing veterinarians, as well as RVT’s has committed an act of professional or medical misconduct, has been dishonest, incompetent or whose conduct is not ethical, they may file a formal complaint against that member.
The Veterinary Act does not allow the Complaints Committee to investigate complaints about veterinary fees or charges incurred. Any issues regarding fees are considered a civil matter and can be addressed by your legal counsel or through small claims court of NB.
Prior to making a formal complaint, the public is strongly encouraged to attempt to resolve any issues or concerns directly with the veterinary team member involved or with the practice owner or hospital manager. Making a concerted effort to open the lines of communication can be a very effective way to come to a mutual understanding of any perceived missteps with the care of your pet.
If attempts to resolve your concerns fail then you may contact the Deputy Registrar by phone and leave a message, your call will be returned within 2 business days. The involvement of the Deputy Registrar can help open the door to a resolution being reached.
It is important to note that you can submit a formal complaint without going through these steps.
WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN MY COMPLAINT?
Your formal complaint can be in English or French. The complaint must be typed, dated and mailed to the Registrar of the NBVMA (address below). Please note that a complaint cannot be submitted in electronic format. There is no fee to file a complaint and there is no need for legal counsel, however you are permitted to engage counsel at this stage at your own expense.
In the formal complaint process, only written evidence in the form of the complaint itself with accompanying documents, such as medical records, images and diagnostic reports will be considered. It is therefore very important to be concise and provide as much detail as possible. Be sure to be accurate including the name, breed and age of the pet, the initial reason for seeking medical help, any diagnosis that were made, medications dispensed, diagnostic testing performed and their related reports or findings. It is also helpful to include any communications you had with the veterinarian and staff.
HOW ARE COMPLAINTS PROCESSED?
When a formal complaint is received by the Registrar, the veterinary team member is promptly notified in writing and given a copy of the complaint and all accompanying documents. The veterinary team member then has 21 days to provide a written response to the complaint including all files, documents and reports they feel are relevant to the matter. A meeting of the Complaints Committee is convened and all of the written material that has been submitted by both sides is considered according to the criteria provided for in the Act and its Bylaws. Please note that it can take several months to complete these steps. Both the person making the complaint and the veterinary member whom the complaint is against have the opportunity to provide a response to each others written submissions.
There are two outcomes available to the Complaints Committee;
1) the Committee determines on the basis of the material submitted that the Complaint does not warrant further consideration and the complaint is dismissed.
2) the Committee determines that the Complaint warrants further consideration. If the Complaints Committee determines that further action is warranted, the complaint may be considered for mediation or sent to the Discipline Committee. There may be situations where the Complaints Committee determines that the complaint has merit but wants to give the parties a chance to avoid the time and expense associated with a full hearing of the Discipline Committee. In those cases, the parties will be offered the opportunity to participate in informal mediation with the assistance of the Complaints Committee. Alternatively, or if informal attempts have failed, a formal mediation process can be initiated using a mediator from the NBVMA to attempt to resolve the issue between the parties. Formal mediation can only be used if both parties agree, as its findings are binding.
Finally, there will be matters in which the Complaints Committee find that the allegations in the complaint are serious enough to warrant being moved directly to a hearing of the Discipline Committee. Both the member and the complainant may attend the hearing of the Discipline Committee and, in addition to the written evidence already submitted, they can present oral evidence. The Discipline Committee can consider the original complaint, reports from the Complaints Committee and the evidence presented at the hearing to reach its decision. The Discipline Committee can dismiss the complaint or it can impose one or more sanctions.
NBVMA CONTACT INFORMATION
Deputy Registrar 1-506-262-8387
Mailing address for formal complaints:
New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association
PO Box 3278 Station B
Attn: Dr. Nicole Jewett – Registrar