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How can I make a complaint?

In general, you can make a complaint only about your health information: you cannot make a complaint about someone else’s information.

In some circumstances, you may be able to make a complaint for another person, such as a child, a person with a disability or a person who is very ill, if they are not capable of doing so themselves.

The privacy Acts emphasise a stepped approach to resolving complaints.

Step 1. Complain to the health service provider

You should first try to resolve your complaint with the health service provider concerned.

In most circumstances, a complaints authority will not accept your complaint unless you have already tried to resolve the matter with the health service provider concerned. If you don’t feel able to make such a complaint, the complaints authority may be able to help you.

Most health service providers have a complaints officer who is trained to deal with complaints. Find out the person’s name and contact details by ringing the provider’s reception service and asking for their details. When you contact reception, also ask for a copy of the provider’s privacy policy and complaints procedure brochures. They will give you valuable information about your rights and the complaints process.

You will usually need to put your complaint in writing. Your letter should include

  • details of the matter, for example, what happened, and when and where it happened
  • what effect the matter had on you
  • what you want done to resolve the matter, for example, you might want an apology, or you might want something done to ensure the situation does not happen again.

Step 2: Complain to the relevant Commissioner

In Victoria, the two bodies responsible for accepting and investigating complaints about health information are the Victorian Health Services Commissioner and the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner. Both complaints services are free.

If you cannot resolve your complaint with the health service provider, you may want to take your complaint to the relevant Commissioner.

In Victoria, the Victorian Health Services Commissioner deals with most complaints about the privacy of health information, so contact them first. They will advise you if your complaint should be deal with by the Federal Privacy Commissioner .

Your complaint must be writing. You can write a letter like the one suggested in Step 1. Alternatively, you can complete the relevant Commissioner’s form, which can be obtained from their office or downloaded from their website. Your complaint must be lodged within 12 months of the event that gave rise to your complaint.

The Commissioner’s staff can help you lodge your complaint. Both bodies have brochures explaining their complaints process and how to make a complaint. The brochures can be obtained from the organisation or downloaded from their website.

Both Commissioners emphasise conciliation as the main means of resolving complaints. Conciliation involves a formal meeting facilitated by one of the Commissioner’s staff. During the meeting, you and the health service provider to talk to each other and consider each other’s point of view, before trying to negotiate a mutually satisfying way of resolving the complaint. It is usually much cheaper and faster than taking legal action.

Alternatively, the Commissioner may decide to make a decision about your complaint themselves.

Step 3: When conciliation is not possible

If you are not satisfied with the Commissioner’s decision, you may be able to take the complaint to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or the Federal Court.

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