HPRB Summaries: Reasonableness of disposition where conflicting versions of events

An inquiry committee is not required to carry out an exhaustive fact-finding process to assess the truthfulness of one version of events over another. This principle was confirmed by the Health Professions Review Board in The Complainant and College of Registered Nurses of B.C., HPRB B.C. No. 2009-HPA-0035(a) (April 13, 2010). That decision involved an application for review of an Inquiry Committee decision to take no further action on a complaint. The Board confirmed the decision of the Inquiry Committee.

The complaint was a separate complaint arising from the same hospital visit as outlined in Decision no. 2009-HPA-0034(a). After visiting the emergency ward and receiving treatment for an asthma attack, the complainant decided to leave the hospital against medical advice. She complained that as she left, a registrant told her the doctor had said that if she left she would die, and that this was improper. She also complained the investigation into the complaint was inadequate and delayed.

The Board adopted the approach to considering the adequacy of investigations set out in 200-HPA-0001-0004: the complainant is entitled to an adequate but not a perfect investigation. The College could properly consider the internal investigation by the hospital, and the materials and evidence the College relied on were adequate. Further, the investigation was conducted in a timely manner. The investigation began two days after receipt of the complaint, with some delay caused by the complainant’s inability to supply the name of the registrant, and an incorrect date of her hospital visit. Other delays were within the complainant’s control.

The complaint disposition was reasonable given its investigation. The evidence of the registrant having any contact with the complainant was inconclusive. Several parties were interviewed, and the registrant’s standard procedure had been reviewed. Differences existed between the complainant’s allegations and the recollections of the witnesses. The Board referred to the Ontario Health Professions and Review Board, which had explained that when conflicting information based on personal recollection is presented, or there is a credibility question, the Committee “is not required to carry out an exhaustive fact-finding process to assess the truthfulness of one version of events over another.”(Muraca v. Deonandan, unreported, File Nos. 8618 and 8617, June 6, 2007, at para. 25.) The function of a Review Board is to ensure that an Inquiry Committee’s decisions are supported by the record of investigation.

The Complainant and College of Registered Nurses of B.C., HPRB B.C. No. 2009-HPA-0035(a) (April 13, 2010)