Review Boards: when is an investigation inadequate?

A review of an inquiry committee decision by a review board may address whether the committee’s investigation was inadequate. Investigations are not required to be exhaustive. Where, however information exists which might reasonably affect the decision of the committee, reasonable attempts should be made to obtain that information.  The reasonableness of the attempt will depend upon the nature and significance of the information being sought, the gravity of the conduct at issue, and the powers of the regulator to obtain information.

The case of Goodlip v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (2009), a matter before the Ontario Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB), illustrates an investigation being inadequate where an inquiry committee has failed to obtain relevant medical information. In particular, an investigation may be inadequate where the committee does “not obtain available information which [is] relevant to the issues complained about.” For the investigation of the College of Physicians to be adequate in that case, HPARB has expressed that, “[a]t a minimum, the Board…expect[s] that the Committee would contact and seek to obtain information and full health records from all of the physicians who treated the [Complainant], in an around the relevant time period.” The investigation in that case was found to be inadequate as “the Committee did not obtain all of the available medical information relevant to the issues the [Complainant] complained about, some of which information may well have substantially affected the Committee’s assessment of the [Member’s] conduct.”

Goodlip v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, HPARB File 07-CRV-0070, February 5, 2009.