The Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner (HCSCC) is an independent statutory authority established under the Health and Community Services Complaints Act 2004 (SA). The role of the HCSCC is to help people to resolve complaints about health and community services where a direct approach to the service provider is either unreasonable, or has not succeeded. It covers health and community services across the public, private and non-government sectors.
The HCSCC assists service users and carers who wish to complain about health and community services. In certain circumstances, it will also deal with complaints made on behalf of another person. The HCSCC also assists service providers to respond to complaints. The HCSCC is obliged by law to treat everyone involved in a complaint equally.
The HCSCC may be able to deal with complaints about:
- any aspect of access, administration, behaviour, communication, individual rights or treatment
- a community health centre, health clinic, hospital, nursing home, private clinic, supported accommodation, or any other place, or person providing a health or community service
- health care and treatment received from all kinds of practitioners. Examples include registered health professionals, such as doctors, nurses and dentists, as well as unregistered health practitioners such as naturopaths, therapeutic masseurs, homeopaths, Reiki practitioners. (The HCSCC can investigate compliance with the Code of Conduct for Unregistered Health Practitioners and make orders imposing conditions upon, or prohibiting service, see above for futher information)
From 18 December 2017, complaints in relation to most child protection matters are dealt with by the Ombudsman. This is pursuant to section 28A of the Health and Community Services Complaints Act 2004 (SA).
HCSCC can help to resolve complaints:
- about services sought, used or received from a community service, community service provider, health professional, health service or health service provider
- that started within the last 2 years
- made by almost anyone over 16
- made orally or in writing.
HCSCC cannot handle complaints about :
- incidents that happened over 2 years ago, unless an extension of time is granted
- a matter that has commenced before a court
- a matter that has already been determined by a court, tribunal, authority, or other person or body acting under a law
- a decision of a court or a tribunal
- a death once the Coroner has started an inquest
- actions of government ministers or politicians
- actions of private individuals
- employment disputes
How to complain
The HCSCC recommends that it is often most effective to complain to the provider first. They provide some guidelines as to the suggested process for making a complaint to the provider. If the provider does not respond, or if the complainant feels that the response is unsatisfactory, they may contact the HCSCC by telephone or by completion of a complaint form. See more on their website: http://www.hcscc.sa.gov.au/making-a-complaint/.
The telephone enquiry service provides advice in relation to the complaints process. Interpreters are available. The HCSCC may require the complainant to provide further information or documents in relation to a complaint, or to verify the complaint by statutory declaration.
The HCSCC also provides guidelines to assist service providers to respond to a complaint.
How complaints are resolved
The HCSCC may use one or more of a broad range of alternative dispute resolution processes including informal mediation, investigation and conciliation. There is flexibility in adopting the most appropriate process for a particular matter. Any agreement reached in the course of a conciliation process may be made in a binding form.
If, after investigating a complaint, the HCSCC decides that the complaint is justified but appears to be incapable of being resolved, the HCSCC may recommend that the service provider take particular action to remedy the grievance. The complainant may be notified of the recommendation.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.