Following the introduction of PCMC in 2003, we saw a welcome reduction in the size (financial value) of the average claim, even though we were seeing a greater number of cases. This is precisely the effect that one would hope to see from a truly effective complaints system. Once patients have been made aware of the existence of a fair, simple, confidential, accessible, relatively speedy and - above all - effective means of resolving their dissatisfaction with dental treatment, they will tend to use it. This might well increase the overall number of complaints that come to our notice (the underlying dissatisfaction was probably always there, but previously it surfaced in different ways) but by giving us an opportunity to deal with the patients' dissatisfaction it will reduce the proportion of cases that end up with lawyers becoming involved. Because of this, the cost of dealing with the cases is dramatically reduced, and as an added bonus, we can learn valuable lessons from the experience that we can then apply to our everyday practice so that the same thing doesn't happen again.
So it was with considerable disappointment that we were advised in late September 2008 that the Council of HKDA had taken the decision to suspend the work of the Patients Complaints Mediation Committee (PCMC). Part of the reason given for this was the uncertain situation regarding the Dental Council’s stance on settling patient complaints in private - read more here.
In addition, the PCMC Chairman, Dr William Cheung, had previously indicated that he would be standing down as the PCMC Chairman during 2008, because of the growing pressure of his other commitments and not least his work as a member of the FDI Education Committee, with regional responsibilities for Asia Pacific.
Dental Protection is probably better placed than anyone, to appreciate the huge amount of work that Dr Cheung personally, together with his PCMC colleagues, have done during several years of assisting both patients and dentists in Hong Kong.
The existence of PCMC has reflected great credit upon HKDA on the international stage, and a lot of excellent work should be recognised. DPL would like to thank all those who have given their time and effort to this initiative, on behalf of all members and for no personal financial reward. It is our earnest hope that it will prove possible to re-establish a mediation-based complaints resolution mechanism in Hong Kong with the minimum of delay. Without it, there is a very real prospect of a steady increase in dental subscriptions in Hong Kong.
If patients have no other available channel through which to voice their dissatisfaction, it is more likely that they will resort to a solicitor’s office or a complaint to the Dental Council. In many cases they will do both and in both instances this will incur significant legal costs and hugely increase the overall costs incurred in relation to the case.