September 16, 2008 at 2:30 pm #3083AIMSIrelandMember
AIMSI has received many requests recently for information on how to access birth notes/write a letter of complaint.
Please find the information below and contact AIMSI if you have any further queries.
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Making A Complaint – AIMS Ireland
The following information has been put together for women who have contacted AIMSI on accessing personal records (birth notes), making a complaint, or a query in regards to their maternity experience.
Part 1 – Accessing your personal records
The following information is for women who have requested information on how to access their birth notes. Many women access their birth notes for a variety of reasons; as a keepsake, curiosity, for information, etc. The Freedom of Information Officer (FIO) at your maternity unit is a position specifically for these types of queries.
For women who are thinking of writing a complaint letter, AIMSI would recommend you get a copy of your birth notes if you have not already done so. Many women feel that reading their notes gives them insight into their experience and it will also help you write a clear, factual letter if you chose to do so.
You can apply for your birth notes through the Freedom of Information Officer at your maternity unit (FIO). The notes are usually free of charge and will be delivered to you by registered post. You can ring the hospital and ask to be transferred to the FIO for instruction or simply write a detailed letter expressing an interest in a copy of your birth notes and include your name, address, the date of your baby’s birth, your birth date. If you used a private consultant it may help to include his/her name. Alternatively, you may fill in a Freedom of Information Act form available through AIMSI (see attached).
Once your request is received, the FIO will process your request. The FIO will pull your chart and photocopy the information inside. This should include your ante-natal, labour and birth, and postnatal records. It should also include any tests, procedures or scans. Once all the information is collected and photocopied, the FIO will send them to you via registered post. As personal health records are legal documents, you are the only person who may sign for the notes. The notes should be out to you in 2-6 weeks.
AIMSI would be happy to provide you with contact information for the Freedom of Information Officer in your region or maternity unit.
If you would like someone to help you read your notes, AIMSI would suggest you contact a health professional in your area. A midwife or a GP. Non-medically trained people, (Doulas, friends, family) may also be able to provide some information on abbreviations.
Part 2 – making a complaint
If you are unhappy with any aspect of your maternity care you may decide to write a letter of complaint. Complaint letters are a way to highlight issues of concern from your experiences. Hospital management and Carers (midwives, doctors) are often supportive of complaint letters. Women’s letters are often the only way that issues of concern are highlighted. It is very important that women write complaint letters in order for improvements to be made to the services available. Many women, particularly women who had negative experiences, find that writing a complaint letter gives them some sense of closure.
AIMSI often have women ask what warrants a complaint letter; there is no specific answer to this question. Women write letters on a variety of issues which concern them; there is no issue which is too big or too small. Complaint letters may be in relation to issues which occurred duringante-natal care (pregnancy), during labour, during the birth, or during the postnatal period. Complaints can be made to highlight a general issue or to raise concerns on a specific policy. You may also raise concerns relating to a specific individual – their manner, the way they treated you, or a procedure they may have performed.
AIMSI will offer you support and suggestions to write a complaint letter if this is what you wish to do. Traditionally, AIMSI ask women to send a draft letter in and then we will help you with suggestions and editing. The letter must come from you and be in your words/recollection of your experience. The more factual and structured the letter is, the more substance it will have.
Your complaint may be sent to the Master of your maternity unit, the Director of Midwifery(DoM), or a Complaints Officer if this is available at your unit. Alternatively, you may also make a complaintthrough the HSE “Your Voice, Your Say” service. A brochure for the HSE service is available from AIMSI. Some maternity units have their own forms available for making complaints. Please let AIMSI know the unit you are contacting to see if this form is available.
AIMSI would be happy to provide you with contact information for your maternity unit.
After making a complaint/query to your maternity unit you should receive notification of receipt of your letter. The maternity Unit will then generally undergo the following process: they will pull your birth notes for specifics (this is why it is important to have your own copy of your birth records) and go over the notes. They will then usually send a reply which explains or responds to the points raised in your letter. Depending on the issues raised, you may be invited to attend a meeting to discuss your letter further. If you receive a reply in response to your letter and feel it needs further clarification, you may request a meeting or may alternatively send in a following letter highlighting issues within the hospital’s response.
If at any time you require research, information or support on issues pertaining to your complaint/query, please contact AIMSI.
If you have been invited to attend a meeting to discuss your complaint, AIMSI recommend that your birth partner/husband/family member goes along with you. Some women have found these meetings to bring on strong emotions and it is best to have someone there to support you. It may also feel less intimidating to have someone with you.
Finally, AIMSI would again like to highlight how important your letter is to the maternity system. Hospitals can only change what they know; the more women that write letters, the more likely we are to see improvements. It is a difficult decision to make a complaint. Many women, AIMSI representatives included, have commented on how difficult it can be to write and then send their complaint letters. You are not alone; we are here to support you in any way we can.
AIMS Ireland Support and Information Services: email@example.com
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