How to Write a Complaint Letter to a Hospital


If a hospital or doctor has mistreated you in any way, however small you think the violation might be, it’s critically important to at least complain to the doctor or hospital. Here’s what you need to know about filing a complaint with the hospital.

why you should complain to the hospital

When something bad happens at a hospital, it’s tempting to assume that the hospital doesn’t care about its patients. But hospitals are accountable to numerous regulatory boards. They’re also sensitive to the effects complaints have on their reputation. They don’t want angry patients filing complaints with regulatory bodies or destroying their reputation. So they are often, though not always, receptive to complaints.

Complaining directly to the hospital creates a chain of communication that may later help you if you file a complaint with a regulatory board. So a complaint can almost always help you. If, however, you experienced physical violence or an injury, contact a lawyer before contacting the hospital.

how to complain to the hospital

To the hospital, you’re a customer. So even minor complaints about bad customer service will matter. When your complaint is more serious, however, it’s important to highlight the seriousness of the complaint in language the hospital understands. Some tips for an effective complaint include:

  • Provide as much evidence as possible, but make sure you have copies of any evidence you send to the hospital. Don’t send them your only recording or photo.

  • Keep your complaint succinct and to the point. Don’t tell them your full birth story or spend a lot of time introducing the story. Stick to the facts, and highlight the most important facts.

  • Highlight issues that other organizations, such as state regulators or the media, are likely to care about. For example, if you were refused medical treatment in violation of the EMTALA, note this. If you plan to report the violation to a third party, you don’t necessarily need to tell them this in the complaint.

  • Don’t threaten to do things that you’re not actually going to do.

  • Ask for a specific resolution if there is something specific you want from the hospital.

When writing your complaint, choose the right people. Many hospitals provide contact information to people who want to file a complaint. If your hospital doesn’t provide this information, it’s helpful to contact several people to improve the chances of a response. Some people to consider contacting include:

  • the head of the department where you received care

  • the charge nurse in the labor and delivery department

  • the hospital’s leadership team

  • the hospital’s patient advocate

If you’re having trouble getting started, click here for a sample letter in an editable .doc file.

what to do if the hospital doesn’t respond, or doesn’t do anything

In most cases, the hospital either won’t respond or will respond with a form letter. Sometimes they’ll send a personalized response that doesn’t confirm or deny the abuse or promise to do anything to fix it. This can be frustrating and disheartening, but is actually completely normal. It doesn’t mean your complaint was ineffective—just that you won’t know what action was taken, if any, to fix it.

If you don’t get a response, consider sending a follow up letter. If you still don’t get a response, or the response is inadequate, that’s fine. It’s time to move on to the next step in the complaint process.