(Black Press file photo).

Ruling upholds firing of paramedics who allowed patient to crawl for treatment

VANCOUVER — A labour arbitrator in British Columbia says two long-time paramedics should be fired after they were accused of mistreating a patient who was in pain and allowed to crawl to an elevator.

In a written statement issued last month, Paul Love says video from a building in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where Alyson Banner and Michael Crawford were called on Oct. 14, 2019, “shockingly reveals” the paramedics leading a 56-year-old man who is crawling to the elevator.

Love’s decision says Banner claimed a cot wouldn’t fit in the elevator and then told a mental health worker that the writhing man was not in pain and could walk.

Had the mental health worker not spoken up or there was no video evidence, Love says the complaint may not have succeeded.

CUPE Local 873, which represented Banner and Crawford and opposed their discharge, did not respond to a request for comment.

The ruling says the paramedics showed a lack of remorse by being dishonest throughout the investigation and the hearing, prompting what Love says is “most probably” a career ending decision by upholding their firings.

“The lack of candour both during the interview and at the hearing, demonstrates that although (Banner and Crawford) are experienced and well trained, the bonds of trust have been broken,” Love says in the decision.

“This is a tragic case in terms of the careers of the (paramedics), their treatment of the patient and their demonstrated lapse of service which reflects poorly on the employer.”

Both Banner and Crawford said the man, who is not named, was aggressive, foul-mouthed and refused treatment, but the mental health worker provided notes disputing that assessment.

The patient was diagnosed with life-threatening sepsis, which Love says “can result in delusional thinking, agitation and confusion.”

The man spent three days in intensive care and three months recovering in hospital, Love says in the decision.

He says he struggled with the decision by British Columbia Emergency Health Services to fire Banner and Crawford, calling the case only a “small slice” of the paramedics’ combined 17 years of service.

“A theme suggested by the employer throughout the hearing, which I agree with, is it is difficult to imagine that this type of sub-standard patient care by a paramedic would be afforded to anyone out of the (Downtown Eastside), and the patient, a resident of the (Downtown Eastside), should not have experienced this treatment,” the decision says.

Love upheld the firings and dismissed union grievances about the timing, style and fairness of the investigation by British Columbia Emergency Health Services.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2020.

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