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Alberta College of Paramedics defends return-to-work process

WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta College of Paramedics is speaking out, saying the public is its number one priority after an Edmonton paramedic shared his struggle returning to work after PTSD treatment. Kendra Slugoski reports.

EDMONTON — The Alberta College of Paramedics is stepping up to defend its reputation.

The college has come under fire recently after the decision not to renew an employee’s registration after he was treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

READ MORE: Edmonton paramedic hits roadblock returning to work after PTSD treatment 

“We wanted to really identify that the role of the college is a regulatory function and identify that our role is to identify the public… through regulation of the paramedics and practitioners in Alberta,” explained Heather Verbaas, a paramedic practice manager and communications representative with the college.

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Privacy restricts the college from commenting on a specific case, but an open letter was published in a local newspaper, written by the college’s registrar, Tim Essington.

The letter addresses the work paramedics do, acknowledges the stress, and that paramedics often put the lives of others ahead of their own.

“To date, we have not cancelled a practitioner’s registration due to PTSD,” it reads.

“What we have done is put restrictions on their ability to practice but typically with a provision that these restrictions may be removed over time.”

(The full letter is posted below).

Paramedic David McAllister had to take time off work when he was diagnosed with PTSD.

When the Workers Compensation Board and his medical team gave him the all-clear to return to work, the college wanted to see his complete medical file.

WATCH: After seeking medical help for his illness, a local paramedic is no longer allowed patient contact. Kendra Slugoski explains.

“Getting a practitioner back to work is done through a registration committee process,” said Verbaas. “The registration committee requires specific information from that practitioner’s medical expert or other experts involved in that practitioner’s case to ensure that they get back to work safely, competently, are fit to practice and that they have a long career within paramedicine.”

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“Well I’m not a paramedic I guess,” said McAllister on Thursday, “that’s the restriction.

“I don’t appear on the registration list. I don’t have a registration card.”

McAllister’s medical team argued over and over that he is fit to resume work and shouldn’t have to supply detailed personal medical files. Still, the college will not allow him access to patients.

“Not having access to patients is actually a restriction of no patient contact. That doesn’t mean your registration has been cancelled. You’re still a registered practitioner,” said Verbaas.

“There are 34 different practice settings that a practitioner can work in and some of those practice settings don’t involve working with patients, such as administration or management.

“You can still have an impactful and meaningful career within the profession.”

The college says it is not cancelling any registrations, but it’s not renewing them either.

“Having restrictions applied to your licence isn’t career ending at all. It’s just to ensure you’re practising the profession in the safest possible manner in the appropriate setting.”

McAllister isn’t convinced.

“As far the difference between the restricting or cancelling – I still don’t see the difference between the two. I still can’t interact with the public either way.”

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“I just want to work,” he added. “I genuinely love being a paramedic. That’s what I want to do.”

Having restrictions on your licence could make holding onto your job more difficult.  Verbaas said some employers can find suitable positions for a worker with restrictions, but sometimes, that practitioner may have to look for work with “another employer who is able to accommodate that restriction.”

McAllister said his employer has been very supportive. He’s back at work – doing office duties – but worries his livelihood is on the line.

“There’s a lot of concern with that. At what point does my employer say ‘enough is enough’?”

He also hopes the roadblock he’s facing won’t discourage other paramedics from seeking help when they need it.

“What the college is doing essentially is putting a big roadblock in front of what everyone else is trying to do so we can be healthy and work,” said McAllister.

“It’s frustrating because I went through the process to get help and tried to get better for myself and my family.”

Practitioners have the ability to appeal a restriction or limitation to a health discipline board.

Letter to Editor April 30 2015 (PTSD)

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