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Vancouver paramedics fired after encouraging Downtown Eastside patient to crawl along floor

Chester Ptasinski/Global News

Two Vancouver paramedics have been fired for encouraging a vulnerable patient to crawl to the exit of his Downtown Eastside building.

Last month a labour arbitrator upheld B.C. Emergency Health Services’ decision to fire paramedics Alyson Banner and Michael Crawford.

The paramedics responded to the Woodward’s building last October for a call of a man with a history of drug addiction who, according to a mental health worker on scene, “was screaming, moaning and in a considerable amount of pain.”

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According to the ruling, Banner said a stretcher would not fit in the elevator and the 56-year-old man did not want to be touched.

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Labour arbitrator Paul Love said that upon investigation a stretcher would have fit in the elevator.

Love said video from inside the building “shockingly reveals the patient crawling along the floor, in the presence of a police officer and the two [paramedics] who do not have a stretcher. ”

Love goes on to say Banner “follows behind the patient and at one point keeps the patient’s head from hitting the side of the wall near the elevator.”

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“As the patient comes close to the elevator, he scoots along on his buttocks into the elevator. The crawling and scooting takes just over a minute. The distance crawled and scooted was about 20 feet.”

Love said a second video showed the patient lying on the elevator floor at the feet of a police officer and the paramedics, who appear to ignore the man and talk among themselves.

According to the ruling, the patient was later diagnosed with sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition that can lead to “delusional thinking, agitation and confusion.”

Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. — CUPE 873, admits mistakes were made but disputes some of the findings, saying the paramedics did try to help the patient.

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“One singular event that went unfortunately really badly for everybody and I don’t think it is reflective of our profession,” he said.

“Most paramedics would be discouraged by this because it doesn’t reflect what we do every day.”

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The arbitrator said the patient abuse was serious and had a “demeaning effect” on a person from a marginalized community.

“It is difficult to imagine that this type of sub-standard patient care by a paramedic would be afforded to anyone out of the DTES,” Love wrote.

“What is unclear is whether the [paramedics] deliberately treated the patient differently because they perceived him to be yet another overdosing drug addict from the DTES, as suggested by the employer, or whether as a result of an unconscious bias they treated him differently.”
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Clifford says the decision is under appeal to B.C.’s Labour Relations Board.