2 paramedics banned from practising, fined for 'unbecoming' conduct

Two paramedics accused of mistreating a Saint John-area man have been barred from practising and fined $15,000 by the Paramedics Association of New Brunswick after a disciplinary committee found they failed in their duties.

"Incompetence" and "unbecoming" conduct was how a three-person committee from the association described Victor and Debbie Lavigne's actions when the two paramedics from St. Martins responded to a call at Greg Garnett's home on April 28, 2017.

Garnett, 52, suffered what would later be revealed as an aortic dissection — a tear in the inner lining of the aorta that causes internal bleeding and excruciating pain. But according to his wife, Cathy, the paramedics believed his pain was nothing more than sciatica and yelled at him and even kicked him.

Garnett died in hospital five weeks later.

A disciplinary hearing into the paramedics' conduct was called after Cathy Garnett filed a complaint with the Paramedics Association of New Brunswick. 

The two paramedics have been suspended since October 2018 pending the outcome of the hearing. They denied the allegations.

The disciplinary committee said in its decision, dated May 15, that the two paramedics failed to "meet minimum standards of knowledge, skill and practice required of a paramedic" responding to a call and failed to follow standard documentation and communication practices.

Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC

The committee said the paramedics also failed to perform a proper assessment by failing to investigate the initial complaint of chest and back pain and regularly assess vital signs.

"The Committee found that the Members' conduct, acts and omissions constitute incompetence, conduct unbecoming a Member, conduct adversely affecting the standing and good name of the profession and the Members' conduct did not meet the standards expected of a paramedic," the decision stated.

The committee revoked Victor and Debbie Lavigne's registrations and memberships, and they are prohibited from practising paramedicine.

They were each fined $7,500, and they are not eligible to apply for reinstatement for three years unless they meet the following conditions:

  • submit proof of training to show they can practice safely as a paramedic;
  • submit sufficient evidence that satisfies the association is sure they have the knowledge and skills to return to work;
  • pay the fine.
Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC

Garnett woke up with severe chest pains in the middle of the night on April 28, 2017. After his wife called 911, it was  2½ hours before he got from the couple's home, about 15 kilometres east of the Saint John Airport, to the emergency room in the city.

Emergency room staff were given the paramedics' assessment of back pain, but eventually he was taken for a CT scan, more than five hours after the 911 call.

Greg was then immediately admitted to the ICU, where he suffered other complications, including infection, blood clots and pneumonia, before he could be moved to an intermediate level of care.

He died June 6, 2017, after another aortic dissection.