Kedgwick man alleges wife mistaken for dead in snowbank by paramedics

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Kedgwick man alleges wife mistaken for dead in snowbank by paramedics

A family in Kedgwick is alleging that two Ambulance New Brunswick paramedics left 62-year-old Gracia Richard lying partially naked in a snowbank for hours after mistakenly declaring her dead.

Around 5 a.m. that day in December 2014, Gilles Bernard said he discovered his wife wasn't in their home.

He said she suffered from mental health issues and must have wandered outside during the night.

Bernard went looking for her and found her lying unconscious, partially naked, in a nearby snowbank. Bernard said he called 911. 

In a statement of claim filed in Campbellton against New Brunswick EMS Inc., the company that manages Ambulance New Brunswick, it is alleged that on Dec. 4, an ambulance was dispatched, and after examining Richard, the paramedics, "concluded that Ms. Richard was deceased and ceased all medical intervention and/or treatment."

Told not to move body, says husband

The suit also alleges that before leaving, the paramedics told Bernard that, "he or anyone else, must refrain from moving, removing or touching Ms. Richard's body until the arrival of a coroner."

The coroner didn't arrive until "several" hours later, according to the statement.

Bernard estimates he left his wife freezing in a snowbank outside their home for nearly six hours, mistakenly believing she was dead.

Bernard would not agree to do a recorded interview, because of his lawsuit is before the courts.

Says treated 'like animals'

But he did tell Radio-Canada that he and his wife were treated "like animals."

"We did not have any help, not at all," he said.

Bernard said his wife was taken to the hospital in Saint-Quentin in a hearse. He said the doctor on duty at the hospital discovered that Richard was still breathing.

Bernard said the plan was to rush his wife to the Edmundston hospital, but she died before transportation could be arranged.

An Ambulance New Brunswick employee, who spoke to Radio-Canada on the condition of anonymity, said that following an internal investigation, the paramedics called to attend to Richard that morning were given a two-week suspension.

After that, they returned to work.

Bernard said he is shocked.

"A guy who is not able to do his job does not deserve to have a job," he said. "He let my wife die."

Bernard said he wants the paramedics fired.

No comments from ANB, province

The allegations made by Bernard and those in the statement of claim have not been proven in court. Bernard's lawyer, Mikael Bernard was not available for comment.

Ambulance New Brunswick would not agree to do an interview citing privacy concerns. The New Brunswick Department of Health did not respond to a request for an interview. A statement of defence has not yet been filed by New Brunswick Emergency Medical Services.