TORONTO — Two Toronto EMS paramedics who waited for police and delayed attending to a 911 call about a man who collapsed of a heart attack were breaking provincial law, an inquest was told Thursday.
Instead of hiding around the corner, out of sight of James Hearst’s downtown Alexander St. building, the paramedics should have attended and assessed the scene, said Rick Brady, a health ministry investigator.
By not doing so, Trevor Cornwell and Hayley Rothwell-Cusack contravened the Ontario Ambulance Act, he testified.
The act requires that paramedics who decide to withhold or delay patient care must “go to the scene, see it, make an assessment: Does the environment appear to be safe? Can I get out of my vehicle?” he said.
I’ll assume, for the sake of argument that Mr. Brady’s interpretation of the law is correct. If that’s the case, then the law is stupid. If there was a report of people shooting at each other, would the law require the paramedics to respond to the scene and make an assessment? Are the ambulances in Toronto bullet proof?
The inquest has been told the paramedics decided to “stage” or wait for police. An EMS dispatcher classified the 911 call as “unknown trouble” and put the code “HBD” (“had been drinking”) into the system because the original caller said the man had fallen on his face and looked like he “might be drunk.”
While I am sometimes critical of dispatchers, the truth is that for the most part they are doing their job blindly. They are relying on untrained people, some of whom are in a panic, some of whom are frankly just stupid, to decypher what is going on at a location where they can not see the patient or the surroundings. Cell phone calls are even more difficult because the person may not be at the scene, may have just driven by, may not want to “get involved”.
Lawyer Jordan Goldblatt, representing the paramedics’ union, questioned why Brady did not interview key EMS staff on duty that night…
Good point. A thorough investigation would include statements in writing from the participants and maybe even direct interviews by the investigators.
Goldblatt also contends that supervisors were negligent in monitoring the actions of the dispatchers and paramedics.
“I would have to agree that no one seemed to be paying attention to this,” said Brady, adding he had no reasons to question those people during his investigation.
No, wouldn’t want to talk to the people actually responsible for supervising the system. Nope, nothing to be gathered there. Why, it might even show that the paramedics were acting prudentely based on what they knew and that the supervisors dropped that ball. Even worse, it might show that the supervisors weren’t at fault and that it was upper management who failed to establish proper procedures.
That. Just. Will. Not. Do.
Let alone suggest that the law that the paramedics “broke” might in fact be broken itself.
After all, there are phoney-baloney jobs to be protected.
Far easier to go for the low hanging fruit and blame the paramedics.