New Brunswick

Disciplinary hearing adjourned for paramedics accused of mistreating patient

The disciplinary hearing for two paramedics alleged to have mistreated a Saint John-area patient has been adjourned for more than a month so the paramedics and their lawyers can review the patient’s medical file.

Greg Garnett was in pain from an aortic dissection when 2 paramedics arrived at his house

Victor and Debbie Lavigne are facing a three-person disciplinary hearing after a complaint to the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

The disciplinary hearing for two paramedics alleged to have mistreated a Saint John-area man has been adjourned for more than a month so the patient's medical file can be reviewed by all sides.

Victor and Debbie Lavigne of St. Martins faced a three-person committee of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick on Thursday.

The hearing is the result of a complaint filed with the association by Cathy Garnett after her husband, Greg, died in Saint John Regional Hospital almost two years ago. 

Greg died five weeks after suffering an aortic dissection — a tear in the inner lining of the aorta that causes internal bleeding and excruciating pain.

The night the dissection occurred, her 52-year-old husband was writhing on the floor, screaming in pain, Garnett has said.

The paramedics who responded to their call for help yelled at Greg, didn't not believe his pain was anything more than sciatica, and even kicked him, she told CBC News. 

Cathy Garnett sleeps next to a picture of her husband and listens to a tape of her husband singing You Still Got A Place In My Heart by Ronnie Milsap before she goes to bed each night. (Jon Collicutt/CBC)

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

At the Crowne Plaza in Fredericton, the lawyer representing the paramedics subpoenaed Garnett's medical file — starting from the time she made the 911 call until he died in hospital — for review.

The lawyer representing the paramedics then reviewed the records aloud with a health records administrator from the Saint John Regional Hospital, where Greg Garnett was taken for treatment.

Cathy Garnett, who sat crying with head in her hands, said in an interview she is frustrated by the process she's had to deal with over the past two years.

She cannot afford a lawyer and said she doesn't understand why her husband's entire file must be reviewed.

Cathy Garnett's husband, Greg, suffered an aortic dissection and received rude treatment from the paramedics, who insisted his problem was back pain. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

"I'm frustrated. I'm very frustrated. … What happened at the hospital with him doesn't really have anything to do with how the paramedics treated my husband in our home."

Garnett vowed to continue her search for justice that she believes her husband and her family deserve.

"I'm not going to stop," she said. "I owe it to my children and I owe it to my husband."

The paramedics declined to be interviewed.

Greg Garnett woke up with severe chest pains in the middle of the night 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, the day after the move, after another aortic dissection.

The committee reconvenes in May.