New Brunswick

Findings kept private after review of how paramedics handled Hines call

Ambulance New Brunswick has completed a review of how two of its paramedics handled a 2016 call to treat Matthew Hines, but the findings of that review are being kept private.

2 paramedics deemed safe and competent to practise after taking 'additional clinical education'

Matthew Hines died in custody of Dorchester Penitentiary on May 27, 2015, after he was pepper sprayed at least four times at close range by correctional officers. (CBC)

Ambulance New Brunswick has completed a review into how two of its paramedics handled a 2016 call to treat Matthew Hines, but the findings of that review are being kept private.

The ambulance service reviewed the call after the two paramedics appeared on a video that shows what happened after Hines refused to return to his cell at Dorchester Penitentiary on the night of May 26, 2015.

Hines, 33, died less than two hours after he was pepper sprayed by correctional officers at least four times at close range, all while he was handcuffed and restrained. 

The review of how paramedics handled the call resulted in "the design and development of additional clinical education for the employees involved," Chisholm Pothier, a spokesperson for Medavie, wrote in an email.

"They successfully completed the clinical education process and were deemed safe and competent to practice."

The review, conducted internally by Ambulance New Brunswick's training and quality assurance department, was completed April 15. The paramedics completed the required training by April 24.

Pothier declined an interview and would not provide more details on what the review found or the nature of training the two paramedics were required to take.

Correctional officers Mathieu Burgoin and Alvida Ross won't go to trial on charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing the death of Matthew Hines. The officers are highlighted at the 05:10 mark in this video. 50:11

"HR matters are internal and private to protect employees' personal information," Pothier wrote in an email.

Attempts to reach members of the executive of CUPE Local 4848, which represents paramedics, were unsuccessful on Thursday.

Julie Kirkpatrick, the lawyer representing Hines's family, said in a letter to Pothier she wants the findings of the investigation to be made public.

"As this case raises issues of fundamental public importance, the family takes the strong position that both they and the public should be provided with a copy of the report, which surely can be redacted to remove names and other identifying information to protect the privacy of any involved individuals," Kirkpatrick wrote.

Paramedics on video for 9 minutes

After he was pepper sprayed, correctional officers at Dorchester placed Hines in a shower to wash off. His arms were handcuffed behind his back and a shirt was pulled over his face.

That's when he appeared to struggle to breathe and had a seizure.

An ambulance was called after Hines went into medical distress. It arrived 21 minutes later, which falls under the 22-minute response time for rural communities.

When the paramedics arrived in the prison's health-care wing, Hines was on a stretcher and appeared to be struggling to breathe.

A nurse employed by the prison told them Hines had been pepper sprayed, was suffering from a possible acid overdose and had briefly had a seizure.

Ambulance New Brunswick is reviewing the response two paramedics, pictured here in white shirts, provided to Matthew Hines in 2015. (Correctional Service Canada)

The paramedics then moved Hines to their stretcher and into an ambulance with the help of correctional officers.

They didn't appear to provide any obvious medical treatment during their nine minutes on camera at the prison.

Ambulance New Brunswick previously reviewed the call in 2015, concluding it was "appropriately handled."

But the ambulance service launched a new review after the video was made public at the conclusion of a preliminary inquiry in April.

On April 5, a judge discharged two correctional officers, Alvida Ross and Mathieu Bourgoin, on charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing Hines's death.

According to the rules of the court, the Public Prosecution Service has three months from the date of the decision to seek a judicial review. That deadline would fall on July 5.

Originally called to prison for 'assault'

One of the two paramedics, Mark Wayne Hicks, testified at the preliminary inquiry.

Hicks said he and his partner were originally sent to the prison that night for an assault call. It was then changed to a possible overdose.

He told the court he didn't believe he gave treatment in the facility itself but did say that a breathing tube was inserted at some point.

During the 25-minute drive to the Moncton Hospital, Hicks rode in the back of the ambulance with Hines and two correctional officers, including Bourgoin.

Alvida Ross, left, and Mathieu Bourgoin were discharged on charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing Matthew Hines's death, following a preliminary inquiry. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Hines was originally transported lying on his side and was "breathing adequately" at that point with the help of the tube, Hicks testified.

But they were worried that, because of Hines's large size, it would be difficult to move him on his back quickly to treat him if his condition deteriorated, Hicks testified. With the help of the correctional officers, they moved him on his back.

Later, Hines stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating, Hicks told the court.

The ambulance pulled over on the highway, the guards got out, and the paramedics performed CPR, Hicks testified. But after 20 minutes of working, he said there was no change in Hines's condition.

Hicks's partner returned to the front seat to continue driving to the hospital, while the correctional officers returned to the ambulance to take over CPR. That allowed Hicks to look after Hines's airway, using a bag to help him breathe.

Paramedics loaded Hines into an ambulance at Dorchester Penitentiary. The paramedics spent about nine minutes on scene at the prison. (Correctional Service Canada)

There still hadn't been any change in Hines's condition when they arrived at the hospital and doctors took over, Hicks told the court.

Hines was pronounced dead at the Moncton Hospital at 12:04 a.m. on May 27, 2015.

Second investigation

The call is also being reviewed by the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick, which is independent from Ambulance New Brunswick.

Chris Hood, the association's executive director and registrar, previously said the review is looking at whether there was possible incompetence or negligence on the part of the paramedics.

"There's been some public outcry about this," Hood said in an April interview. "It's a very public issue."

On Thursday, Hood said the investigation is waiting for the arrival of court transcripts.

"Once that's complete, then we'll be initiating a committee meeting for the complaints committee," Hood said in an interview.

Chris Hood, executive director and registrar of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick, said the investigation into a 2016 call to Dorchester Penitentiary is continuing. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

"They will have a look at the information and make a determination about whether there's validity to the complaint and what the next steps are, whether it will move on to a full-blown disciplinary hearing or whether it will be deemed to be a vexatious complaint or any of those kinds of things."

If there is validity to the complaint, then action could be taken to protect the public. That could mean moving the complaint on to a "quasi-judicial process" that involves calling witnesses and evidence.

About the Author

Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. Do you have a story you want us to investigate? Send your tips to NBInvestigates@CBC.ca.