Travis Thomas, Saint John paramedic, pleads guilty to drug charges
Saint John man's paramedic licence has been suspended after pleading guilty to several drug charges
A paramedic with Ambulance New Brunswick has pleaded guilty to several drug charges, including possession with the purpose of trafficking LSD, ecstasy, magic mushrooms, cannabis resin or hash and marijuana.
Travis Thomas, 26, was arrested nearly a year ago on July 10, 2014, in the Saint John area, a region he had worked in for more than five years as a paramedic.
Thomas's paramedic licence was suspended in January 2015 by the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick after it carried out the first phase of its investigation.
The association acts as the licensing body and regulator for New Brunswick paramedics.
Thomas initially pleaded not guilty when he was charged last year, but on May 5, 2015, he changed his plea to guilty in court, according to court documents. Sentencing is scheduled for next month.
Anything that puts the profession in a bad light is frustrating.- Chris Hood, executive director of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick
"Anything that puts the profession in a bad light is frustrating," said Chris Hood, the executive director of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick.
"Anything that will potentially put a patient at risk is very frustrating."
The association hasn't received any complaints that Thomas was dealing drugs while on duty, according to Hood.
It's the first time a paramedic in New Brunswick has pleaded guilty to such serious drug offences since the association officially became the licensing body in 2008, Hood said.
"Not something we've ever seen in the past … something like this, very shocking," Hood said.
"It's certainly an outlier in the profession. There are always outliers in the system."
CBC News attempted to contact Thomas for comment. He did not respond.
Ambulance New Brunswick cites privacy
Thomas has also been suspended by Ambulance New Brunswick, according to the paramedic association.
"After the legal proceedings have concluded, Ambulance New Brunswick will make a determination on the employee's status with the company," spokesperson Tracy Bell said in a statement.
The New Brunswick paramedic association is continuing its investigation until Thomas is sentenced next month.
After that point, there will be a disciplinary hearing to determine whether Thomas's paramedic licence will be reinstated, revoked or continue to be suspended.
"That's the frustrating part, that a drug dealer could be amongst us, when we're the second-most trusted people in the world when it comes to public services," said Phil Comeau, a paramedic in Saint John and the president of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick.
'Kept in the dark'
Ambulance New Brunswick hasn't always openly communicated details about the case, such as court dates, with the paramedic association during its investigation of Thomas, according to Comeau.
Hood agrees Ambulance NB has at times been slow to inform the association about details involving paramedics who have complaints filed against them.
"Is there information that may be withheld? There probably is," Hood said.
"But has that had an impact on us being able to do our due diligence and to perform investigations and go through disciplinary cases to date? No."
"I would say we haven't faced a situation where we've lost a case because of lack of information or misinformation."
The association has the power to subpoena information for its investigations and it's required to notify the public about serious actions taken against its members.
More complaints from paramedics
The Paramedic Association of New Brunswick investigates about 20 paramedics a year and six of the investigations end in disciplinary action, according to Hood.
The investigations centre on clinical issues, such as inappropriate care or delays in care and professional misconduct issues, including criminal activity.
About 10 per cent of the investigations are professional misconduct cases, Hood said.
He's seeing more complaints from paramedics, who are coming forward with information about their peers.
"It's a matter of education and maturity in the system. I think what we're seeing is that paramedics are not accepting poor clinical practice or poor professional practice like they perhaps used to," Hood said.
"In the early stages of this profession, it was not an expectation that you would hold your partner as accountable as you would hold yourself. So as we move this profession forward, we're seeing more and more paramedics speaking out about issues that may cause them concern."
In the case of Thomas, there were not any complaints put forward by other paramedics who worked with him, according to Hood.