News / Hamilton

Hamilton paramedics shaken by threat to colleague

A Hamilton paramedic is the first in Ontario to face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $25,000 after being accused by the Ministry of Health of failing to provide proper care to a patient.

“This is the first time the ministry has proceeded with charges against a paramedic under the Ambulance Act,” said ministry spokesperson David Jensen. “This matter is before the courts and we cannot comment further.”

Ontario’s paramedics weren’t even aware they could be charged under the act, jailed or fined until now.

“I think they’ll be shocked and deeply upset,” said Rob Theriault president of the Ontario Paramedic Association. “This is deeply disturbing.”

It’s in stark contrast to most other health professions that are selfregulated. The harshest penalty doctors and nurses face for failing to provide proper care is losing their licence to practice.

“It sends a chill across the paramedic profession across the province,” said Mario Posteraro, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 256, which represents the paramedic charged. “It’s not something we thought would happen.”

The ministry is providing no information on what led to Paul J. Zenchuk being charged with failing to ensure that patient care was provided in accordance with standards and procedures after an investigation by the emergency health services branch.

But a source with knowledge of the case says it stems from the death of 59-year-old Michael Farrance, who was pushed by a Hamilton police officer against the wall of his home on Balsam Avenue on Jan 29, 2011. The officer was found not criminally responsible by the Special Investigations Unit because Farrance swung his cane at him.

Police were first called to aid Farrance at about 1 a.m. when he was found drunk on the ground at Rosslyn Avenue after being kicked in the face. They took him home but picked him up again about 90 minutes later at a bar in a disturbance call. The SIU determined the officer used reasonable force to defend himself shortly after they arrived back at the home. Farrance was taken to hospital in critical condition and died of a heart attack Feb. 10.

Court documents show the paramedic is accused on the same day of:

failing to assume the existence of serious, potentially life, limb and/or function-threatening conditions until assessment indicates otherwise;

f ailing to ensure manual Cspine protection, an open airway, breathing, circulation and level of consciousness during the primary survey;

failing to take vital signs as required and/or perform medical and trauma assessments in the secondary survey.

Toronto lawyer Tim Hannigan refused comment on behalf of Zenchuk.

The case, being prosecuted by a Ministry of Health lawyer, was adjourned Thursday in the Ontario Court of Justice until May 27.

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