Assault of patient spells end of the road for Alberta paramedic

Assault of difficult patient, attempt to mislead investigation provide just cause for dismissal
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 08/14/2019
Assault on patient
Paramedic changed his story as employer investigated incident Credit: Shutterstock

An Alberta paramedic who struck a patient who spit on him and then tried to downplay the incident in the ensuing investigation has had his dismissal upheld by an arbitrator for failing to meet the high standards of trust and conduct inherent to his position.

Gerrit-Dean Pinell, 36, worked as a paramedic for Alberta Health Services (AHS) in Calgary. Hired in early 2013, he had no disciplinary record with AHS. However, he experienced a few traumatic events during his tenure with the organization. In November 2014, Pinell was part of a backup paramedic crew that responded to a call in which his brother died. About one month after that incident, he was involved in a call in which a child was murdered and began experiencing symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — leading to an eventual diagnosis of the condition. He went off work for several months on workers’ compensation benefits and was able to return after treatment.

However, the symptoms returned in February 2016 after Pinell attended a scene in which several teenagers were killed in a nighttime luge run at Calgary Olympic Park. Pinell once again had to take time off work while receiving workers’ compensation benefits, but he was able to return after a shorter absence.