I’m finding this news report about a paramedic suing an elderly couple for damages very difficult to digest both for what it says about litigious nature and it’s implications for anyone who may have to summon an ambulance. Apparently ‘He lodged the personal injury claim after discovering he was not covered by the ambulance service’s insurance because he was not in the ambulance at the time.’ This is raising so many issues. Why are paramedics, technicians, and ambulance personnel not covered for injury whilst on duty and carrying out their work? Surely the public are not expected to make their own way into an ambulance, what do they have stretchers for, what did this paramedic go and get a stretcher for if he does not have vicarious liability when he out of the ambulance? The whole thing makes absolutely no sense. Ambulance personnel spend a large percentage of their working day outside their vehicles.Then it comes down to the rights and wrongs, as I see them. “The reason why we are alleging fault is that the security light was either faulty because of a lack of maintenance or had not been programmed correctly in that the light was not on for sufficient time to allow someone to walk along the driveway and reach the front door.’ What!!! ‘Lack of maintenance’, is it not just conceivable that the light just stopped working at that point, or that the lights flickered, as ours do regularly, because of a ‘power surge’ in the mains supply? If the couple hadn’t got a security light would there not be a problem then? Getting down to basics it is a ‘security light’, not an access light, I have security lights, not to show an intruder how to get to my front door but to alert me that there is an intruder.
If anyone is being sued, for a sprained ankle, it should be East Midlands Ambulance Service for obviously being so concerned about their duty of care toward staff that they feel ambulance personnel shouldn’t leave their vehicles.
I have cover for when I am on duty, whether in my car, in a house, outside a surgery or in the hospital but even so I have never used it, although I now appreciate that there have occasions when I could have. Slipping on a rug placed on a wooden floor and spraining my ankle, having to climb over a stair gate because the catch didn’t work and as a result ripping my trousers, being held by the neck against a wall by a patient with dementia so causing nerve damage affecting my arm, I could go on and on. I could be thousands of pounds better off but I’m not because it is all part of my job and there are certain risks involved in day to day life.
I abhor the litigious cycle we are falling into. Last week there was the terrible case of the Mother handed her baby by a midwife who had not realised the baby was dead. It was absolutely terrible, one midwife was struck off and the other midwife has been cautioned. One of the articles I read had a statement from the cautioned midwife who said that the Mother had refused monitoring, whether that is true or not I’m not about to guess at, but it has made me very wary. There are times when a woman with a high risk pregnancy/labour will refuse monitoring, you will advise her that continuous monitoring is advisable but she will continue to refuse and all you can do is record her refusal in the notes. I’m worried now though. Supposing the labour and birth went tragically wrong, it is the parent’s word against what you have written. Should I now insist that the woman sign the notes to say that she is refusing monitoring, and how legal is that given that she is labouring and may not be completely aware of what she is putting her signature to? Even with intermittent ausculatation, when we just listen to baby’s heartbeat every 15 minutes for a couple of minutes, many women become quite intolerant of that and push the probe away. Apart from always having an independent witness present there is little you can really do to protect yourself from inaccurate claims. I have to say that for me a false accusation, leading to litigation, is now a paramount concern.
(Written a few hours later) On re-reading it could sound as if I feel that what happened to the midwives in the ‘dead baby’ case was terrible. I don’t, I feel very sad for them if they were just the scapegoats but I do feel that what happened to the parents and their baby was terrible, whether or not they had refused monitoring. It is absolutely heartbreaking when any baby dies, regardless of fault.