A private ambulance company is threatening legal action against an elderly Holyrood man who complained that his wife was mistreated by paramedics during a recent call for service to the couple’s home.
Fewer’s Ambulance Service is demanding 84-year-old Patrick Healey issue a public apology for comments he made in a story published earlier this month in The Telegram, in which he was quoted as saying his wife “was handled like an animal.”
In a letter to Healey, obtained by The Telegram, lawyer James D. Hughes of Clarenville states Healey’s comments were “slanderous and inaccurate and are designed to publicly erode our client’s professional reputation.”
It says Healey must admit the allegations were unfounded and misleading.
“The apology must be unconditional, expressing sorrow,” it states, and adds that Fewer’s demands the apology be published in The Telegram at Healey’s own expense.
But Healey has no plan to apologize and is willing to go to court if he has to.
“I’m not going to apologize for telling the truth. … It’s not going to happen,” Healey told The Telegram Friday. “Everything I said was the truth. So, if they want, they can take me to court.”
In the article, published in The Telegram’s Nov. 4 edition, Healey described an incident that happened at their home, where his wife, Loretta, collapsed on the floor in the early morning hours of Sept. 24.
He called 911, and later told The Telegram that it took about half an hour for the ambulance to arrive — which was much too long, in his opinion.
He said the two female paramedics who arrived couldn’t lift his wife up from the floor and asked for Healey’s help, which he couldn’t give because of his own health issues.
He said the ambulance attendants asked his wife, who was conscious by this time, to “drag herself close to the wheelchair” and that she “half fell” into it. The couple said the paramedics checked her blood sugar level, but didn’t do any additional tests.
Healey said the stretcher, meanwhile, was left out in the cold.
When they reached the stretcher, he said, which was on the grass one step off the patio, they again struggled with the transfer and asked him for help holding it steady.
He said ambulance attendants should be properly trained and physically capable of handling any emergency situation.
“I feel I have to speak up so we, or anybody else, won’t have to go through something like this,” he said at the time. “Changes certainly need to be made. … It could mean the difference between life and death.”
Healey said that when the ambulance left the driveway, it had no lights or sirens on and the driver was about to turn up the Salmonier Line access road toward the Trans-Canada Highway when Patrick told her she was taking the long way. He directed her to take the Witless Bay Line access road.
Once in St. John’s, he said, the driver stopped at every red light.
Almost two hours after he made the 911 call, he said, they finally reached the hospital. He said his wife is still shaken by what happened that night and is still under a doctor’s care.
The Telegram had contacted Fewer’s owner, Robert Fewer, for his views on the situation, but he opted to wait and see what Healey said in the story and directed The Telegram’s inquires to the Provincial Medical Oversight office (PMO).
An emailed written statement from the PMO office stated the case was reviewed and it was determined the response was appropriate.
The lawyer’s letter to Healey stated that Healey was quoted as saying the attendants took the long way through St. John’s, when, in fact, they took the long way to the highway.
“Nowhere in the story did I say the long way through St. John’s,” he said.
The lawyer’s letter also stated the two females who attended Healey’s house were well trained to deal with these circumstances “and in accordance with protocol and procedure did everything required of them.”
It said using the wheelchair, or “stair chair,” was the proper thing to use, as it was used “to safely take your wife downstairs to the exit level of the home.”
But Healey is quick to point out it was just one step to the ground from off the patio and a stretcher would have been the appropriate thing to use.
The letter states that when attendants arrived, Healey’s wife was conscious, with stable vital signs, and that all examinations required were given and recorded. They determined it to be a “Code 2,” which is a non-urgent status.
“The fact you are not aware of the proper protocol and procedures is not a valid excuse for making the slanderous comments that appear in the article,” it states. “Your lack of knowledge makes your comments reckless.”
Healey is quick to point out that while he’s not a formally educated man, his concerns about what happened that night are not just idle claims.
“I got it right and I’ve got lots of credibility,” said Healey, a former longtime trustee of the local Carpenters’ union and honorary lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus. “I’m certainly not reckless. That’s (an insult) to me. … I’m not going to just take this lying down.”