Respect the Judge! Alberta College of Paramedics Punishes Member

By: Joel Fairbrother

Published: 13 June 2022

Alberta College of Paramedics v Ayton (April 12, 2022) (Cranston, Chair) is a new professional regulatory decision by the Alberta College of Paramedics where a paramedic had her paramedics license cancelled and had other sanctions ordered against her for unprofessional conduct.

This decision is interesting to me because although the conduct by the regulated member seemed quite serious, the full penalty imposed is surprisingly severe.


Below are the pertinent facts found by the ACP Hearing Tribunal:

  • Ms. Ayton – the paramedic disciplined in this case – had been a paramedic for 6 years and had never been disciplined before
  • Ms. Ayton’s practice permit had lapsed
  • In August of 2021 she was trying to use ACP’s website to get her permit reinstated and was frustrated with how it was functioning
  • Ayton called members of ACP staff on the phone about the website and they discussed the process and some continuing competency credits she needed to get her permit reinstated. During the phonecall, the staff felt Ms. Ayton was being abusive and profane.  She followed it up with a profane voicemail
  • The ACP Registrar called Ms. Ayton and said he could help her with the continuing competency issue, and reminded her of her obligations of respectful communication. She was abusive and profane in this phonecall as well
  • Following this, there were a series of emails between the ACP Registrar and Ms. Ayton over a short period where she made negative comments about the ACP, made comments about how the ACP Registrar was “evil” and unable to do his job, noted that she was not intimidated by him and his position, said she did not respect him, and made various profane comments, including “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? HAS ACOP hired only demons?”, “go to hell where you fucking belong you idiot”, and “I’m going to get you personally. Sleep with one eye open for twenty five years.  Lol just joking!!!”, and so on
  • A complaint was made against Ms. Ayton to the ACP
  • The ACP gave Ms. Ayton several chances to respond to allegations, meet with the investigator, produce documentation or witnesses, and to attend at the hearing, but Ms. Ayton did not respond and did not appear at the hearing in early 2022
  • The hearing proceeded in her absence

Analysis / Conclusion

The ACP Hearing Tribunal found that Ms. Ayton’s communications with the ACP amounted to unprofessional conduct, and that her refusal to cooperate with the investigation also amounted to unprofessional conduct.

In considering what penalty to impose on Ms. Ayton, the ACP Hearing Tribunal noted that although she had a clean disciplinary history, her actions were very serious and deserving of discipline, made worse by the fact that she then failed to cooperate with the investigation and failed to attend at the hearing.

The full penalty imposed on Ms. Ayton was as follows:

  • Her paramedic permit was cancelled
  • She was not allowed to apply for reinstatement of her permit for at least 5 years
  • She was required to pay a fine of $1,000
  • She was required to pay for the full cost of the investigation and hearing, which they estimated would be in the range of $10,000
  • She was required to undergo a psychological assessment to establish that she was fit to practice as a paramedic, prior to re-applying

My Take

The penalty imposed in this case is more or less the “death penalty” in professional regulatory cases.  In reading the summary of the emails, it seems very likely to me this paramedic was going through an incredibly stressful time in her life and she lashed out.  These emails occur over a very short period of time, and the ACP was obviously alive to the possibility that this paramedic may have been experiencing some psychological problems at the time.  Given the severity of the content of the emails, it is not surprising to me that her paramedic’s permit was cancelled or that she was fined.  However, the penalty goes way beyond that into preventing her from being able to re-apply for her permit for five years, making it impossible for to be employed as a paramedic during that time.

I think it would have made more sense for the ACP Hearing Tribunal to order that she could re-apply any time if she produced evidence that her behavior had been caused in part by a psychological dysfunction and that she was now treated and psychologically fit.

It seems likely to me that if the paramedic had participated in the hearing and with legal counsel, she could have had a much less severe penalty imposed on her in this case.

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