Two cases that raise questions about community service staff and health and safety rules

You take your life in your hands, when you put it in other people’s hands.

For the most part, you will get good care.

But not always, as two recent cases demonstrate.

Alf has been reading that –

* A community services worker will be taken to the Human Rights Tribunal after leaving a severely disabled man strapped alone in a hot van for 45 minutes.

* And, in Britain, a paramedic allegedly refused to carry a dying schoolgirl to an ambulance for ‘health and safety’ reasons.

First, the local story.

In a decision released today, deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Tania Thomas said the community services worker showed “flagrant disregard and a lack of respect” for a vulnerable person.

The case dates back a bit, suggesting it takes time to investigate these things.

Or maybe the commissioner has a huge workload and is a tad short in the resources department.

Whatever the reason, Thomas said police were called to check on the wheelchair-bound man in August 2009, after neighbours noticed he was alone and distressed, strapped in a van in a driveway.

A neighbour told the commission she could see the man “rocking backwards and forwards” from her window.

When police checked the man, who was physically and intellectually impaired and relied on facial expressions and head and arm gestures to communicate, the said the van was “warm and stuffy”.

The police officer said the man was squirming and uncomfortable and had wet himself.

According to Thomas’s account of what happened, neighbours had seen similar happenings on several occasions, including earlier the same day for more than two hours.

In her decision, Thomas said the worker’s explanations indicated dishonesty and lack of integrity.

“I am completely unimpressed with this community service worker’s flagrant disregard of this man’s wellbeing,” she said.

The worker was dismissed without notice for breaching several Health and Disability Services Standards.

Well and good, Alf reckons.

There’s more to come: she now faces further disciplinary proceedings in the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

News comes from the other side of the world of a paramedic who refused to carry a dying schoolgirl to an ambulance.

Health and safety reasons were the considerations that stopped her, according to her defence counsel.

Cassandra Lynn allegedly said she was worried about her back during the ‘chaotic’ attempt to save 14-year-old Shannon Powell.

The girl had collapsed in the mud and was foaming at the mouth in a violent fit during a cross-country race in North-West London.

First-aiders were so exasperated by Miss Lynn and her colleague from the London Ambulance Service they took matters into their own hands and carried Shannon themselves using a first aid trolley.

Witnesses claim that Lynn had told bystanders that she could not lift the girl as she was worried that she would fall down and injure her own back.

Shannon, just three weeks from her 15th birthday, died on the way to the ambulance.

A post-mortem examination found she had a rare undiagnosed heart disorder linked to Sudden Death Syndrome in young people.

This is not the first time vital minutes have been lost as emergency teams dithered in Britain due to health and safety red tape.

A catalogue of blunders was outlined at the inquest into Shannon’s death, leading to further questions aimed at authorities.

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