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Former paramedic banned after failing to resuscitate dying patient

29 Nov 2023

A former Victorian paramedic has been banned from reapplying for registration for five years after failing to attempt the resuscitation of a dying patient.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) reprimanded and disqualified Rick Clark from applying for registration or providing any health care involving the provision of care to a person, including first aid, for the next five years.

The Paramedicine Board of Australia (the Board) referred three allegations to the tribunal following an initial Ambulance Victoria investigation over Mr Clark’s treatment of a patient referred to as SST, who collapsed in Maryborough on 20 July 2020.

While it was found Mr Clark provided care to SST that was ‘reasonable and appropriate to the expected skill level’ for almost half an hour after attending the emergency call, he chose to withhold resuscitation after she went into cardiac arrest at 11.25am.

Despite at least one paramedic colleague raising concerns that he should be trying to resuscitate the patient, Mr Clark incorrectly determined SST was already asystolic with no heartbeat. Mr Clark passed on this false information to other paramedics at the scene, to radio dispatchers and an Ambulance Victoria clinician.

Records of SST’s electrocardiogram monitoring at the scene showed she was actually in bradycardia, with a slower than normal heartbeat. The tribunal found that the failure to attempt resuscitation ‘may have resulted in or contributed to’ SST’s death.

‘While the provision of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (‘CPR’) may or may not have resulted in SST surviving her cardiac arrest, Mr Clark’s decision not to commence resuscitation deprived her of any chance of survival, was inconsistent with relevant guidelines and was substantially below the standards expected of a paramedic of an equivalent level of training and experience,’ the tribunal found.

‘Further, despite the presence of other colleagues and the ability to seek advice from the AV Clinician, Mr Clark pressed on with his decision, contrary to the Code of Conduct…which, among other things, requires paramedics to consult and take advice from colleagues when appropriate, which was clearly the case in this situation.’

Ambulance Victoria suspended Mr Clark’s employment following the incident and he did not renew his paramedic registration in November 2020.

Following the Board’s referral, the tribunal found Mr Clark had committed professional misconduct because both his assessment of the Patient’s condition and the decision to withhold resuscitation ‘was substantially below the standard expected of a registered paramedic’ and was conduct that was inconsistent with Mr Clark being a fit and proper person to hold registration.
The tribunal reprimanded Mr Clark and disqualified him from applying for registration as a registered health practitioner until 26 October 2028. The tribunal member also ruled that a prohibition order preventing Mr Clark providing any health service involving the provision of health care to a person was ‘particularly relevant to prevent him transferring his skills to work as a first aid officer of in aged care.

The tribunal’s full decision was published on Austlii in October 2023.

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Page reviewed 29/11/2023