AN award-winning paramedic who was sacked for allegedly slapping an elderly patient three times across the face has claimed they were merely light taps with his fingers.
Former RAF medic Gareth Lewis, who qualified as a paramedic with the Welsh Ambulance Service in 2004, told an employment tribunal he felt he had been targeted by bosses because he had raised concerns over two health and safety issues in the past.
Mr Lewis, who was stationed in Queensferry, was reported by his colleague Nancy Holmwood after an incident in July, 2011, when they received an emergency call to assist a 69-year-old woman at her home.
He said the pensioner, who had a history of mental illness, appeared to be suffering a panic attack but after calming down she lost consciousness.
Mr Lewis said he supported her head as she lay on the bedroom floor but when she did not respond to his talking to her he tapped her face three times.
He told the Rhyl hearing other recognised methods of applying stimuli, such as placing a knuckle into her eye socket, were inappropriate and invasive in her case as she was a frail and vulnerable woman.
“I did not use excessive force. They were not slaps but the taps were sharp enough to administer some pain,” he said.
He accepted he had never been trained to use a tap or slap but guidance on the subject was vague and he did not believe it could be regarded as gross misconduct.
Mr Lewis, who is claiming unfair dismissal, said the method was widely used in the armed services and in Hampshire Ambulance Service.
He told the tribunal that during his 10 years he had an exemplary record, producing 14 letters of thanks from patients treated during his last 12 months in work.
He also received a letter of thanks from North Wales chief constable Mark Polin for attending to him when he suffered an injury, and in 2008 was the first recipient of the Welsh Ambulance Service’s employee award for the northern region after rescuing a patient from a burning car.
But he said he had spoken out against the poor response of a call handler to an emergency in which a cardiac patient later died and about not being told a man suspected of stabbing two people in Flint was still in the house when he was asked to attend.
“I sent a written letter of complaint to the respondents saying they had failed in their duty of care towards me and my life had been put in danger as a result of their actions,” he said.
Gordon Roberts, the trust’s head of services for North Wales, who was on the disciplinary panel which sacked him, told the hearing slapping was not a recognised technique and was tantamount to assault.
But Mr Lewis, of Parkside Road, Bebington, Wirral, said although the incident involving the woman was referred to the police and the Protection of Vulnerable Adults Panel, no action was taken against him.
The tribunal’s judgement is expected today.