Edmonton health-care aide dismissed for treatment of quadriplegic patient

Story changed during three interviews: Employer
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 10/22/2018

After she worked too fast and later lied about the incident, a health-care aide was terminated from her job.

Karuna Davis worked for the Good Samaritan Society (GSS) at the Mill Woods Centre in Edmonton for nine-and-a-half years when on July 15, 2016, Davis and another aide, Maria Heuso, attempted to shower a patient identified as “AB.”

Davis and Heuso wheeled the man — who was quadriplegic, didn’t speak and had a feeding tube (stoma) in his stomach — into the shower room. AB’s toe hit the door on the way in, which troubled Heuso so she then took control of the wheelchair.

After they placed AB beneath the shower, Davis worked too quickly, said Heuso, and she didn’t check the water temperature, as required. After AB reacted negatively to the water, Heuso checked and found it was too cold.

The water then went into AB’s “t-hole,” said Heuso, and he struggled with his breathing. Both aides stopped what they were doing and AB was wheeled back to his bed.

Davis and Heuso dried AB and gave him a brief lotion rub, but Heuso said he didn’t receive a full washing.

Heuso reported the incident to management, who held three separate meetings with Davis (on Aug. 19, Sept. 2, and 8). Each time, the answers provided by Davis changed.

Davis also said she didn’t report the incident to the registered nurse (RN) on duty because it slipped her mind as the shift was busy. 

Davis was terminated on Sept. 12. GSS said Davis committed multiple errors on the day in question and none of them were documented as was required. As well, Davis was not honest in her answers on multiple occasions, according to GSS.

The union, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), grieved the firing and argued Davis was not dishonest but she struggled with language issues and stress from worry that she would lose her job during the interview process.

The employer argued that a letter written on Aug. 23 by Davis, as well as the various facts provided during the interviews, showed she was not truthful and tried to cover up the incident by not reporting it.

Arbitrator David Tettensor (backed by fellow board member Michael Hughes Member, but dissented by Vern Bartee) found the employer was justified in firing Davis.

“I agree with the employer’s submission that (Davis’) evolving story of the events was premeditated. (Her) two admissions were only partially true and were deceptive. (Davis’) lack of candour and attempts to cover up the shower incident are a refusal to accept responsibility and justify the lack of trust that the employer now has that (she) would honestly and properly complete her duties.”

Davis’ actions showed she was not qualified to continue working at GSS, said the arbitrator. 

“(Davis) did not follow the specified procedures for checking the water temperature before she put the water on AB. While I have serious doubt that she covered AB’s stoma, it is clear that water entered the stoma causing AB to cough, wheeze, go red in the face and have obvious trouble breathing,” said Tettensor.

Davis’ actions after the incident showed a clear attempt to cover up, according to the arbitrator. “(Davis) made no reference to the incident in her charting, instead she completed the charting by stating that everything had been done as required for AB. (Davis) did not compete a progress note outlining the incident which she knew was to be done when something occurred which is not normal or typical.”

“It is clear from the authorities that dishonesty in the health-care field as to the care of vulnerable persons such as AB is a breach of the public trust resting with both employees and employers and goes to the core of the relationship,” said Tettensor.

“All of the evidence leads me to conclude that despite her concern about the distress caused to AB by what she concluded was water entering his stoma, (Davis’) failure to report the incident to the RN and to properly chart the incident was intentional: She did not want to make the employer aware of the incident.”


Good Samaritan Society and Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. David Tettensor — arbitrator. Hugh McPhail for the employer. Greg Maruca for the employee. Sept. 4, 2018. 2018 CarswellAlta 2042

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