Transcription – English – Scarlet Martyn

16. Scarlet Martin.mp4: Video automatically transcribed by Sonix

16. Scarlet Martin.mp4: this mp4 video file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Scarlet Martin:
My name is Scarlet Martin, and I share a similar story as thousands of health care workers who are terminated over vaccine policies or forced to undergo an unwanted medical procedure to keep their job. I'll tell today my personal story as a 23 year veteran and an advanced care paramedic from Toronto, as well as I'm going to speak on behalf of the United Health Care Workers of Ontario. United Health Care Workers is a collective of over 3000 health care workers in various fields of health care across the province. We are passionate advocates for health, privacy, voluntary and informed consent and non discriminating medical policies. The pandemic measures brought us together with this shared vision. I had worked during the paramedic both as an advanced care paramedic in the field, as well as I assisted in the critical care setting, transferring critical COVID patients on ventilators from ICU to ICU throughout the province. Seeing the pandemic both from the field when people called 911 for my help, as well as across numerous ICUs in the province, I quickly realized that I wasn't seeing the pandemic that was being reported in the media at the beginning of the pandemic. I saw that fear was instilled into the public that was so powerful it left them afraid to go to the hospital. People were suffering at home, sometimes with life threatening medical conditions because they were afraid of catching COVID and they were being told the hospitals stay at home. I did numerous calls for patients that had passed away in their homes, their distraught families, all told similar stories of chest pains, shortness of breath or dizzy spells that were all not investigated at the hospital.

Scarlet Martin:
I felt overwhelming guilt to hear that they didn't go to the emergency because I saw firsthand the emergencies were empty. I experienced for the first time in my 23 year career, patients refusing to be transported to the emerged for serious medical conditions because they were too afraid of catching COVID. It was impossible to reason the mode of this fear. I felt embarrassed when restaurant owners would donate and then deliver food to our ambulance stations and into the hospitals. The public would go out in the evening and bang pots and pans in unison to cheer us on. They would deliver handmade cards telling us that we were heroes and thanking us for our work. The uncomfortable truth was that we were not overwhelmed or overworked. All of us had signed up to work in pandemics. This was not my first pandemic. I had worked through SARS. Our workload decreased significantly, but I was witness to so much suffering that the pandemic measures caused as collateral damage. But no one wanted to step away from being a hero to talk about the collateral damage. I saw an increase in alcohol abuse, drug abuse of every sort. Domestic violence, enforced isolation of the most vulnerable in our society, the ones they were claiming to protect. I was not seeing how we were all in this together. I could never articulate how heartbreaking it is to comfort a 96 year old decorated war veteran as he was reduced to tears over how hard this pandemic had been on him.

Scarlet Martin:
He was an assisted senior living and they had a strict no visitor policy. He had been alone in his apartment for weeks. As the pandemic continued, I witnessed a culture shift with health care workers in my profession. Many seem to be evolving into bullies. Family wasn't permitted to visit patients that were critically ill because of infection control measures. What I found most disturbing was the lack of compassion and empathy present as these rules were parroted to the distressed families. It's a pandemic. There's no visitors. Case closed. I could never be sure if I brought a family member to the ER, if they'd be allowed inside. And the visitor rules seemed to be more based on the move of the charge nurses than hospital policy. And most hospitals had different policies. I engaged in many heated discussions about the changing visitor rule, and sadly I had to be part in denying family members from accompanying their loved ones to the hospital. After that, it quickly became socially acceptable when gathering a patient's medical history to center them out and ask them why they were not vaccinated. As paramedics, it seemed even more disrespectful to the public that we serve because we stood there in uniform in a position of authority inside a patient's home. On possibly the most stressful day of their life. When the bullying would start, I saw the unvaccinated badgered over their medical decision.

Scarlet Martin:
The social talks in stations and hospital hallways went from championing the vaccine to vilifying those who had reservations. I heard many times how the unvaccinated should be left to die and not burden the health care system. If an unvaccinated patient was in the emerge for treatment, the word was quick to spread through the staff on duty and it became open season to name, call and insult these patients when they were out of earshot. Patients were being othered and judged by those who should have been caring for them in a non judgmental fashion. Although all health care workers have received multiple vaccines, we were now joined the ranks of anti-vaxxers with this prevailing culture of anger towards the unvaccinated. I worried how this may be spilling over into the care they were getting as patients. I'm not speaking about the measured and tangible care such as dosing a medication. I'm talking the human interactions that can't be measured, such as when you're turning somebody gently and carefully, when you have compassion for them compared to doing the bare minimum and handling them a little more rough when you lack the compassion. Patients know the difference, but many would never be able to articulate that. Patients were fearful to tell me when I was caring for them that they were unvaccinated, they would apologize and start to justify their medical decision. I'd never experienced this before. The bullying for the unvaccinated continued. It continued by our government, by the media, and now our employers.

Scarlet Martin:
And that came in the form of vaccinate or terminate policies. These discriminatory policies were implemented when Directive six came from the chief medical health officer for health care facilities to create a vaccine policy, according to the directive, which I'm well familiar with. The directive was for a vaccination policy, so that could have included the option for antigen testing for unvaccinated staff. Most health care facilities allowed no option for testing, and at this time it was evident that the vaccinated could also transmit COVID. I wrote a four page heartfelt letter to my commander, the city manager, as well as the city mayor, John Tory, expressing my concerns with the lack of safety data and transparency around the new mRNA and RNA vaccines, as well as some catastrophic adverse events that I had witnessed firsthand. I was concerned as I had antibodies to COVID and the emerging evidence was showing a higher risk of adverse events for seropositive individuals. Health care workers weigh the decisions for treatment based on assessing the risk to benefit. I felt that this procedure left me at risk with very little benefit. I asked for accommodation and offered to do antigen testing at my own expense. Neither the city manager or the mayor responded to my concerns. My commander wrote that the city would comply with its human rights obligations and accommodate employees who are legally entitled to accommodation. I was hoping my letter addressing my concerns and asking for accommodation was sufficient as Toronto City policies have always advocated for equal treatment without discrimination.

Scarlet Martin:
To my surprise, I was called into a closed door investigational meeting where I was called insubordinate. And by not taking the vaccine, it was deemed that I was was deemed to be willful misconduct. I asked how it was insubordinate to voice my concerns politely through the appropriate chain of command. I was told that they had to move forward and we couldn't discuss the matter further. I made it clear that I was not refusing the vaccine. I just had reservations at the current time. What followed was a degrading and humiliating experience. I was ordered to turn over my Ministry of Health ID, my City of Toronto, ID the keys to the ambulance that I had drove to the meeting while on duty, as well as my drug keys. I was then driven back to my station by a supervisor to gather my belongings and leave the city premises. Words could never describe how it feels to have your career that you love taken in such a humiliating manner. I had made so many sacrifices, work so many Christmases, missed so many of my kids games, working the long shifts that I did. My file was thick with letters of compliment and not a single incident of discipline in my 23 year career. I was terminated with cause for willful misconduct. Although I'd never been terminated from a job in my entire life, I quickly realized that a termination with cause for willful misconduct effectively destroys not just my career as a Toronto paramedic, but it effectively destroys my ability to work anywhere as a paramedic.

Scarlet Martin:
No ambulance service will hire a potential employee with this type of termination. It's a liability to hire such a terrible employee. It also prevented me from receiving any benefits as they will not approve any case where misconduct led to the termination. Please understand, we are not anti-vaxxers, anti-science or misogynist racists. We carry we care a great deal about the safety of our patients and the public. We would not have been jeopardizing anyone's safety if we continued to work just as we had before the vaccine policies. Losing thousands of skilled health care workers has been a far bigger detriment to patient safety than having a small number of unvaccinated health care workers doing antigen testing, many of whom had natural immunity like myself. When health care workers were terminated over vaccine vaccination policies, they were terminating health care workers who were concerned at the lack of informed consent being provided. Informed consent is the very foundation of medical ethics. It's unethical to force coerce anyone into a medical treatment. Health care workers that feel this strongly to put the careers they love on the line to advocate for the ethical practice of medicine, are the same health care workers who will stand up for their patients rights. They are the critical thinkers who are not afraid to go against the grain and advocate for what's right. These are the health care workers. These are the ones that patients need back in the health care system. Thank you for hearing my story.

Trish Wood:
Thank you. Let me just start by saying, if I were lying on the street somewhere, you're the paramedic, I would want to come and help me.

Scarlet Martin:
Thank you.

Trish Wood:
And thank you for your service. I know it's a tough job. What a terrible waste that you're not doing it still. You talked about two things that I think we can separate. They're both equally important. The first part of your story for me, what really exposed the level of cruelty that has been unleashed? In this country as a result of policies around COVID 19. Good people are doing mean things and and in the health care system, too. And I guess I just want to explore that with you for a minute, because I think it's huge and it's why we're also destabilized, how quickly we have fallen. As a country. What was it like for you to have your eyes opened? To this kind of behavior in a career you'd had for for a very long time to see the cruelty toward patients and and people like you.

Scarlet Martin:
It was shocking. Like it just and it was like a switch hit. And all of a sudden it was just this massive shift in culture that I had never seen before. I mean, we are health care workers, right? We are not to judge. I mean, that would be like me telling somebody, well, no wonder you have lung cancer. You smoke, like, do you think you should quit smoking and badgering them about making a choice? Like, that's not our place. It's never been our place. And, you know, people disclose their most intimate medical history to us in confidence and then they feel the need to badger them about their decision. Yeah. I mean, I see patients burst into tears about it.

Trish Wood:
Oh, I'm sure. Also tough to hear that people weren't going to hospital because they thought the emergency rooms were either full, which the TB doctors reported day after day one even saying, Don't come here, we won't treat you if you've been in a car accident. No, I'm talking about broadly. And that people died at home. Yeah. Yeah.

Scarlet Martin:
The stories were all the same. They should have went in.

Trish Wood:
But then. But the other part of it is obviously what happened to you and the the kind of persecution of the unvaccinated in this country, people who otherwise were exemplary employees. So I'll turn it to the panel to follow up. Yes. Thank you very much, Scott. I know you've written on this subject, too, and that's been very helpful. Maybe just two quick questions. Among the health care workers, though, is there any difference among the younger health care workers versus the old, older, more experienced ones like the younger, more contemporary health care workers? Think this is just kind of how it works and it's more of the older people that could compare it with something else. Or is there any difference between the younger and older generation health care worker?

Scarlet Martin:
I didn't see a lot. I would say half and half.

Trish Wood:
Okay.

Scarlet Martin:
Definitely wasn't just the senior. I think it made it easier being respected in the profession, being a veteran. It wasn't uncomfortable speaking out about it. So the younger ones would come to me in private and be very emotional. I mean, some of the struggles they went through, I mean, some of the young girls had struggled to get pregnancies through IVF treatment, and the last thing they wanted to do was jeopardize that pregnancy they hadn't told anybody about by taking this. And I will tell you, they were coerced into it. They they needed to do that to keep their jobs.

Trish Wood:
And sort of looking to the future or if if you could have if this could have been managed differently, let's say something like this happens again. What would be a couple of the main things that that could have been and should have been done differently based on the experience that you've had?

Scarlet Martin:
Well, you know, Preston, they wouldn't have had to do much different because directive six never the directive that came out, never once said everyone must be vaccinated. They just had to have a policy. They could have wrote their own policy saying we will have unvaccinated and vaccinated. The unvaccinated people need to just test three times a week. I mean, it had such a simple solution. And the most frustrating thing, the city of Toronto took the hard line to vaccinate or terminate and the neighboring municipalities. So we work. You always get the closest ambulance, right? So if you're on the border, that might be York, that might be Durham. Well, they both had different policies that they were allowing on vaccinated paramedics to come in to work in test. So we would be mixing with each other with all these different sets of rules.

Trish Wood:
And just a policy that allowed alternatives and recognized that there were alternatives that could work at the very beginning, might have stopped it.

Scarlet Martin:
It would have been easy. They would have saved thousands of health care workers. And that's the true jeopardy to patients is lack of care.

Trish Wood:
Yeah. Well, thank you for this.

David Ross:
Thank you, Scarlet, very much. Well, can you tell us what was the thinking among you and your your paramedic colleagues to empty ers and then what you all saw on the news?

Scarlet Martin:
The standard phrase when I would bring it up. Well, you know, and I would say, no, I don't know. Like they're saying that we're overrun, but there's a we're going to get a wave. There's going to be lots of COVID. There were just preparing and we all saw field tents go up and they never saw a patient. It didn't matter how silly things got. People were just committed to not. I feel like seeing what was right in front of them. Yeah, they had nurses being told that they were going to deploy and they were going to have COVID units and you know, they were going to line up all these patients and ventilators and they were. But like it never happened. We seen waves. I mean, the first wave was very dead. We seen other waves that there was more patients coming in. I'm not sure if we could attribute that truly to COVID or the fear wore off and people came into the hospital for other things. I'm not sure. But I will tell you, the first wave of the pandemic, everything was completely empty. And we go to all the hospitals like I can speak to every hospital in Toronto. We're not hospital based. We go, Yeah, it was shocking. I don't know. And I know to this day people are still afraid to speak up about it. I don't I don't understand why we can't just step out of the fear and be unpopular, but tell the truth. I mean, people deserve that.

David Ross:
Yeah, I think that the word for that is courage. So thank you very much. And you're very courageous. And thank you very much for your testimony.

Scarlet Martin:
Oh, thank you. Thanks for having me.

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