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Former employee files $3.7M lawsuit against Alberta Health Services

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A former registered nurse with Alberta Health Services (AHS) has filed a $3.7-million lawsuit alleging she was wrongfully dismissed over her views regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a 44-page statement of claim filed with the Court of King’s Bench in Calgary, Debra Carritt had worked in health care since 1993 as an emergency medical technician, paramedic and since 2012, with AHS as a registered nurse rising to the role unit manager.

"Mrs. Carritt has a passion for health care and enjoyed her place of work," the claim reads. "She endeavoured to be a valuable, ethical, honest, dedicated and contributing member of the AHS team."

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the claim says Carritt "began to identify concerns she had with AHS' management of the pandemic."

Those concerns, according to the claim, cited "open discrimination, judgment and hostility" toward unvaccinated patients and staff, "open harassment and discrimination" of the same group and suggestions AHS staff were being "coerced" into being vaccinated.

"The AHS supporting fear mongering by media agencies and the government by recording and sharing daily virus infection statistics despite similar statistics not being kept and shared for any previous infectious disease outbreaks," the claim reads.

"AHS failing to acknowledge or comprehend the adverse health effects members of the public would experience though continued 'fight or flight' reactions experienced as a result of those individuals living with a continued heightened sense of fear through conditions AHS created," it continues.

Carritt wrote a letter on Sept. 6, 2021, to AHS' then-CEO Dr. Verna Yiu, former premier Jason Kenney, former health minister Tyler Shandro and all members of the Alberta legislature, outlining some of her concerns.

The lawsuit said she never received a response to that letter so we went to her supervisor, management and human resources. The suit alleges her concerns were dismissed. And so, she wrote another letter, on Sept. 12, 2021, where she outlined her concern about a task force that had the objective to determine why AHS employees were reluctant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

When she says she received no response and "felt that she has exhausted all of the formal grievance and reporting mechanisms" available to her, Carritt conducted an interview with a right-wing online media organization about her experiences.

The interview aired on Sept. 22, 2021, and, on Dec. 7, 2021, Carritt was told she was terminated for her participation.

The claim states that while some policies, including AHS' social media and e-professionalism guidelines, bar employees from speaking about confidential information and binds them to "accurately reflect AHS' mission, goals and values," Carritt sustained that her opinions were her own and did not reflect those of AHS.

"Mrs. Carritt expressly denies that her representations and conduct during the interview violated the (social media and e-professionalism guidelines) as alleged or at all," the claim reads.

"In the alternative, Mrs. Carritt states, and the fact is, that her representations and conduct during the interview met and exemplified the standards in those guidelines by, among other things, complying with her 'professional and ethical obligations to protect the public and maintain conduct that reflects trustworthiness.'"

Carritt is seeking $420,580.92 in lost pay and $250,000 in punitive and/or aggravated damages related to the alleged wrongful dismissal. She’s also seeking another $3 million in punitive and/or aggravated damages for alleged negligence.

CTV News has reached out to AHS for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed March 17. The agency said it would not provide a comment.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

A disciplinary note from the College & Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta that was sent to Carritt on Jan. 4, 2022, states she "failed to demonstrate adequate judgement and failed to demonstrate a professional presence" during the aforementioned interview.

"(She) made statement regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination and related issues that did not align with one or more employer policies and that were potentially misleading, after identifying herself as a registered nurse and that she worked as a unit manager working for a major health authority."

It says Carritt agreed to “complete a reflective essay and pay a fine."

Carritt and her lawyer declined to be interviewed or provide a statement related to the lawsuit.

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