Amid a series of reported incidents of slow ambulance service in British Columbia, Global News learned last week of even greater – and potentially dangerous – delays.
E-COMM, the 911 call center, says its goal is to get operators to answer the phone in five seconds less.
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Global News learned that on May 29, this process takes up to three minutes.
Part of the reason is that 911 operators do not dispatch ambulances themselves, but rather must call the dispatch of paramedics.
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Several sources tell Global News that last Saturday it sometimes took more than 10 minutes for the dispatcher to respond to the call from the E-COMM operator.
During this time, the 911 call taker is not allowed to hang up, which means they cannot go to the next emergency call.
Another recent example of the consequences of these delays occurred in Vancouver’s West End, where an elderly person in distress had to wait hours to be transported.
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It happened on May 28, when the woman’s friend applied for a welfare check after they had not heard from her for some time.
Police and firefighters intervened. When they entered the woman’s apartment, they discovered that she had been on the couch in her own garbage for several days.
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Teams called an ambulance, but when one did not arrive after five hours, a Safe Ride shuttle – intended to transport people with drug and alcohol problems – was used to take her to the airport. hospital.
A Surrey woman waited two hours for an ambulance that never arrived on Tuesday after a vehicle collision severe enough for firefighters to manually hold her head for fear of a spinal injury.
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The woman’s family eventually transported her themselves in a private vehicle.
“When we are stuck on an incident awaiting paramedic response, we are not available for fire emergencies, other major medical incidents,” said Lee Lax of IAFF Local 18, the union representing the Vancouver Fire Department.
“They are lacking it now and it needs to improve immediately.”
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On Thursday, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said the BC Ambulance Service had recently dealt with near-record call levels, but acknowledged he was concerned about the recent incidents.
Overall wait times for service have decreased in recent years, he added.
“I absolutely agree that if you wait too long for an ambulance, the fact that it breaks down overall is not a big concern for you,” he said.
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“I know the BC emergency health services are looking at it as well,” he said.
British Columbia Liberal health critic Renee Merrifield called recent cases “unacceptable” and urged swift action to prevent similar incidents.
“The longer people wait during these critical first hours, the worse the results,” she said, calling for more paramedics and more cross-training for first responders such as firefighters to provide care. emergency.
“I think we have to approach this from all angles and do it very quickly. “
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