If you call for an ambulance in the Port Coquitlam area, you could be waiting for hours.
That according to Fire Chief Nick Delmonico who says it’s not unusual for patients considered “low-priority” to wait two hours for an ambulance in the city.
“Port Coquitlam has the longest wait times of any municipality on the Lower Mainland that was shown in the BC Ambulance report itself and while they’ve improved slightly with some of the changes made by the BCHS in the last three or four months we still have extremely long waits for ambulances.”
Delmonico says high priority calls are also waiting up to 20 minutes for an ambulance to respond.
“A lot of the calls unfortunately that involve long waits also involve vulnerable areas of the population so seniors or kids, you know, it’s a huge concern for us because they’re in pain as well.”
He says the trickle down effect is that fire crews have to wait with patients until an ambulance arrives, tying up resources.
On Wednesday in South Surrey, two women hurt in a car crash waited nearly four hours for an ambulance.
Something needs to change
The union representing paramedics says Metro Vancouver is short 22 ambulances and if something doesn’t change, people will die.
“We’re at the point where people are going to be dying,” said Bronwyn Barter, provincial president of the Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C.
She says a time’s coming when people will die waiting for an ambulance.
“Our paramedics and emergency dispatchers are very stressed and it’s at the point that it’s a public and patient safety issue.”
Barter also says two paramedics were recently fired when they refused to work overtime after putting in 13 hours without a break.
Emergency Health Services
The head of Emergency Health Services says 35 per cent of all calls to BC Ambulance are not an emergency and don’t need to be taken to hospital.
Executive vice-president of BC Emergency Health Services Linda Lupini says a secondary, clinical group is needed to talk with people about whether they need an ambulance or not when a 911 call is placed.
Lupini says the current service needs some changes.
“There’s a whole category of calls that for us are not really our core mandate but of course we do it, we respond, we transport to hospital and all of this is part of how we have to change the service.”
Lupini also says more funding is welcome but she says the service needs to be “updated.”