How would you feel calling 911 for an emergency only to be put on hold because the dispatcher has no ambulances available?
That was the case in Surrey Tuesday afternoon, and the union representing B.C. paramedics says it’s happening too often these days.
Union Vice President Dave Deines says between 2 and 2:15 Tuesday afternoon several calls were delayed because dispatchers couldn’t get through to the crews.
“We know that there were no ambulances available because emergency calls were holding for more than 5 minutes. Two emergency calls and multiple non-emergency calls were delayed. We know those emergency calls were delayed for at least 5 minutes each and those routine or code 2 calls were delayed significantly as well.”
Deines says dispatch times can affect response times and every minute counts.
He says whether the call is Code 2 (routine) or Code 3 (emergency/lights and sirens), it’s an emergency for the patient or person calling.
The union has been constantly calling on the government to put more ambulances on the road, but Neil Lilley with BC Ambulance Service disputes the number of calls between 2:00 PM and 2:15 PM Tuesday.
He says there were two emergency calls.
“The median response times for those two calls was actually 15 minutes.”
That’s over the emergency response average, which is 12-and-a-half minutes.
But the other routine calls took place within the hour between 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM — those took almost 26 minutes, while the average is closer to 25 minutes.
He says patients shouldn’t worry about how long it takes to dispatch a call – it’s the response times that matter.
Lilley says the government is currently looking to get more ambulances on the road.