What caused a delay in a Montreal 911 call during a medical emergency?
Earlier this week, a West Island mother told Global News she waited on hold for 15 minutes while her son was having a seizure.
Sabrina Stoute has been struggling to understand where that delay came from.
Her son, 19-year-old Cameron Boucher, remains in hospital recovering from the series of seizures that began at a Jean Coutu pharmacy on Sources Boulevard.
Stoute told Global News she asked the pharmacist to call 911 and the call was put on hold.
Stoute and the pharmacist both told Global News the wait was 10 or 15 minutes long.
“My son needed help and we weren’t able to relay the information to anyone,” she said on Tuesday.
So what happened?
Montreal police say 911 operators received the call at 9:14 p.m.
At that point, the call was put on hold for two minutes and 40 seconds.
Urgences-Santé says it received the call at 9:19 p.m. — five minutes later.
All the while, Boucher was having more seizures on the floor of the Jean Coutu.
“The call came in at 9:19, shortly after, it was dispatched to first responders and ambulance,” said Urgences-Santé Operations chief Benoit Garneau.
But what happened before 9:14 p.m.?
Police say before the call made it to them, it passed through a third-party service that deals with 911 calls in Chaudière-Appalaches, just outside of Quebec City.
Alain de Blois, who runs Montreal-based VoIP (voice over internet protocol) company Ubity, said 911 relay services are necessary for companies that make their calls over the internet instead of the old-fashioned way.
“You need to get one of those providers, absolutely,” he told Global News. “You need to work with one of these guys. There’s no way out.”
Could a problem with the phone system have sent the 911 call to the wrong place and caused the delay?
“It is possible, especially if the provider has not put in place a system where every call is being associated with a particular address,” de Blois said.
Quebec Public Security Ministry is investigating according to spokesman Olivier Cantin.
“In this case, the 911 call was not transferred to a 911 service that serves the territory where the call was made, but to another 911 center that relayed the call,” he said in an email.
Cantin added that VoIP is commonly used by businesses instead of traditional phones.
“Anxious to ensure the security of the Quebec population, the Public Security Ministry plans to examine this problem in depth, and speak to federal authorities,” he said, pointing out telecommunications are administered by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Cantin recognized VoIP technology “can cause an additional delay if the 911 call is not directed to the 911 emergency center that serves the territory where the event is happening.”
The law demands that everyone gets prompt 911 service. Even the five-minute delay between 9:14 and 9:19 broke the rules.
“Ninety per cent of calls have to be answered in less than 10 seconds. The overall processing time has to be less than 60 seconds,” said medical malpractice lawyer Patrick Martin-Menard.
Boucher will recover. His mother remains convinced that she waited 15 minutes.
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