Wolfe Island residents voice anger over extended ambulance wait times
Tensions boiled over at a Frontenac Islands council meeting on Wolfe Island on Monday. More than 60 residents showed up to voice their concerns about ambulance wait times on the island. Several spoke over the mayor and council to ensure their voices were heard.
The anger has reached a boiling point for some, resulting in at least three incidents where paramedics were verbally abused while responding to a call.
Residents tell Global News there can sometimes be a major delay with wait times — pushing Wolfe Islanders to their limits.
“My concern is when there is only one paramedic on duty, then what happens?” says Joanne Bornais, a Wolfe Island resident.
Gale Chevalier with the Frontenac Paramedic Service says they recognize there can sometimes be an issue with coverage, but at no point does it permit violence toward their staff.
“No matter what the situation they’re concerned about, doesn’t justify violence against paramedics.”
Bornais, among several others, says sometimes they are waiting upwards of two hours for an ambulance because of the unique situation.
“There’s a concern if there is not somebody to drive the ambulance, then they have to wait for someone to come from Kingston. So that’s a long wait.”
The island with a population of 1,400 is the largest of the Thousand Islands and only accessible by ferry from the City of Kingston, posing a complex process in how patients are cared for.
Frontenac Islands council has signed a six-month agreement, that will allow Frontenac County Firefighters to drive ambulances on the island. This will be used when there is a short staffing issue. However, Bornais is still worried about how that would work.
“I’m not sure that the fire department goes to every 911 call,” she says. “If the patients’ condition changes, they could be in trouble.”
Although council recommends against it, some people living on the island have taken drastic measures like Judy Greenwood Speers. She says the delay in getting medical service has reached such a stressful level, she has taken matters into her own hands.
“I deal with cardiac issues at our house. I have yet to call the ambulance because quite frankly, it’s quicker for me to get my loved one to the hospital.”
The task of running the paramedic service on Wolfe Island is complicated. Officials say they have a two-paramedic level of care on the island, 24-hours a day, but complications can arise if one member is on a call on the mainland. Chevalier says it is a unique scenario.
“There have been occasions where we only had one paramedic working at the time, so that paramedic responded to the call, but had to wait for an ambulance to come over in order to do the transport.”
The worry for residents like Bornais is what could happen if the wait is too long.
“We are an island with a smaller amount of people, but I think it’s important. You can’t put a cost on someone’s life.”
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.