April 8, 2013 9:51 pm
Updated: April 8, 2013 10:46 pm

Lack of air ambulance may be to blame for young woman’s death: family


It’s something people living in B.C.’s major cities take for granted: you’re in medical trouble, you call an ambulance and it takes you to the hospital.  But people in more remote areas say they’re living in a relative third world, where the lack of air ambulance service can turn a non- life- threatening injury into a fatality.

And a B.C. family wants to see that change.

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Their story involves a young woman who suffered relatively minor injuries in a car accident north of Prince George but did not survive her ordeal. She waited for hours for paramedics to reach her, and eventually bled to death.

It happened four years ago, but a recent report from the auditor general said not much has changed in the B.C. north where a lack of resources can turn a survivable trauma into a tragedy.

Four years ago, 24 year- old Jackie Inyallie died, her foster parents believe, unnecessarily.

The vehicle she was in crashed near BearLake between MacKenzie and Prince George.

Two paramedics in training were dispatched from MacKenzie, but due to slushy roads, a return trip that should’ve taken about 90 minutes took almost five hours.

Her injuries were not thought to be life-threatening at the time, but the delay may have caused her to bleed to death.

One of the big issues — is the fact there isn’t a dedicated air ambulance helicopter service in Prince George, which has given birth to the H.E.R.O.S. (Health Emergency Rescue Operations Society) campaign.

So if B.C. air ambulance won’t provide the service, locals are campaigning to create their own non-profit society.

“There is a fatality rate of 12 per cent if you are hurt in the Lower Mainland, and it exceeds 75 per cent up here, in the same accidents,” says Brent Marshall with H.E.R.O.S. “So some people are dying needlessly up here. We want the same level of service that they have in the provinces beside us, as they have in the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan, and we need it, I think, more than anyone.”

“I think that says something when community is coming together and saying you know what we want to find ways to improve service and get better service…that they are taking on the task themselves,” says NDP health critic Mike Farnworth. “I think the government has got to do its work with the community to make sure it has the best service possible. That may, for example, be looking at getting additional helicopters.”

Last month B.C.’s auditor general released a report critical of B.C.’s air ambulance service, setting how it lacked accountability and consistently failed to review its own performance.  It never even reviewed if its equipment was located in the best regions.

Now with B.C.’s north poised for an economic boom in the oil and gas sectors, the question arises — what would we do if there was a catastrophic explosion along a pipeline or liquid natural gas plant?

Right now the answer — is not much, which is why Jackie’s parents believe a better ambulance service is worth fighting for.

SOUNDOFF: If you have any stories about the ambulance service in northern or rural areas, you can e-mail them to our attention at tips@globaltvbc.com.





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