A Vancouver man is angry and frustrated after his elderly mother suffered a fall at home, and then endured further humiliation due to what he says was a lengthy and unacceptable wait for an ambulance.
Ersilio Iacuitto said he received a frantic call from his 85-year-old mother, Tarsilla Iacuitto, who lives two doors down from him, about half an hour after he’d last checked on her Friday afternoon.
“She goes, ‘Run, because I have fallen,'” Ersilio recalled.
“I ran to the house and she was laying flat in front of the kitchen sink.”
Tarsilla, a diabetic with kidney problems who uses a walker, was hurt and in need of help.
Ersilio said he phoned 911 around 450 p.m., and was told by dispatchers to call back in 20 minutes if an ambulance hadn’t come.
“The poor lady was saying, ‘I’m in pain, I’m in pain, I’m in pain,’ and she had to go to the washroom,” he said.
Firefighters arrived in less than 20 minutes, Ersilio said , and checked his mother’s vital signs — but the ambulance was delayed.
“Ten minutes passed, 20 minutes passed, the (fire) chief called again,” he said.
The first responders cared for Tarsilla as they waited, but according to her son, didn’t want to risk moving her and exacerbating any injuries.
An ambulance finally arrived about three hours later, Ersilio said, who believes the original paramedic team was diverted to a more dire emergency.
“Seniors paid their dues and nowadays, the seniors are getting a kick in the butt,” he said.
During the excruciating delay, his mother was eventually forced to soil herself on the kitchen floor.
“That’s very dehumanizing,” her son said.
“I mean, we’re taxpayers we need services ASAP.”
“Nobody should be waiting that long for an ambulance in their time of need,” Ambulance Paramedics of BC president Troy Clifford said.
Iacuitto had some stern words for Health Minister Adrian Dix.
“Spend more money, don’t put in your pocket. Spend it where it has to go,” he told Global News.
“Because these people have paid their dues, now it’s time that they need a hand and help.”
Dix has been very supportive in trying to resolve the delays issue, according to Clifford, who said the problem is not really about funding and resources — but ambulances that need to be staffed.
Last weekend, Clifford said reports from his union suggested that “between 30 and 50 per cent of ambulances were parked in the Lower Mainland.”
“That’s what causing a big part of our delays is the out-of-service ambulances,” Clifford said.
Global News reached out to BC Emergency Health Services but did not receive a response.
In a statement, the health ministry said it takes the concerns of people who deal with health services very seriously, and is working to address the challenge.
B.C. has hired 263 paramedics across the province so far this year, and an additional 400 positions will be posted in July.
Since 2017, the ministry said ambulance response times across B.C. have generally improved or remained consistent, despite significant increases in call volumes.
A new staffing model is also being rolled out, “aimed at improving emergency response coverage and creating a more stable paramedic workforce,” read the statement.
Iacuitto said his mother is recovering and he doesn’t blame those on the front lines.
“They’re doing their job the best that they can with their hands tied,” he said.
“But their managers — it’s time that they start doing their job.”