A Surrey family is speaking out after finding themselves on the receiving end of the latest example of troubling delays in ambulance service.
Betty Jean Gilley told Global News she made four separate calls to 911, after her 70-year-old sister Allison Dorchester slipped and suffered a spiral fracture in her leg on Wednesday.
“She was split-legged and in absolute agony,” she told Global News. They were very polite, always got the same message, it’s on the way.”
The family called friends for help, and ended up flagging down an RCMP officer who waited with them, but was unable to help speed up the ambulance call.
The family said by the time paramedics arrived, Dorchester had been laying on the ground in pain for nearly four hours.
“It isn’t good if we have to wait this long for an ambulance and have no way of finding where we are in the lineup or anything, it’s pretty poor,” friend Kate Bowen said.
BC Emergency Health Services, which operates the ambulance service, said paramedics at the time were busy dealing with other priority emergencies in the area.
Eventually, after the family called again and said Dorchester’s pain had worsened, an ambulance arrived.
“BCEHS was alerted that the patient’s condition had changed and the call priority was upgraded. Paramedics arrived within 16 minutes,” BCEHS said in a statement.
Troy Clifford, union president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, said the case is just the latest example of a service that is stretched beyond its limits.
“We need help right now. We need immediate measures to bolster the ambulance service so that we can get through and get the long-term solutions that we’re doing at the bargaining table,” he said.
The paramedics’ union is currently in contract negotiations with the province, with recruitment and retention its top-line items.
Earlier this year BC Emergency Health Services, which operates the BC Ambulance Service, said it was undertaking the “biggest hiring push in its history,” seeking candidates from across Canada, and late last month, the province said it had added “more than 250 net new paramedic positions throughout B.C.”
Gilley told Global News the paramedics that eventually arrived were “amazing,” but that the incident left her concerned about the state of the system.
“I realize it’s not their fault. The personnel have been wonderful, there’s just probably not enough of them,” she said.
Dorchester was transported to Peace Arch Hospital where she is undergoing surgery on her leg.
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