Sharon Chartier, a 63-year old retired registered nurse, had to wait over an hour for EMS to arrive after she called for what she thought was a heart attack.
She then had to wait even longer in the ambulance before she could be admitted to the hospital.
Last weekend, Sharon Chartier was at her home when she suddenly felt unwell. Her blood pressure was up and her pulse was going at 120 bpm. Being a retired registered nurse, she knew she could be having a heart attack any moment, so she called 911.
The ambulance service had to tell her that no ambulance was available at the time, leaving Chartier shocked and alone. It took the ambulance an hour to arrive.
“I laid on the floor, because I wanted to make sure I was already there in case I did have a heart attack. While laying there, I thought I could be dying, so I phoned my sons to say my goodbyes. I didn’t know if I would see them again,” Chartier said.
When EMS finally arrived, Chartier says she was given good care and brought to City Hospital. There she had to wait another hour to be admitted to the hospital. According to documents provided by Chartier, it took three hours from the time she made the call to her being admitted to the hospital.
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When asked, the EMS personnel told Chartier that the hospitals were being overwhelmed. They added that it happens all the time, saying they had started their shift early just so they could make it to her sooner.
Chartier worked herself for 30 years in acute care as a registered nurse. She said she had never experienced anything like that.
“I am traumatized by the whole experience. I am scared to call 911. I had heard that these things happen in rural areas, but you don’t expect these things when you live in a big centre like Saskatoon,” she said.
“I recommend everyone to have a plan B when they call 911, because they just might not have the ambulances to come get you.”
Chartier’s story was shared during the Saskatchewan legislative assembly of March 15. NDP Deputy Leader Vicki Mowat asked Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman for a reply to the situation.
“This is not acceptable. This is not something that anybody in Saskatchewan should expect. We are working with health-care workers to provide better service. We are continuing to try and find efficiencies,” Minister Merriman said.
“There are peak times and low times within our ambulance services, but overall, we have been able to reduce that number by 40 per cent, which is significant.”
Chartier was satisfied with the minister’s response and was relieved that things seem to be improving. However, as she experienced herself, the situation might be more critical than assumed.
“The alarm bells should be going off; things are at a dangerous point. It turned out my heart was fine, but I am so worried for other people who are actually having a heart attack and their ambulance shows up an hour later. Nobody can survive that.”