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Vernon senior waits 2 hours for ambulance on busy day for paramedics

BCEHS says five ambulances were staffed in Vernon that day, but all were diverted to life-threatening calls
A Vernon senior waited two hours for an ambulance to arrive after she suffered a fall, despite Vernon’s ambulance station being fully staffed on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (Morning Star file photo)

A Vernon senior waited two hours for the arrival of an ambulance after suffering a fall, on what BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) says was a busy day for emergency calls in the city.

Carole Fawcett’s 98-year-old mother suffered a fall on Tuesday, Jan. 3, and had to wait an extended period for an ambulance to pick her up.

“Fire came first,” Fawcett said. “Then she was taken to hospital around 7:30 and I could not get through to a nurse until (Wednesday) morning.”

In an email, BCEHS confirmed paramedics responded to a medical event in the 3000 block of Gateby Place in Vernon on Tuesday. The call came in at 4:57 p.m. and an ambulance arrived on scene roughly two hours later, at 6:56 p.m., after which paramedics cared for the woman and transported her to hospital.

BCEHS says the call was initially coded as yellow, which is a non-lights and sirens response.

The long wait time was not for a lack of paramedics, as BCEHS says the ambulance station in Vernon was fully staffed at the time of the call. There were five ambulances scheduled for the day shift that day and all were staffed.

However, BCEHS says paramedics were busy with more serious calls around the time of the woman’s fall.

“Multiple ambulances were dispatched but were diverted to potentially life-threatening calls,” a BCEHS spokesperson said.

“We know it’s stressful when someone who needs an ambulance is waiting for one and we apologize for any delay. We encourage patient families to connect with the Patient Care Quality Office if they have any concerns or questions.”

BCEHS says ambulance response times can vary, as they are based on “the acuity of the patient.” The ambulance service said calls are prioritized based on the information received from the caller, as well as a system known as the Medical Priority Dispatch System, which is used by over 3,000 emergency medical service organizations internationally. In this system, patients with life-threatening symptoms including cardiac arrest, chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding or unconsciousness generally receive a lights and sirens ambulance response.

BCEHS did not provide specifics on the nature of the other calls on Jan. 3, beyond saying they were potentially life-threatening.

“As part of daily operations, we closely monitor staffing levels across B.C. and take actions to fill shifts as quickly as possible when they are vacant,” the BCEHS spokesperson said. “As part of ongoing recruitment efforts, BCEHS maintains a national recruitment campaign to bring qualified paramedics and dispatch staff to BC to help fill remaining vacancies and to build capacity for the future.”

READ MORE: B.C. man dies within sight of ambulance station with no paramedics available

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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