A 64-year-old cyclist who crashed and was suffering from chest pains laid in the middle of a road in Pitt Meadows for more than an hour on Sunday while waiting for an ambulance.
Members of his club who were riding with him are concerned about the response time, given the extent of their friend’s injuries.
Remi Coupal, an Anmore man with a business in Port Coquitlam, was riding alongside his friend, Rick Stefani, of Port Moody, along Ford Road Detour.
Both are members of the Tri-Cities Bike Club.
They had been riding at 30 to 35 km/h when Stefani suddenly crashed on a flat, straight stretch of road. His front tire turned sideways and he pitched over the handlebars onto the pavement.
Stefani had abrasions on his face, knees and shoulder, and complained about his heart.
“Once he catches his breath, his first comment was, ‘My heart,’” said Coupal.
“He was in excruciating pain,” and his breathing was laboured.
Coupal was worried that Stefani had suffered a heart attack.
Stefani also complained of numbness in his right arm.
“We were concerned, given what he was telling us,” Coupal said.
Bill Lealess, a retired firefighter and a member of the club, held the injured man’s head straight and immobile while they waited for help.
Members of the group called three times for an ambulance, first at 9:48 a.m.
Paramedics arrived at 10:49 a.m.
“He was laying on the road for an hour,” said Coupal.
At the suggestion of Lealess, Coupal asked the 911 dispatch to send firefighters, but was told it was an ambulance call.
“I felt helpless.”
When paramedics arrived and picked Stefani up off the pavement, the road was wet with his sweat, Coupal remembers.
It turned out that Stefani did not have a heart attack, and his pain was caused by multiple injuries he sustained in the crash: four broken ribs, a broken scapula and a collapsed lung.
“I was a little disturbed by such a long wait,” said Coupal.
B.C. Emergency Health Services said the initial call came in at 9:49 a.m., was categorized as Code 2, meaning it was not considered life-threatening.
“We understand this incident was upsetting for this patient, the family and bystanders involved,” said B.C. Emergency Health Services executive vice-president Linda Lupini.
However, she added, due to the location of the event, there were no first responder partners available to assist paramedics in providing pre-hospital care.
“Sunday morning was very busy in the Tri-Cities, with two other patients requiring more immediate care,” she said. “BCEHS received another call from the scene of this incident at 10:36 a.m. and the patient was re-assessed and the call was re-prioritized. Advanced care paramedics arrived on scene at 10:49 a.m., 13 minutes after the call was re-prioritized. When paramedics arrived at the scene of the cycling incident, they assessed the patient was indeed in stable condition, and was then transported to hospital.”
Premier Christy Clark announced the addition of two ambulances in the Lower Mainland, one in Maple Ridge and one in the Tri-Cities, last week.
Lupini said it can take several months to hire and place paramedics needed to staff new ambulances on a 24/7 basis, and BCEHS is working to ensure the new ambulances are on the road as soon as possible.