When Grant Davey’s mother fell on the back patio of her Maple Ridge home while watering her hanging baskets, she was seriously injured.
The 86-year-old was in a lot of pain and could hardly move. However, she managed to drag herself up the two steps to get inside her home, where she reached her phone and called Davey’s brother for help.
In turn, on that Tuesday, June 29 at about 5:39 p.m., Davey’s brother called 9-1-1 and was told an ambulance was on its way. Then he called Davey.
In a letter that Davey wrote to B.C. Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix, he described the unimaginable timeline of what happened next.
Her sons kept calling the 9-1-1 dispatch about once an hour to check on the ETA of an ambulance.
But, after five hours the situation was becoming desperate, Davey wrote.
“We called 9-1-1 again, and they said they hadn’t forgotten about us and someone would be there as soon as possible,” Davey recounted.
However, they told him it could be after midnight when the ambulance arrived.
So, Davey tried calling his mother’s doctor, but no one was available outside office hours.
Then he asked his neighbour, a retired family physician, for help.
The retired doctor drove across town to West Maple Ridge and examined her, as she lay on the ground, and sedated her.
“Like us, he thought an ambulance should be coming soon and they would be better equipped to move her safely,” wrote Davey.
But, the doctor said, don’t hesitate to call him again if the ambulance didn’t arrive.
By 6:30 the next morning, Davey decided to drive to the hospital to see if he could find help himself, but was told by staff there that they would still have to wait for the ambulance.
So, Davey called his neighbour again. At this point the retired doctor reexamined her and gave her more sedatives. Then, they secured her as best they could, got a blanket under her and lifted her into the doctor’s van.
They put her across the three rear seats and Davey’s brother rode with her to keep her from moving about.
Davey followed them to the hospital where she had X-rays taken and was diagnosed with a broken hip. She ended up having surgery. The ball at the top of her femur that fits in the socket of the pelvis was shattered and surgeons had to replace it with a steel ball, explained Davey.
About half an hour after his mother was admitted to the hospital, he called 9-1-1 for the final time.
“I got ambulance dispatch and immediately apologized for tying up the emergency line with a cancellation call. I then asked if the ambulance had come to the house since we had left, and she said ‘no’,” he said.
“This was almost 15 hours and counting and no ambulance would have yet arrived and my mother would have lain on the floor, imminently expecting the ambulance to arrive,” Davey noted.
“False hope is way worse than no hope. Because no hope, you’ll act,” the son said.
Troy Clifford, provincial president of the ambulance and paramedics union, described the situation as “tragic” and “unacceptable.”
“Nobody should have to wait 15 hours for treatment and transport to hospital, in an urban centre, in that manner. When I hear that, it just breaks my heart,” said Clifford.
Clifford said more ambulances and paramedics are needed. That’s something, he said, he has been sounding the alarm bells about for years.
There are three 24-hour ambulances that work out of the Maple Ridge station that service both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and they are staffed with two paramedics in each ambulance. These ambulances are supported by an advanced care paramedic unit and a primary care single response unit that come from outside the community.
However, Clifford said, on a regular basis, there are times when only one of the three ambulances are staffed – although he couldn’t speak to what led to the delay for Davey’s mother.
“We know that the heat and the call volume through that window of time were the highest we’ve ever seen in the ambulance service,” he said, adding that paramedics and dispatchers were doing their best.
What people need, he said, are highly trained paramedics and more ambulances to treat and transport patients to hospital in a timely fashion.
The past couple of months, Clifford noted, have exposed the “incredible” call volumes paramedics have to deal with and how vulnerable and short-staffed they are. He puts the blame on the B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS).
“They have a duty under the Emergency Health Act to provide ambulance service to the province and, as we’ve identified here, there’s some shortfalls,” he said.
Davey’s mother is still recovering in hospital, but she is expected home in the coming days.
Reflecting back on the ordeal, Davey believes something needs to change – now.
“My mother raised three of us on her own, always worked, and still hasn’t used any government services,” he said.
Now he is wondering if he will receive a $50 bill from BCEHS, the standard fee for requesting an ambulance, but refusing transportation.
• BCEHS was unable to respond before publication. Their comments will be included once received.
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