Petition for paramedics up to 7,500 signatures

Ambulance services says that response time is decreasing

Matt Kelso has collected about 1,000 signatures every weekend for his petition to improve ambulance service in Maple Ridge.

He sets up the petition outside a grocery store and said about two out of every three people that volunteers approach sign it.

The petition is now up to 7,514 names, and he expects to hit or exceed his goal of 10,000 by the end of the month.

Kelso is also collecting anecdotes about people who have had long waits for ambulances.

One who shared his story was Phil Van De Keere, whose 81-year-old mother waited about 90 minutes on the kitchen floor after she fell and broke her hip.

B.C. Ambulance Service, however, said the wait was about 50 minutes.

Kelso hears more such stories, and said it makes him feel good about the petition.

“I feel like this is saving lives, and there could be nothing more rewarding than that.”

But according to data from B.C. Emergency Health Services, those stories about long response times are outliers.

Fatima Siddiqui of BCEHS said response times for Code 3 emergency calls in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are decreasing.

In the 2014-2015 operational year, there were 6,775 calls, and the average response time for a Code 3 was 11:56.

The average response time for a Code 2 was 21:46.

Two years previous, there were 6,462 calls, and the average hot response time was 12:02, and the cold response time was 22:09.

So, she said, the number of calls is increasing, but the response times are, on average, going down.

Asked how often ambulances from other communities are dispatched into Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, Siddiqui said those figures would not be easily accessible.

However, the BCEHS is nearing the end of a demand and deployment review, which will consider such questions, she said.

More information about the review is expected as early as this week.

Siddiqui said Kelso’s petition is a voice from the community that will be heard.

“B.C. Emergency Health Services takes all patient care feedback very seriously,” she said. “We value input from the municipalities we serve on how to enhance patient care.”

But she said any future resourcing plans for paramedics will be a direct result of the review.

“The number of ambulances and staffed paramedics at ambulance stations are determined by a number of factors, including call volume, geography, remoteness, proximity to other ambulance stations and health authority designated facilities in the areas,” she said.

Kelso has also worked to highlight what he calls a discrepancy in the deployment of paramedics. Delta, with a population of 100,000, has three ambulances that work 24 hours, and another two that work daytimes.

Maple Ridge, population 94,000, has just two 24-hour ambulances – a far lower service level.

Kelso will be set up at the Save-On Foods at Valley Fair Mall this Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.