A New Westminster, B.C., man seeks answers after his sister suffered a stroke, waited more than an hour for an ambulance, and is now partially paralyzed.
Former Lower Mainland City Councilor Laurie Williams showed signs of a stroke while at home with friends just after 8 p.m. on August 6. One of his guests – a retired doctor – dialed 911 “within 90 seconds”, his brother said, but an ambulance did not arrive for another hour and nine minutes.
“It took him more than two hours to get to the Royal Columbian[hospital]and it’s three blocks from his home,” Alan Greenwood told Granthshala News. “Why did it take so long for this to happen?
“A big question I have is, what is a higher priority than stroke?”
In an emailed statement, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) confirmed it received a call at 8:09 p.m. that day in the 400-block of Kelly Street, where Williams lives. The call was initially coded as ‘Orange’ – a light and siren response – but was upgraded to red based on new information at 9:14 p.m.
Paramedics arrived at 9:18 pm
BCEHS wrote, “We are reviewing our response to this call, however, we know that at the time, many of our paramedics were responding to other very urgent medical emergencies in the area and the first ambulance that became available, He was sent.”
It apologized to the patient and family for the delay.
Williams is now paralyzed on the left side of his body, his brother said, and the long-term prognosis is unknown. While it’s not clear whether the partial paralysis is related to the delay in getting to the hospital, Greenwood said he couldn’t help but wonder.
“You don’t need to be a doctor to know that a delay of an hour or more before brain surgery will complicate things, make things worse,” he said. “It just seems unforgivable.
“I don’t know who’s to blame. I know it’s not the people in the ambulance service – I’m sure they’re just trying to do their job – but who are the people above that?”
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Chief Ambulance Officer Leanne Heppel said the organization’s “heart is for the family,” and that BCEHS would like to “sit down with the family and review the matter with them.”
“During that (patient’s) call period, we got an update that the situation had changed at that time, we re-coded based on the new information we got, and we had an ambulance again within four minutes of the incident.” Key coding,” BCEHS Executive Vice President said in an interview.
He said the service provider makes call-backs on a regular basis to check the patient’s status, and adjusts the dispatch code accordingly, based on an international coding system.
Greenwood is not the first family in the province to complain of ambulance delays.
Troy Clifford, president of B.C.’s Ambulance Paramedics, has previously sounded alarm bells over a “provincial staffing crisis” in the region, which has left many communities without adequate ambulance coverage for long periods.
Heppel said recent “major investments” have targeted that shortfall and the organization is hiring new full-time employees, adding more ambulances on the road, and improving both air ambulance services and dispatch centers. .
“Like all health care, we’ve gone through some great stress in the past,” she said.
“Obviously the COVID crisis that has been going on for the past few years, the overdose crisis has reached an all-time high… Also, we are dealing with several natural calamities as well.”
Meanwhile, Williams is still recovering. With an extensive record of volunteer and community service, the 16-year-old former councilor was named New Westminster’s Citizen of the Year in 2019.
He is affiliated with the Saperton Pensioners Association, the New Westminster Symphony Orchestra, the Royal City Humane Society, the Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary, the Royal City Rotary and the Lookout Housing and Health Society. She also created the Canadian Harambee Education Society in East Africa, and has held several teaching positions.
She once posed naked in a calendar to raise funds for a women’s shelter and in 2009 attended a wedding for dogs as the provincial marriage commissioner.
Greenwood said her sister, doing her “best effort” to keep spirits high and progress through physiotherapy, is “kind of depressed”.
“He has done a lot for this community, he is very active – he is still very active,” he said. “We’ve been paying taxes all these years and when you need that service, it’s not there.”
He said cases like Williams, which involve delays in ambulances, are likely to happen again until “something is decided,” and there should be accountability from above.
, With files from Granthshala News Katherine Urquhart