B.C.’s air ambulance system consists of four helicopters, not enough to cover all of the province. (Colleen Flanagan/Black Press)

Personal stories offer insight into why change is needed

One woman shared her family’s experience after her mother became ill in 2016.

Castlegar News has been approached by people who wanted to share their personal stories related to ambulance services — here are two of these accounts.

One woman shared her family’s experience after her mother became ill in 2016. The patient ended up in the hospital and needed surgery for a blockage in her stomach. The surgery was performed, but the next morning the patient was in critical condition and moved to ICU.

“She was not there long before they contacted Vancouver and called BC Ambulance Service for a transfer,” added the patient’s daughter.

She reports that the call for an urgent transport was made before noon and the critical care team arrived shortly after 2 p.m. It was after 4 p.m. when the patient was flown out of Trail and arrived at Vancouver General Hospital just after 6 p.m.

“My mother was rushed into surgery shortly after she arrived but sadly passed away two days later,” said the patient’s daughter. “My mother’s hepatic artery proper had been damaged in the first surgery and her organs were starved of blood flow.”

“Maybe if it didn’t take six hours to transport her to Vancouver she might have been saved.”

She questions the purpose of having a helicopter pad at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital if it is seldom used — last year there were five helicopter transports in Trail.

“Why did we donate and raise $800,000 for a helicopter pad if we don’t use it?” is one of many questions she has about why it took six hours to transport a critical high-priority patient.

The nearest helicopter operated by BCEHS is stationed in Kamloops.

BCEHS has stated that helicopters are sometimes limited in flying capabilities based on the weather — it is unclear whether that was a factor in this situation.

Asthma attack

Another woman shared her story about what happened when she called for an ambulance when her husband was experiencing a “critical life-threatening asthma attack.”

“The crew did an amazing job in relation to their limited training and limited scope of practice,” she said. “But my husband had minimum air entry and needed a medicated nebulizer immediately that they weren’t able to administer.”

She reports that the crew was proactive and contacted another BCEHS crew with higher levels of training, but the ambulance had to drive 30 minutes before meeting up with the second ambulance and before he was given medicated treatment.

This was then followed by another 30 minutes of driving to get to an emergency room because the emergency room at the hospital nearest where they live is not open during evenings and weekends.

“When you can’t get air into your lungs that is a long time to wait,” added the patient’s wife.

“If Interior Health is not going to provide emergency care 24/7 to B.C. residents, then first-time responders should be at the highest level of scope of practice in order to provide life-saving treatments and medication to patients in a timely fashion,” she said. “This training/education should be made available to the present dedicated BCAS personnel.”

“B.C. emergency care and first responders need to be modernized from their present 1980 model so that lives are saved and prolonged suffering for patients isn’t endured any longer,” she added when sharing her frustration.

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