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Review underway after death in B.C. town without ambulance or emergency department: mayor

A senior in B.C.’s Interior has died after going into cardiac arrest while the only ambulance was dispatched to another town and the hospital’s emergency department was closed, prompting a review of emergency service in the community. 

The mayor of Ashcroft, B.C., told CTV News she had a long conversation with BC Emergency Health Services officials who were in town on an unrelated matter, but met with her about the Sunday death.

“There is going to be a full review of what happened on Sunday to see where all the different ambulances were in play in the region, what happened, to see if there's anything that can be learned from it,” said Barbara Roden.

“I suspect that there is nothing that anyone would like better than to be able to guarantee this will not happen again, and that's a guarantee that absolutely no one can give.”

Roden said the woman lived in an assisted living facility next to the Ashcroft hospital, but with the emergency department closed, the closest hospital was an hour away in Kamloops. As a result, the ambulance arrived too late, despite the best efforts of firefighters.

“My fear is this perfect storm of events could happen again either here in Ashcroft or in another small community where health care is pretty precarious sometimes,” she said.


While the issues driving nurses away from health care are international, and B.C.’s unique pressures and issues recruiting and keeping paramedics are complex, another Interior mayor says the way health officials and government can address them are universal.

“There are a lot of people that are off on mental health leaves right now, and understandably so: they're working in a pressure cooker environment,” said Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell. “We're going through two years of COVID and they've been working short-staffed for an awful long time, so sooner or later something's got to give and we're seeing that right now.”

He added that aside from stress leave and summer vacation, there’s no doubt in his mind that surging COVID-19 infections are also keeping people out of the workforce.

Despite the impact the latest Omicron variant is having on hospital staff as well as the growing number of patients hospitalized with serious symptoms, the provincial government has made no move to reinstate public health measures and refuses to even divulge public opinion polling on how British Columbians feel about those measures.


Whether it’s mass resignations in Northern B.C., or now-regular weekend closures of critically understaffed hospitals in Interior Health, Roden says availability of health care in smaller towns is becoming such a big and chronic issue, it’s changing the very fabric of those communities as aging citizens make the difficult decision to retire closer to cities.

"It breaks their heart to have to leave but they have to go,” she said. “It's the hollowing out of our small communities when we're trying to attract people to come live here.” Top Stories

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