Staff shortage leaves elderly woman waiting 2 hours for ambulance
An elderly woman who fell and injured her pelvis waited 128 minutes for paramedics to arrive, according to the Vancouver fire department.
The April 5 incident is just one example of long delays some of those who need help have been facing in the Lower Mainland over the past few weeks.
“It's tough for us seeing a person suffering longer than they need to be”, said Vancouver Fire Rescue Services spokesperson Jonathan Gormick
The Ambulance Paramedics of BC said the union is “is very concerned” about the waits and insisted it’s not acceptable for anyone to wait that long.
The issue is not a lack of ambulances, the group told CTV News Vancouver, but a shortage of staff to operate the emergency vehicles.
“There's been more ambulances out of service than we've ever seen before," said union president Cameron Eby, who points to a weekend in March as an example:
Friday, March 29: 22 ambulances out of service in the Lower Mainland
Saturday, March 30: 19 ambulances out of service in the Lower Mainland
Sunday, March 31: 27 ambulances out of service in the Lower Mainland
“If we have adequate staffing of our paramedics in our ambulances, then there's no reason that we should be waiting two hours for ambulance," Eby said.
Other examples of long waits include an unconscious female who waited 110 minutes for help, and on March 22, the parents of an injured four-year-old boy took him to hospital themselves, after waiting 45 minutes
The union says it’s having a hard time attracting new paramedics. The pay is low, especially in remote areas where careers are launched. Some are make as little as $2 an hour on standby.
There is more work in larger centres, but the union says if you take from remote areas, it leaves too many hard-to-fill vacancies in small towns.
BC Emergency Health Services employs the paramedics and told CTV News Vancouver 43 positions have been filled in the past week, and the result is a significant reduction in the number of ambulances out of service.