B.C. ambulance dispatch still an issue in Burns Lake

Recent car accident shows that ambulance response time isn’t good enough

The response time of emergency services in Burns Lake and the surrounding community has been a long-standing issue, and it came to ahead on July 14, 2021 around 8:50 p.m. when three teens were involved in a single vehicle rollover on Eakin Settlement Road in the Southside.

Southside resident Miranda Morgan, whose son was involved in the accident, outlined the issues that were faced following the accident in regards to contacting emergency services in a Facebook post.

Lakes District News spoke to Morgan about the incident, who said that when 9-1-1 was called, there was initially no answer. “My son ran home, and grabbed a truck from the house and picked up the boy that was ejected from the vehicle during the roll over, who was unconscious at the time. They immediately started calling all of us — the parents of the kids involved,” she said. “They did reach one of the other mothers who went to our home. The kids had been trying to call 9-1-1 from the landline and no answer.”

Morgan went on to say that the mother who was present began messaging friends using the house’s WiFi to get out a call to 9-1-1 as cell service isn’t available on Eakin Settlement. She eventually got in contact with Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako director of area E Clint Lambert, who was able to reach emergency services. Lambert confirmed this to Lakes District News, saying that upon calling 9-1-1 he was put through to ambulance services sometime after 10 p.m.

According to both Morgan and Lambert, an ambulance didn’t arrive to the scene until after midnight.

“I could have come and helped myself as I have a level three first aid, but i didn’t think it would take that long for an ambulance to arrive,” Lambert said. “The fact that we don’t have enough ambulance attendance is something that is hurting our region, and we are bringing it up with the Union of B.C Municipalities.

After being looked at by paramedics, one of the teens was transported to Lakes District Hospital in Burns Lake where full x-rays were taken and stitches were applied, and he was released at approximately 4 a.m.

Lakes District News asked BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) Representative Sarah Lewis about their recount of the accident. “BCEHS received a call at 10:39 pm on July 14 for a single vehicle motor vehicle incident in the 37000 block of Eakin Settlement Road in Takysie Lake.An ambulance crew was immediately dispatched. The Burns Lake paramedics arrived on scene at 12:13 p.m.. The patient was stable and transported to hospital at 1 a.m.,” Lewis said.

However, according to Morgan the ambulance that came to the scene was from Fraser Lake, not Burns Lake.

The following day, a call was placed to the mother of the teen who had been treated the night before, asking that he come to Bulkley Valley District Hospital for a CT scan. Upon arrival, doctors found three head fractures along with bleeding from the fractures. The patient then had to return 24 hours later for another scan; all without the help of ambulance services.

“It was all personal vehicle transportation. No pain medication or treatments,” said Morgan. “They should have kept him in Burns Lake for observation as he is a minor, and transported him via ambulance for initial CT scan and treatments. For the first 24 hours we did vital checks at home every four hours to ensure he was alert which should be done in hospital by professional staff.”

Spokesperson of Northern Health Eryn Collins outlined the protocols in regards to serious head injuries to Lakes District News.

“There are absolutely protocols and guidelines in place to support clinical staff in assessing and managing head injuries, including when and under what circumstances a patient would be admitted to hospital for observation, and what diagnostic imaging such as CT scan is appropriate. Any patient’s treatment plan would depend on the assessment of the attending physician in collaboration with the patient,” Collins said.

“Lakes District Hospital does not have CT scan capability; patients are routinely referred to Bulkley Valley District Hospital or University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, for that purpose – and this would again depend on the attending physician’s assessment of the patient’s needs, and what follow up care might be required.”

Lakes District News also spoke to Nechako Lakes Member of Legislative Assembly John Rustad about the incident, who expressed his own frustrations. “The level of ambulance service that we have in our area is unacceptable. I know the ambulance workers are doing their best but there just hasn’t been enough resources allocated to allow them to always be able to service our area in an acceptable time. Too many times, I have heard stories about crews being required to travel from one community to another, sometimes taking hours, because of a lack of local crew availability. If this was in the lower mainland, people would be screaming and the government would be doing something,” said Rustad “I raised this issue with the Minister of Health during estimates this spring. He is aware of the problem and seemed to be confident that they were working on a solution. Unfortunately I have not seen the results of this yet. I will continue to push the minister to improve the resources and services for our area.”

Morgan initially posted her story about the accident on Facebook as a public service announcement to try to show that things have to change.

“The response time is lacking, and 9-1-1 is a faulty system when it just rings and no one answers. The fact that we have an ambulance station unmanned over here is lacking,” Morgan told Lakes District News. “If it was life or death, it would have cost a life. There needs to be more cell coverage and more paramedics based on the Southside for immediate dispatch. The lags and delays are not acceptable. Nor is a patient being discharged in such shape.”