BC Ambulance in Burns Lake. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)

Burns Lake councillor expresses displeasure with BC Ambulance dispatch

Witnesses first-hand, the problems faced by community

A Burns Lake councillor had a first-hand experience with the BC Ambulance dispatch, giving him a glimpse in to the problems faced by the community.

Councillor Charlie Rensby who was driving late at night on May 5, was stopped by a man near Subway seeking help for his girlfriend who was having a seizure.

In a Facebook post, Rensby said he dialed 9-1-1 and ran over to the man’s girlfriend. She was on the ground having a seizure in between the benches by the college, face down.

“Her boyfriend was turning her on her side when 9-1-1 promptly picked up and transferred me to BC Ambulance. I then waited on hold for 10 minutes while this woman slowly went from seizing to hyper-ventilating, and slowly became conscious,” he said.

“Finally, a lady at the BC ambulance call centre picks up, I give my location (in front of the college on Highway 16, near 5th Ave). She then tells me she needs an actual address. I notified her that our town has 1800 people living in it, and the paramedics will know where that is. While she’s arguing with me about the address the girl realized what had happened and became very embarrassed so she got up and started walking to the hospital herself. I told the lady on the phone this and she basically said if the girl doesn’t want to wait there then there’s nothing they can do,” said Rensby.

When asked about the incident, Shannon Miller, a spokesperson for the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) told Lakes District News that BCEHS had received a call shortly after midnight around 12:28 p.m., regarding a potential patient near Highway 16 in Burns Lake.

“The patient was reported by the 9-1-1 caller as walking away. The caller was advised to tell the patient to stay in place, however, patient continued walking away. Without a patient, resources were not dispatched,” she said.

Rensby however maintained that had there not been a delay in attending to the call and passing on the location to the paramedics instead of arguing, the paramedics could’ve gotten to her while the girl was still in distress.

“I then hung up and drove the girl and her boyfriend to the ER myself. This issue comes from having dispatch too far out of our area. Our paramedics could have easily responded if not for the dispatch’s delay,” he said.

Rensby brought up this issue during the council meeting last week and the council voted to bring the BC Ambulance service or those in charge of the dispatch, to the table for a discussion on problems with the dispatch and service in the area.

“We are also looking for stories from people who have gone through similar instances,” said Rensby.

According to BCEHS, the call takers and dispatchers respond to upwards of 1,700 calls each day with a primary focus on supporting and responding to patients in medical need.

“The health and safety of our patients is of utmost importance. However, if there is outstanding concerns, we direct people to the Patient Care Quality Office so they can help answer any concerns or questions they may have,” said Miller.

Rensby is urging residents to send in any similar experiences they had, in writing to crensby@burnslake.ca. He intends to collect all the stories and take them to the highest levels to improve regional dispatch.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist


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