Review promised in ‘unacceptable’ 3½-hour ambulance delay in South Surrey

Officials have pledged to get to the root of an excessive delay in paramedics arriving at a South Surrey crash scene

Officials with BC Emergency Health Services have apologized for an excessive delay in paramedics arriving at a South Surrey crash scene Monday, and have pledged to make sure it never happens again.

“The time that it took for an ambulance to respond to this call is not acceptable,” BCEHS executive vice-president Linda Lupini said in an emailed statement to Peace Arch News late Tuesday afternoon.

“BC Emergency Health Services is gathering information and will review all the circumstances that led to this.”

PAN learned Monday that it took 3½ hours for paramedics to get to the scene of a two-vehicle collision that occurred at the intersection of 160 Street and King George Boulevard that morning.

Throughout the wait, according to Surrey Fire Services Asst. Chief Chris Keon, three firefighters from South Surrey’s Hall 13 worked in turns to stabilize the occupants of one vehicle – a mother and daughter – who had potential back injuries.

While firefighters deemed the call Code 3 – of highest priority – and kept BC Ambulance officials up to date, paramedics were “re-routed to what was decided (was) more serious,” Keon told PAN.

He described the wait as “definitely excessive.”

Barb Fitzsimmons, in charge of patient care and communications planning for BC Emergency Health Services, confirmed Thursday that a total of 11 ambulances were dispatched to the crash scene; of those, nine were diverted to “other, higher-acuity calls” before they could get there.

The wait, she said, is something that’s never been encountered before, and “nothing that we would ever want to see happen again to anybody…. We’re very sorry this happened.”

The lack of an ambulance at the scene over an extended period of time caught the attention of passersby, who contacted PAN. One woman said she grew concerned, having driven past the scene three times, and a man called it “kind of alarming.”

Fitzsimmons said an “interim escalation plan” that authorizes dispatchers to  make decisions around deploying other resources has been implemented as a result. That could include arranging to have a paramedic team cleared from a hospital, or having a supervisor attend the scene.

“We’re looking at best practices elsewhere,” she said.

Efforts are also underway to connect with the patients from Monday’s crash.

“We want them to understand that this is not something that we believe is good quality or practice, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

 

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