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BARRIÈRE, BC — The mayor of a small community in southern British Columbia is calling for flexibility in which first responders are allowed to take patients to hospital after a baby is reported to have died while waiting for an ambulance.
Mayor Ward Stamer said his community in Barriere, BC, has a first-responder community with vehicles that can respond when the BC Ambulance Service cannot, but they are not allowed to transport patients to hospitals.
He said that had to change as the community grappled with gaps in service that meant first responders might not be available when someone called 911.
In an interview on Monday, the mayor said he was not told how long it would take paramedics to respond to calls about the baby last Thursday.
He could not give details of what happened, saying only that there had been a “critical care incident” involving a young child who died.
Stamer says everything he knows is based on what Troy Clifford, president of BC Paramedic Ambulance told the media – that there was a fully loaded vehicle in Barriere, but diverted south to help in Kamloops.
There is usually one ambulance in Barriere and two in Clearwater, about 60 kilometers to the north, but they are shared across the region, Stamer said.
“From what I understand, there was only one car for all of Kamloops that Thursday night, and that’s why our car was taken from us,” he said.
The service did not notify local authorities of when the Barriere-based ambulance was diverted elsewhere until later, he said.
Clifford had spoken to the media over the weekend about the death of a baby, but said Monday that requests for details on response times and matters relating to community-wide coverage are being referred to the BC Emergency Health Service.
“It is heartbreaking to hear reports that ambulances and paramedics are not immediately available at a time when someone is in need,” he said in a statement.
Clifford said his organization would continue to address the “province-wide staffing crisis,” adding that communities like Barriere did not have appropriate ambulance coverage for an extended period of time.
“This is one of the worst situations anyone can imagine,” he said, referring to the child’s death.
The BC Emergency Health Service said it was reviewing the circumstances of the “heartbreaking loss.”
The agency said it received a call to respond to a patient at a home in Barriere on Thursday.
It said the closest available ambulance was immediately dispatched, while local firefighters were also called in to assist with the call.
The agency did not confirm the patient’s age or cause of death, but said it had opened a review of the call and would work with the patient care quality office to reach out to the family and address any questions or concerns.
A statement from the BC Emergency Health Service said its “deepest condolences to the family and community.”
Stamer described a situation about two weeks ago, when a woman in Barriere had a stroke when ambulance services were not immediately available. The girl’s daughter was pulled over by the RCMP for speeding while taking her mother to hospital in Kamloops, some 66 kilometers away, and the Mounties eventually escorted them, he said.
“We all have stories like that,” he said of rural communities across SM
Stamer said there was a “higher level of anxiety” in Barriere because residents did not know what level of ambulance service might be available on any given day.
“Should we prepare our residents, like evacuation alerts, so you have a full gas tank so you can put someone in a pickup and take them to town? That’s where we are sometimes,” he said.
Stamer said he and other mayors from the community in BC’s Interior talked about gathering at a Union of BC Municipality meeting next month to try to get provincial authorities’ attention.
“We’re not trying to blame here and we’re not blaming anyone,” he said. “We just want to be able to sit down and see if we can have a constructive meeting, to see if we can find some short-term solutions to the problems we all face in this community.”
— By Brenna Owen in Vancouver
This Canadian Press report was first published on August 29, 2022.
The mayor of the BC post is seeking change after reports of a baby dying while waiting for an ambulance first surfaced in Canada News Media.