November 30, 2010 at 2:40 PM
Trying to shorten wait times for an ambulance
By Mike Simmons - Kelowna Capital News
Published: November 30, 2010 6:00 PM
West Kelowna and the B.C. Ambulance Service are both seeking ways to reduce ambulance response times on the western side of the lake.
West Kelowna mayor Doug Findlater and district staff met recently with the B.C. Ambulance Service on changes that may improve ambulance response times on the Westside.
At West Kelowna council on Nov. 23, Coun. David Knowles said there was a 25-minute response time for an ambulance when he had an allergic reaction to a wasp sting at the Westbank Yacht Club last year.
Knowles said if he had gone into
anaphylactic shock, he would not be here today.
He noted there are many heart attacks in the area, and the district has an older community. “I’m just not happy with this.”
Knowles said Westbank ambulances are often used in Kelowna because the ambulance service does not have the full number of vehicles necessary to look after that major centre.
He later added that if there is not enough ambulance coverage in Kelowna, units are called out from Westbank.
“Their response time into Kelowna is obviously substantially increased.”
He added that subsequent calls from Westbank are also responded to more slowly.
“It’s a terrible situation, where both ends are getting reduced response.”
He noted that with the province still trying to get out of the recession and debt at current levels, he did not see the provincial government providing improved service.
Mayor Doug Findlater noted the district can lobby politically for improved ambulance service, but he was not sure whether that would be fruitful.
He added that the fire department often arrives ahead of ambulances at Westside emergencies.
B.C. Ambulance South Okanagan superintendent Norm Matheson said the service dispatches the closest available unit to emergencies, regardless of that ambulance unit’s home base.
A Summerland ambulance could be passing through Westbank and end up attending a West Kelowna call if they are the closest unit.
“We don’t have jurisdiction or boundaries,” Matheson said.
He said this arrangement allows the ambulance service to cross-cover neighboring areas when required. He said there are several instances when Westbank ambulances would be used in Kelowna.
When units have just cleared the hospital, they are more likely to do ambulance calls in Kelowna. If the city is busy, the same situation applies.
Matheson added that if Westbank-based ambulances are held on the east side of the lake, the service cross-covers West Kelowna with other units.
He said the arrangement makes for similar response times on both sides of the water. “Their response times compare to Kelowna.”
Interior Health has contracted a private company called Medi-van to perform inter-hospital transfers for patients where the transfers are pre-booked, or the patients are not in medical distress.
Matheson said the service has reduced B.C. Ambulance transfer trips by 20 per cent, and improved call response time. “It makes us more available to do the emergency work, and high acuity transfers.”
Additional resources for the ambulance service are not foreseen under the current provincial economy. Matheson said the service is always looking for ways to find more efficiencies.