B.C. woman waited 1 hour for help after suffering a stroke, family says

Former New Westminster city councilor Lorrie Williams waited more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive after suffering a stroke at home, according to her family.

“It’s beyond belief that it would take that long,” said the 81-year-old’s brother, Allan Greenwood. “This was life and death potentially, and nobody came when they were needed.”

At the time of her stroke last month, Williams was with her friend, a retired doctor, who immediately called 911. Greenwood said driving to the hospital wasn’t a viable option.

“She’s on the ground, she’s partially paralyzed,” Greenwood said, adding that there were steep stairs to climb down as well.

With the hospital around three blocks away, they figured an ambulance would arrive in a matter of minutes.

“We are reviewing our response to this call,” said B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) in an email to CTV News. “However, we do know that at the time, many of our paramedics were responding to other very urgent medical emergencies in the area and the first ambulance that became available was dispatched.”

BCEHS added that once paramedics were alerted that Willliams’ condition had changed, the call priority was “upgraded,” and paramedics arrived about four minutes later.

Greenwood strongly disagrees with that statement.

“I just don’t buy it,” said Greenwood. “What was upgraded? She was on the floor. She was paralyzed and she was having a stroke. What was upgradable about that?”

Weeks later, Williams remains partially paralyzed and in hospital. Greenwood said she’s starting to begin physical therapy.

The president of Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of B.C. said Williams’ experience is yet another story highlighting the critical shortage of paramedics in this province.

“We’re stretched thin,” said Troy Clifford. “So right now, we just need to add more resources, we need to staff them appropriately and to do that we need to pay them meaningful wages.”

Clifford adds that around 30 per cent of staff are off work due to stress and psychological injuries including PTSD.

The union that represents paramedic workers begins negotiations with the province on a new contract this month.

“We will get there, I’m confident in that,” said Clifford.

Meanwhile, Greenwood hopes sharing this story helps spark meaningful change.

“It’s about my sister this time, but it could be about anybody next time.”