Call wait times for 9-1-1 grow, Ecomm says BCEHS is to blame

Call wait times for 9-1-1 grow, Ecomm says BCEHS is to blame

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — People calling 9-1-1 in B.C. in recent days have had to wait up to five minutes for their calls to be answered, and there are conflicting explanations as to why this is happening.

The Emergency Communications Professionals of BC, the union representing call takers, says in a Facebook post that it is underfunded and understaffed.

“Our members are working hard 24/7 to answer your calls immediately, gather information accurately, and to make sure you get the help you need fast – but we are stretched to our limits and need more staff now,” the union wrote on Facebook.

“Municipalities own/fund E-Comm and we need them to answer our call for more resources to deliver the 911 service you expect and deserve. We know when it comes to emergencies – #SecondsCount.”

But according to E-Comm 911, that’s not the problem.

“At this point, 9-1-1 is appropriately staffed to answer the call volumes that we’re seeing through on those emergency lines,” E-Comm 911 Communications Manager Kaila Butler said. “The problem, unfortunately really does stem from those call transfer delays to the ambulance service.”

The most recent call from the union comes after repeated instances of long wait times during the last 12 months. In February, the Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC said wait times grew to up to an hour one particular Friday evening. More recently in June, the president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC said mismanagement of resources is leaving too many people waiting too long for help.

Butler said is that there are not enough people at BC Emergency Health Services to pick up the transferred calls.

“We are seeing delays on the side of BCEHS being able to pick up those calls. That does, unfortunately, mean our 9-1-1 call takers are tied up on that line with the caller and unable to answer those next 9-1-1 calls waiting in queue,” Butler said.