CityNews Article

‘It was horrible’: Surrey mom called 911 for daughter, ambulance never came

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — A Surrey mom says she waited more than half an hour for an ambulance after calling 911, ultimately driving her eight-year-old daughter to the hospital herself because paramedics never arrived.

Sadaf Khan says her daughter fell in the bathroom on Friday, and was knocked unconscious. No one was in the bathroom when the girl fell, and her mom says she only knew something was wrong when she heard the screams. Khan rushed upstairs, and found her daughter lying on the floor.

“I told my husband to grab her water or something. She said, ‘No I don’t want anything.’ She felt right away on the floor, then she passed out for maybe 20 to 25 seconds,” Khan explains.

“Right away my husband gave me a phone, he said, Just call 911. We were panicking. It was horrible for us in that moment. It happened so quickly, we didn’t even know what exactly happened.” 

Khan says after the 911 operator assessed whether or not her daughter was conscious and breathing, she was told an ambulance would be dispatched.

“They said, ‘Okay we will send the ambulance, you guys wait,’” she says.

“They said we will send one, but we cannot give you proper time when they will come. After that we waited, and waited.”

When 30 minutes had passed, and her daughter was still crying and unable to communicate exactly what was wrong, Khan called 911 again.

“When I asked what time it’s coming, they said, ‘We don’t have any ambulances available, your area is really busy,’” she says.

“It was terrible. It was horrific for us.”

So Khan and her husband decided to drive to Surrey Memorial themselves.

Days later the family is still shocked that there was no ambulance dispatched, and that no one could tell them when one would be available. Khan says they were already scared and confused about their daughter’s condition, and the delay only made things worse.

“It was maybe a few seconds, but it was really really shocking for us. we wanted right away help. I just kept saying to her send the ambulance, send the ambulance, send the ambulance,” she says.

After being seen at the hospital, Khan says no significant injuries or underlying health issues were found. Although Khan says that is a relief, she also says she’ll think twice before calling an ambulance in the future.

The family has since posted about the experience to Facebook, and written to their local MLA as well as Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“It’s not only for us, we are doing it for everyone, because so many people have the same problem.”

BC Emergency Health Services (BC EHS) says based on the information Khan gave, the child was deemed stable. The call was classified as one that would not require a “lights and sirens ambulance response,” and more urgent calls were prioritized.

“We were experiencing a high call volume at the time and did not have an ambulance immediately available as other ambulances were responding to time-critical and potentially life-threatening calls,” says an emailed statement from a spokesperson.

“We know it can be incredibly stressful waiting for an ambulance during a medical emergency. We can assure BC residents paramedics continue to get to critical patients and prioritize our responses based on the medical priority dispatch system used around the world. This means patients with life-threatening symptoms including cardiac arrest and breathing difficulties receive the highest priority response.”

The union representing ambulance paramedics in B.C. has been raising the alarm about longer wait times for months, blaming the province for mismanaging resources.

BC EHS has said the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid overdose crisis have put a strain on the system, with calls for service due to the toxic drug supply continuing to break records in May.