Waiting for the Ambulance

One of the very few blessings brought our way during the rampage of COVID-19 PLUS-4 is that it has taken the minds of West Coast Canadians off The Big One – the dreaded day when, every few hundred years, Mother Nature puts on a display of unprecedented violence to remind humans who’s in charge on Planet Earth. It is a dangerous date with disaster to forget.

Recently, I have been reminded of the pending event by stories in my local newspaper about law-abiding citizens who, having phoned for an ambulance because of a medical emergency, had to wait the longest minutes of their lives before help arrived.

The front-page headline this week read: “AFTER 15-MINUTE WAIT FOR AN AMBULANCE, SHE CALLED A CAB TO GET TO HOSPITAL.” The story told an increasingly familiar tale about a citizen hit by a genuine emergency who found no eye to pity, no arm to save. There is no comfort when the disembodied voice on the other end of the phone line says there will be “a wait.” Anyone who has ever experienced that kind of “wait” will know that time stands still.

To the credit of the lady involved in this ordeal, she learned from it and passed what she learned to those of us who still read newspapers. She said if she were ever again involved in an emergency, she would use the service again, but this time “I’ll be thinking of how I am going to get to the hospital or how else am I going get the help I need.”

That comment must resonate for the men and women in charge of our major emergency program who sometimes despair they will ever succeed in their efforts to convince the citizens of BC – especially those in the coastal earthquake zone – to be prepared for a three- to four-day wait in the ruins of a collapsed city before help can reach them.

Does that mean we should learn to live with the deficiencies in today’s ambulance service – especially in the response times? Not at all. What it means is we have to solve an already identified problem. For starters, we need trained dispatchers to respond to the first call for help who will stay on the line with the caller until an ambulance and paramedics arrive.

Can we afford such a program? Can we repair operational deficiencies?

Reasonable questions, but not as pertinent as: “Can we afford to delay while The Big One looms on a horizon closer today than it was yesterday?”

One comment

  1. When The Big One arrives only helicopter ambulances will likely be able to function, and how many of these are there in B.C.? And where will victims go if hospitals are damaged? We’ve been spoilt by civilization.

    I used to work for a wise publisher back in the day when nuclear war was a threat. “In such an event,” he’d say, “the person best off will be the African Bushman.”

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