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Local mayor worried about 911 protocol changes

Last Updated Jul 27, 2018 at 11:08 am PDT


Port Moody's mayor is worried about delays linked to medical emergencies following 911 protocol changes

A shift in how 911 calls are handled in BC has prompted concerns about how long it's taking for anyone to respond

PORT MOODY (NEWS 1130) – A new province-wide 911 protocol has prompted concerns about unnecessary delays, with one Lower Mainland mayor not convinced emergency workers are now responding faster to calls.

Since changes took effect May 30th, Mayor Mike Clay says call volumes for Port Moody firefighters — who are usually first on scene — have dropped 40 per cent.

“And then we started getting this feedback from people saying, ‘You know, I waited for X minutes or hours or whatever for an ambulance to show up when normally the Port Moody fire would have been responding to that call to come out there.”

He says time was wasted on a recent call initially deemed low priority.

“The woman had fallen into a hole that was like an excavation on a construction site and then, they needed to call the fire department to come and take her out of the hole anyhow because the ambulance aren’t able to do that extraction.”

This isn’t just a problem in Port Moody.

The chief of Delta’s fire department, Paul Scholfield, says call volumes have dropped as much as 60 per cent there.

“It’s quite a serious issue. Not having somebody there in a quick time when you’re just assessing somebody over the phone is a dangerous game. You expect someone to be there –not wait 13 minutes for somebody to get there or longer.”

Scholfield says new rules dictate firefighters are no longer being dispatched to certain calls if paramedics can get there within ten minutes.

“They can be anything from chest pains to strokes to asthma problems, intentional overdoses, significant fall with injury, breathing problems where someone’s clammy, a drowning where someone’s got have normal breathing, so there’s quite a large category of calls we’re not automatically dispatched to anymore that we used to go to.”

He adds the response time for firefighters in Delta is usually within five minutes.

However, Neil Lilley with BC Emergency Health Services insists response times have significantly improved under the new Clinical Response Model.

“And especially those calls where time really does matter –chest pains, stroke, cardiac arrest. We’re getting to those patients a lot faster than we were before… There’s been a significant investment from the government to support BC Ambulance Service and our response times and the way which we respond to patients is continuously improving as a result.”

He says firefighters are still dispatched to high priority calls, but approximately 130,000 of them every year don’t require a trip to emergency.