When Surrey Eagles’s forward Donovan Ott went into the boards during Saturday night’s B.C. Hockey League game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex, spectators were left wondering why it took the paramedics so long to show up. Common estimates ranged from 20-30 minutes.
However, B.C. Emergency Health Services Unit Chief for the Port Alberni station Bruce Patterson said that only 16 minutes passed from the moment the 911 call came into dispatch and when the paramedics got to Ott’s side.
“The call came into dispatch at 8:01 p.m. The call was triaged and the on-call ambulance was paged and on scene at 8:15 p.m.,” said Patterson. The decision was made to not call on the fire department’s first responders at this time, he added.
“Then it takes a couple minutes to get set up and get ice grips on.”
By 8:17 p.m., paramedics were with the patient, he added.
“It can seem like a really long time when you’re waiting.”
As to why the 1.2-kilometre drive between the ambulance station and the Multiplex took 14 minutes, Patterson said that’s just a result of how ambulance stations are staffed.
“There’s one ambulance station that services the Alberni Valley,” he said.
“During the day there are three ambulances and at night—after 6 p.m.—there are two.”
Of those ambulances, only one is staffed 24/7 by paramedics at the station. The others are on-call, meaning that the paramedics respond if paged.
A number of factors decide how a region is staffed; call volume, population and geography. From April 1 2014 to March 31, 2015, the Valley had 3,196 calls.
“When that call came in, our first ambulance was out on an emergency call already; the on-call crew was paged.”
On-call paramedics must remain within 9-10 minutes of the ambulance station—and that was the case on Saturday night, Patterson said.