A northern B.C. band councillor, in the remote community of Haida Gwaii, is dead after a heart attack last Sunday and his doctor is criticizing the hour it took for his ambulance to arrive.
‘The most important intervention likely to help a patient with sudden cardiac arrest is early defibrillation’- Dr. Tracy Morton
In a two-page letter, Dr. Tracy Morton details the call he overheard being dispatched to the home of Skidegate B.C. band councillor Godfrey Williams Jr.
Morton says the ambulance, which was supposed to be only 10 minutes away, wasn’t available and one had to be brought in from Sandspit, which is a 20-minute ferry ride and a 20 kilometre drive.
Twenty-five minutes after the first call, Morton says he decided to leave the hospital and go to the home himself. When he got there, an hour had elapsed and ambulance paramedics from Sandspit were only just delivering their second shock to Williams’ heart, he said.
Despite efforts to resuscitate him, Williams was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at the hospital.
In his two-page letter to the Northern Health Authority, Morton says the Queen Charlotte ambulance station has experienced staffing shortfalls for nearly a year.
“Neither the public, nor the hospital are advised of ambulance coverage gaps,” he wrote. “There have been several instances of patients experiencing delays awaiting responses, but none to this point have led to as serious an outcome as this.”
Chances of survival favourable
Morton says in his opinion, Williams’s chances of survival would have been good.
“The fact that he had a shockable rhythm well over an hour post-arrest suggests he would very likely have responded positively to treatment,” he wrote.
B.C. ambulance told CBC News that a paramedic did respond to the call within 11 minutes. Unfortunately, spokeswoman Linda Lupini says the paramedic did not have a defibrillator because another staffer could not respond to the call.
She did not say whether this was because the local ambulance was unavailable.
“It’s a tragic situation and its not something we feel good about, but we are working very hard right now and we will continue to work hard with the Haida Gwaii community and other remote communities to deal with some of the real challenges of providing emergency medical services there,” she said.
Lupini said in April, Provincial Health Services appointed a new leadership team to address issues with B.C. Ambulance.
In his letter, Morton says, “the most important intervention likely to help a patient with sudden cardiac arrest is early defibrillation.”