A Pitt Meadows woman says the B.C. ambulance system is broken after her 86-year-old mother waited two and a half hours on the floor with a broken thigh bone before paramedics arrived.
The senior died the next day following complications from surgery on her femur.
Lori Imai said her mother, Barbara Wood, celebrated her 86th birthday on Jan. 16. The next day she was preparing for a bus trip from the Wesbrooke retirement home when she fell.
She dragged herself into her room and rang for help, and staff called 9-1-1.
Then more calls were placed to ask what was taking so long.
“We were just told there were no ambulances available,” she said.
Imai said her mother was in pain, but trying to be strong.
“If anyone ever touched her, she would just cry,” Imai said.
“It was just hard, watching your mother lying there, and knowing you can’t do anything for her.”
When the ambulance finally arrived, the paramedics had come from Vancouver.
Imai learned that other paramedics were only 10 minutes away at Ridge Meadows Hospital, waiting with a patient.
Wood had surgery the next day, and passed away afterward. The cause of death was suspected to be a blood clot, or bone marrow getting into her blood stream.
Because the cause of death was not determined by an autopsy, Imai said it is not a certainty that the long wait for ambulance was a factor in her mother’s death.
She said the paramedics and medical staff she dealt with were great.
“But they don’t have everything they need to do the job,” she added.
“It bothers me she was left on the floor that length of time, and they couldn’t come and get her.”
Imai made a comment about her mother’s long wait on social media, and was approached by Lisa Beare, an NDP candidate in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding.
Beare encouraged Imai to share her story, as an example of Premier Christy Clark having misplaced priorities.
“Instead of fixing health care. she has been giving a billion dollar tax break [over four years] to the richest two per cent of British Columbians,” Beare said of Clark.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing called Wood’s death a tragedy.
“My heart goes out to this woman,” he said.
However, Bing said he has worked to get improved ambulance service in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and a third ambulance was added this year.
It cannot be definitively stated that the long wait for ambulance caused Wood’s death, added Bing, a retired dentist.
“Surgery for the elderly is always more risky.”
He noted the provincial government recently announced an additional $91 million in funding for 60 more paramedics and 20 more ambulance dispatch staff, in addition to adding 15 new ambulances last year.
Without knowing all the facts, he did not want to judge whether the ambulance dispatch made an error in not making the call a higher priority.
“It’s not for me to say,” said Bing.
A spokesperson for the B.C. Emergency Health Services said they have just learned of this incident, and are looking into the details.