8-month-old baby dies in B.C. community where no ambulance was available

Published Aug. 28, 2022 3:11 p.m. ET
Updated Aug. 28, 2022 9:48 p.m. ET

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An eight-month-old baby died Thursday in a small community in the B.C. Interior. At the time of the death, there was no ambulance service in the town.

The president of the union representing B.C. paramedics says the call came in Thursday night about an infant in cardiac arrest in the District of Barriere, about a 45-minute drive north of Kamloops.

Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., described the situation as the "worst case scenario." He said the ambulance that would typically have been serving the district was in Kamloops instead, helping to cover a staff shortage there.

“I’m not sure of the exact location, but I understand they were in the vicinity of Kamloops when the call came in,” Clifford said. “That’s absolutely tragic in this situation that we didn’t have an ambulance available for somebody in their time of need.”

The district's mayor told CTV News the family is Indigenous and the baby was eight-months-old. He also said local officials aren't regularly informed of ambulance staffing issues, and stressed that he didn't want to speculate on whether the response time was a factor in the child's death.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we didn't have ambulance service on Thursday night, because we've got some significant gaps in service," said Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer.

"We know of instances where people have had serious issues and have died because the ambulance wasn't there in other communities," he added. "I don't want us to be in that situation, second-guessing, when we should have that level of support that everyone in the province deserves."

In response to the incident, B.C. Emergency Health Services issued a statement confirming that the call is under review.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family and the community at this heartbreaking loss," the statement reads.

"The closest available ambulance was immediately dispatched, and local firefighters were requested to assist. We have opened a review and will be working with the Patient Care Quality Office to reach out to this family to answer any concerns or questions they have."

BCEHS did not answer multiple inquiries from CTV News about how far away the closest available ambulance was at the time, nor how long it took to arrive.

Stamer said even if firefighters responded first, the current rules state they can treat, but not transport patients.

“Obviously we’re going to do everything we can to support (the family) in this period of grief, but it just shows some of the issues we're trying to deal with on a daily basis, and I’m not making the decisions, I’m just the mayor,” he said.

On two recent occasions, residents of Ashcroft, B.C. – another small town in the Interior – have died while waiting for ambulance service.

On Aug. 14, a man went into cardiac arrest just 200 metres away from that community's ambulance station, but the nearest staffed ambulance didn't arrive for 29 minutes, according to Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden. The man did not survive. 

Four weeks before that incident, an Ashcroft senior died after going into cardiac arrest at a time when the local emergency room was closed due to staffing shortages, and an available ambulance was in another community. 

Clifford said he requested a meeting with the senior leadership of BCEHS and believed it would be happening sometime this week.

“I’ve had some frank discussions with (BCEHS leadership) and they’re very sensitive to this situation as well,” Clifford said. “Unless there’s an immediate intervention, we’re going to continue to see these things, and we can’t have that.” 


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