COLUMN: Add more paramedics

It is unfortunate it took a tragic death to prompt changes in how ambulances are dispatched.

The issue of ambulance response times in Surrey has once again been pushed to the forefront, largely thanks to the persistence of a reporter.

It came up in connection with the tragic death of Dario Bartoli, 15, after an apparent swarming on Dec. 14, 2014 at 154 Street and 18 Avenue in South Surrey. Janet Brown, a longtime CKNW reporter who lives in Surrey, heard shortly after the death that Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis had written a letter to the ambulance service about its response time.

She asked the City of Surrey for a copy of the letter. It sent back a copy with almost everything blanked out. She appealed the city’s decision to not release the contents of the letter to the provincial freedom of information office, which after a series of delays finally released most of the letter to her.

Garis’ letter, written in January 2015, stated that Surrey RCMP called the B.C. Ambulance Service (BCAS) for assistance after they were alerted to the incident. Bartoli managed to stagger from the area to a nearby home, and police were called at that time.

Garis noted in the letter that the police were on hold for three minutes after calling the ambulance service. A second call was made shortly afterwards to confirm an ambulance was on the way. Due to the lack of response, Surrey’s fire department was then called. It apparently did not respond to the initial call, likely because the 911 call had been routed to Surrey RCMP.

Brown has still not been able to find out just how long it took for the ambulance to arrive. That portion of the letter has been blanked out by the provincial FOI office. Nonetheless, an ambulance finally did arrive. Paramedics spent 13 minutes stabilizing Bartoli before transporting him to Peace Arch Hospital, which is about two blocks away from the scene of the swarming.

The teenager died several hours later.

Linda Lupini, executive vice-president of the Provincial Health Services Authority which oversees the ambulance service, admitted the response was not good. She said the BCAS could have done better and said the it has since changed its processes. The service has also added three ambulances in Surrey since Bartoli’s death.

Garis’ letter also makes the point there is inconsistency when citizens are requesting ambulance service, despite the fact there is a longstanding first responder agreement in place between the fire department and the ambulance service.

“Changes in the past (to the agreement) have been communicated prior to implementation and both parties work together to ensure the timely response of first responders as well as paramedics to citizen needs,” the letter stated.

Fire chiefs across the Lower Mainland have been concerned about arbitrary changes to how ambulances respond to calls and his letter builds on that concern.

It’s good the BCAS has added more ambulances to Surrey, as the demand is growing substantially. Between 2014 and 2015, calls for service jumped from 48,000 to 52,000.

However, it is unfortunate it took a tragic death to prompt changes in how ambulances are dispatched and questions remain about how ambulances are dispatched. The fire department does an excellent job as first responders, but in many cases, paramedics are required on the scene quickly. In a city that is growing as fast as Surrey, there needs to be considerably more paramedics than there are today – and there needs to be a plan to add paramedics and ambulances on a regular basis.

Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for The Leader.

 

 

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Five Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures, including another at Panorama Ridge

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read