Air ambulance responds to a plane crash at Duncan in January.

Air ambulance responds to a plane crash at Duncan in January.

Rural air ambulance response lacking: ombudsman

B.C. Forest Safety Ombudsman Roger Harris calls for more helicopter service after injured workers wait hours for rescue and treatment

B.C.’s patchwork system of helicopter rescue for people injured in remote areas leaves the province far behind the service available in Washington and Alaska, says a new report by B.C.’s Forest Safety Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Roger Harris looked at cases of forest workers injured in the woods, but expanded his findings to describe a “rural-urban divide” where people wait hours for transport to trauma centres, worsening their medical outcomes.

He cited the case of a faller working on Haida Gwaii, whose leg was crushed by a fallen tree in 2014. It took five hours to get him to the hospital in Queen Charlotte City, and another six hours to transfer him to Vancouver where his lower leg had to be amputated.

“And not only did his journey take a total of 11 hours, but it included two separate boat trips, a stint riding in a mechanic’s vehicle over an unserviced resource road, and an hour of waiting before being told that a helicopter was not being sent,” the report says.

Another worker waited more than 12 hours for rescue after being injured at a work site north of Prince George, in an incident being reviewed by WorkSafeBC.

Harris recommends the B.C. government guarantee timelines for all residents to reach a “Trauma 3 level” similar to Washington, where legislation guarantees that 99 per cent of the population has access within an hour.

Alaska, with similar geography to northern B.C. and a population of only 700,000 people, has 31 dedicated helicopters to reach people anywhere in the state within an hour, he said.

The report notes that emergency response in B.C. is shared among fire departments, the B.C. Ambulance Service (BCAS), search and rescue organizations and the RCMP, with volunteers and contractors involved in some services.

For job-related accidents, WorkSafeBC regulations require that employers have an emergency transportation plan for their employees, in remote areas. Linda Lupini, vice president of B.C. Emergency Health Services, said that includes logging, mining, fishing and ski resort operations.

“Our paramedics currently respond to patients only from a safe, clear area,” Lupini said in a statement responding to the report. “No matter the location, air ambulances and paramedics are dispatched according to the care needs of each patient, and the level of urgency required.”

Harris said rural areas need more resources.

“BCAS has concentrated its assets and full-time trained personnel within the larger urban centres where call volumes are high,” Harris wrote. “With fewer air assets in the north,  BCAS rely mainly on a dedicated, volunteer, part-time workforce, predominantly utilizing a land-based ambulance response to respond to emergencies.”

 

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

Just Posted

Victory Church homeless shelter had the highest calls for police service above everywhere else, at 290 calls for service, in the first three months of the year. (Jesse Day Western News)
UPDATE: Human error doubled data about calls for police to Penticton’s homeless shelters

Police have now partnered with Interior Health to have a nurse come with them to calls

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

Fun in Penticton is being promoted through banners going up along Main and Westminster. (Suzanne White Western News)
Banners go up in downtown celebrating fun in Penticton

From beach or biking time to dining or shopping, the banners promote things to do

(File photo)
Penticton, Summerland RCMP having success with online crime reporting

They have also added new crimes that can be reported online

Parkway Elementary Gr. 4 and 5 students have created an art project displayed for sale at businesses around Penticton with money raised going back to the school, local charity and internationally. (Submitted)
Penticton elementary students artwork displayed around Penticton

Parkway Elementary Grade 4/5s have art at Lakeside Resort, Blendz and Dragon’s Den

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

(Kingfisher Boats photo)
In the market for a boat in the North Okanagan? Be prepared to wait

Vernon’s Kingfisher Boats is out of 2021 models, with many 2022 models already pre-sold

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

George Ryga, considered by many as Canada’s most important English playwright lived in Summerland from 1963 until his death in 1987. He is the inspiration for the annual Ryga Arts Festival. (Contributed)
Summerland archive established for George Ryga

Renowned author wrote novels, poetry, stage plays and screen plays from Summerland home

Most Read