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Ambulance unavailable to take Red Deer patient for test in Calgary

Fire medics in talks with Red Deer Emergency Services to get more resources
Ambulances often have long waits with patients at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)

A lack of available ambulances prevented a Red Deer hospital cardiac patient from travelling to Calgary for a test not once, but twice, last week, says a Stettler resident.

Al Campbell, a former Stettler town councillor, said hospital staff were very apologetic when ambulances could not be found for his wife, who is 80, and has been in the hospital since Sept. 6.

“I have a problem believing there were no ambulances in central Alberta,” Campbell said.

“This is something that has to be fixed.”

She was scheduled to be released from Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Thursday with support from home care. Her test is now set for Oct. 6 and Campbell will drive her.

“I have to take her. They asked me if I would.”

He doesn’t know what would happen if he was unable to drive her to the appointment.

“I suppose she would have to stay (at the hospital) and wait until there was an ambulance. I have no idea what they would do.”

The family wonder what the delay in testing will mean for her health. The scan must be important or else she wouldn’t be scheduled to get it, he said.

“I’m concerned and my kids are concerned.”

His wife was originally admitted to Stettler Hospital on August 30.

Campbell said when she needed to be sent to Red Deer hospital for a test, he drove her on the condition that she would not lose her standing as a hospital patient. After the test, she was admitted to Red Deer hospital.


No access to ambulances for some Red Deer patients sent to other hospitals

Red Deer fire medic Stephen Belich, president of International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 1190 Red Deer, said access to ambulances are based on the triage system and a doctor is not going to let someone travel in a personal vehicle if they require an ambulance. But sometimes people have to wait because available ambulances are needed.

He said resources are used up pretty fast with fire medics having to wait longer and longer with patients at the hospital. IAFF Local 1190 is in talks with Red Deer Emergency Services, who is in discussion with Alberta Health Services, to get more ambulance resources.

“We literally have members who start their shift by going up to the hospital, relieving the crew that has been waiting with the patient. They’ll either wait the whole remainder of their shift with the patient, or they’ll get out and do one call, and wait at the hospital until another crew comes to relieve them at the end of their shift,” Belich said.

He said to try and get ambulances back into service faster one ambulance crew will look after two or three ambulance patients at the hospital when possible, and patients sometimes wait in the waiting room if their condition allows.

“Everybody there is trying to do their best in the system that we have, to make sure things are moving. Everyone is working together. It’s just such a bottleneck there now that you end up with all the resources tied up at the hospital,” said Belich, who added the hospital has provided a few more parking spaces in recent months for waiting ambulances.


While EMS changes are welcome, Red Deer needs more ambulances, says deputy chief

Alberta Health Services Central Zone was unavailable to comment.

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Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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