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.”


Just Posted

Three percent accommodation tax approved for Bella Coola accommodation providers

Only fixed-room accommodation providers with four rooms or more are required to charge the tax.

U.S. consulate general to visit Northwest

Trip part of the region’s first-ever pop-up consul for American residents

B.C.’s north heats up to record highs

Bella Bella, Masset, Prince Rupert and the Cassiar Area all broke records

Sealed DNA in Phillip Tallio murder case must be released, orders Judge

A unanimous decision by B.C. Court of Appeal judges has ordered the release of a sealed DNA sample

BC Rural Dividend funds wildfire recovery projects in the Bella Coola Valley

Central Coast Regional District and Central Coast Communications Society are both receiving funds

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Anti-pipeline protestors block Kinder Morgan tanker near Seattle

Protest was spurred on by the 28 anti-Kinder Morgan activists arrested in Burnaby

Some surprises in new book about B.C. labour movement

“On the Line” charts history of the union movement back to the 1800s

B.C. cyclist races to first win of the season in New Zealand

Casey Brown captures Enduro title by more than two minutes at Crankworx Rotorua

Notorious Russian troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets

Targets included oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

LETTERS: Two views of oil pipeline protests

U.S. and other petroleum-rich countries aren’t cutting production

Canadian Paralympic team picked up record 28 medals

The 55 athletes strong had set a cautious goal of 17 medals for PyeongChang

Most Read