Man dies in B.C. town waiting for health care near ambulance station

For the second time in less than a month, a resident of Ashcroft, B.C., died while waiting for health care.

Mayor Barbara Roden told reporters a man was walking his dog Sunday morning when he had a heart attack. The man was within sight of the local ambulance station, but the closest paramedics were about 30 minutes away.

Volunteer firefighters were called, but weren’t trained for that kind of medical response. Roden said the firefighters who did have some first aid gave the man CPR until paramedics arrived.

“That’s twice in one month now that we’ve had people in medical distress with no ambulance at the station to give them assistance,” Roden said.

“It’s frustrating, it makes me incredibly sad for the family and friends of the deceased, it makes me worried for my community because I know that people in the community are worried about it.”

Last month, a senior resident at a care home next door to Ashcroft’s hospital went into cardiac arrest and died. At the time, the emergency department was closed due to staff shortages. 

“No one expects an ambulance parked 24-7 in their driveway in case there’s a medical emergency, absolutely. But people do depend on the ambulance service, particularly in rural communities,” Roden said.

“We just feel that we’ve been abandoned.”

Roden said she wants to see an effort being made to recruit locals to B.C. Emergency Health Services.

“We’re more likely to get ambulance paramedics from rural communities coming to our rural communities to work,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to attract ambulance paramedics from Surrey or White Rock or Richmond or Delta to come in work in small, rural communities.”

Ashcroft’s emergency department has faced several temporary closures in recent months, diverting patients to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, which is about a one-hour drive away.

Roden said some people are choosing to leave communities like Ashcroft over the unreliable health care.

“Clearly there is something broken with the model,” she said.

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