CBN leaders concerned with ambulance service response times
CONCEPTION BAY NORTH, N.L. — Ambulance response times have been a concern in Conception Bay North the last few months and local political leaders say they want something done.
Glen Clarke, chair of the CBN Joint Council, said members have heard concerns from people about the issue and the joint council is now worried too.
“There are going to be exceptions and we understand that but there have been numerous instances where it had been reported, both to me personally and other elected officials,” he said. “There have been instances where people have had strokes and we know the first five or 10 minutes is critical to get medical attention.”
The previous ambulance provider in the area, Moore’s Ambulance, had its contract terminated in March. Few details were made public about the termination. The province then signed a deal with Fewer’s Ambulance Service. The Clarenville-based business currently holds similar contracts in other parts of the province.
The joint council sent a letter to Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie on Sept. 30 requesting a meeting. The council got a reply Oct. 17, the day after SaltWire contacted the department for comment. They would not share the contents of the reply, as it had not yet gone before the council for discussion.
Clarke himself had a medical emergency at his home in Victoria a few months ago and his wife called an ambulance. He says It took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
“When they arrived I said, ‘Boys, did you guys have to come from Halifax?’" recalled Clarke.
He admits to being facetious, but when first responders said they had to come from Avondale, which is about 63 kilometres away from Victoria, he was surprised.
"That’s a bit much,” said Clarke.
It’s understandable, he acknowledged, if all the ambulances in the area are tied up and responses are delayed, but it appears to be happening too frequently.
The letter to health minister was sent after a joint council meeting held Sept. 26, during which numerous concerns were expressed.
Pam Parsons, the Liberal MHA for the district of Harbour Grace-Port-de-Grave, was at that meeting.
Parsons reached out to SaltWire on Oct. 16 to say she had been in contact with the ambulance provider after the issue was brought to her attention by municipal leaders, volunteer firefighters and residents in her district.
Parsons says it is her understanding that Fewer’s Ambulance had been awarded the contract for the area.
"From what I am told following up on the process, the company has applied to dispatch two ambulances from Bay Roberts,” said Parsons.
She says she has also been in contact with health minister Haggie and the premier's office and hopes the issue will be resolved soon.
MORE AMBULANCES NEEDED
Phillip Wood, the mayor of Bay Roberts, echoed Clarke’s concerns about response times. He said two specific incidents were brought to his attention which prompted him to reach out to the minister in September.
Initially, he said, he tried to express his concerns to Bob Fewer, the owner of the ambulance service.
“I guess I pressed him for answers and he decided he wasn’t doing to deal with me anymore,” Wood said of his discussion. “He advised me I could deal with the minister of Health.”
He was unaware Fewer’s
Ambulance Service was hoping to bring two ambulances to Bay Roberts but welcomes the news.
Right now, ambulances dispatched to Bay Roberts come from Spaniards Bay, Clarkes Beach or Harbour Grace, Wood said, stressing are all needed for the communities they serve.
“We’re not after anyone else’s ambulance, we’re not after that,” he said. “All we’re saying is that Bay Roberts, based on a number of factors, we require an ambulance situated within the town.”
Woods said Bay Roberts, the largest municipality in CBN, has been trying for years to get an ambulance situated there. The town wrote the minister about this in March.
SaltWire made several attempts to contact Bob Fewer of Fewer's Ambulance for comment but did not receive a reply as of deadline.
Health Minister John Haggie was not available for a telephone interview either but emailed a statement to SaltWire. That statement said the department is in discussions with road ambulance operators across the province, including Fewer’s, and those discussions are ongoing.
Phillip Wood, the mayor of Bay Roberts, is concerned about ambulance response times in the area.