Communication error delayed ambulance response in Erin by 42 minutes

When every second counts, red flags are raised when it takes over 42 minutes for an ambulance to reach a patient.

Some Erin politicians have been complaining about slow ambulance service to the town for several years and Guelph has been working to improve those times.

Earlier this month a report regarding its ambulance service was directed to city council. The report was dated in September, but was sent only recently to the city.

It delved into a May 2011 complaint to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care Ambulance Services Branch Investigation’s Services.

Guelph is in charge of delivering land ambulance services for the city and Wellington County through Guelph Wellington EMS (Emergency Medical Services).

The Ministry of Health maintains the functions of receiving 9-1-1 calls and dispatching ambulances. It also maintains an Investigations Branch that receives and addresses complaints related to significant ambulance response issues.

On May 4, an ambulance responded to a call for assistance in Erin. A complaint was subsequently filed related to the response time to that emergency. The investigations branch reviewed the incident  and found errors were committed by ambulance communications officers (ACOs), and those errors contributed to the delay. ACOs are ministry employees working in the central ambulance communications centre. The report found no concerns with Guelph Wellington EMS, and specifically stated that care provided to the patient involved was in accordance with the legislated standards.

The report stated that EMS staff had spoken to the ministry and it is satisfied the appropriate corrective measures were taken. The report further noted the investigation would be shared with the Wellington County’s social services committee.

That report stated, “There was a preventable delay in the provision of ambulance service for this patient.”

It further cited factors leading to the delay which include:

– no request of assistance from the Erin Fire Department as required by the signed agreement for tiered response with the Town of Erin Fire and Emergency Services;

– the call was downgraded from Code 4 to a Code 3 resulting in the reassignment of an ambulance; and

– further, the call somehow registered as a duplicate call that the request had been downgraded to a Code 3 seven minute and 31 seconds elapsed before the call reassigned the call to the proper ambulance service.

Mayor Lou Maieron was to bring the report to Erin councillors at the Dec. 19 meeting.