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8-month-old baby dies in B.C. Interior town while waiting for ambulance

Mayor calling for action by province to restore ambulance service to small communities
The Barriere BC Ambulance Services station. (Jill Hayward/News Staff)

An eight-month-old baby has passed away in a small Interior B.C. town while waiting for an ambulance.

A young family in the North Thompson community of Barriere have been devastated by the loss of their child while waiting for an ambulance to come.

When the child went into cardiac arrest the evening of Thursday (Aug. 25) an ambulance was called. But there was no ambulance available in Barriere, and instead an ambulance had to be dispatched from Kamloops. Unfortunately, the ambulance arrived too late, as the child had passed away.

Would this tragedy have been avoided if an ambulance had been on duty in Barriere that evening?

For a number of years Barriere and area had been under 24-hour ambulance coverage, until last summer when the Province revamped the community’s ambulance coverage to become a 24/7 Alpha Station. The change now requires paramedics with a higher level of training than what had previously been acceptable for the ambulances. But changing the training requirements has now created a problem in trying to fill paramedic positions for ambulances, and the smaller communities are losing out.

“This is a tragic situation for the family,” said Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer, “At this point I have no way of knowing what actually occurred until I talk to the ambulance service. Right now it’s speculation regarding what actually happened.”

He added the problem of dealing with the loss of local ambulance service has been going on for a long time.

“We’re not the only community that’s having this happen,” said Stamer, “I don’t know if the time delay was a contributing factor or not, but we have some significant gaps in our health care system and now it’s showing what can happen when you have these gaps. This ongoing problem needs to be addressed now.”

BC Emergency Health Services has stated the closest available ambulance was dispatched to the Barriere call on Thursday, and they will be reviewing the call.

“We are not the only small community suffering the loss of our ambulance,” said Stamer, “They just threw a bunch of money to the doctors – what are they doing about the ambulance care? This needs to be thrown back in their lap and let them explain it. We want to hear from the B.C. Minister of Health regarding plans to get service returned to the smaller communities who are struggling as we are with the loss of their ambulance services.”

The B.C. paramedics union have also stated there was a delayed response in the call out to the child with cardiac arrest last Thursday.

“Any delay in a critical situation like this is fundamentally wrong,” stated Ambulance Paramedics of BC President Troy Clifford in an interview, “From what I understand Barriere paramedics were called into Kamloops to assist with coverage in Kamloops as opposed to staying in Barriere to make sure they had coverage there. This staffing issue must be addressed.”

Mayor Stamer concluded with: “Stealing our resources to a larger centre is just not right.”