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CLEARLY STATED: An eventual call from an outport, maybe

The back-up ambulance for the shared service between Green Bay Health Centre and Baie Verte Peninsula Health Centre can often be seen parked somewhere along the Baie Verte highway in case it is needed.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, as the town’s Santa Claus parade was underway, the RCMP and Baie Verte fire department were called to the town’s Anaconda Mining site to attend to an industrial accident that resulted in one injury. An ambulance took nearly an hour to respond to the incident. Central Health says the delay was caused by a telecommunication error beyond their control. - Contributed

After a recent incident brought to light questions about ambulance service on the Baie Verte Peninsula, columnist Alex Harrold imagines a not-so-distant future

911: “911, what is your emergency?”

Caller: “I think I'm having a heart attack? I need an ambulance.”

911: “That sounds serious. Where are you located?”

Caller: “I'm in InnerOuter Cove, on the Baie Verte Peninsula.”

911: “Stay on the line. I'm putting the call through directly to an ambulance right now.”

Caller: “Thank you.”

(there is a pause of 20 seconds)

911: “I'm sorry. I can't seem to be able to connect with the ambulance at this time.”

Caller: “What do you mean? I need help.”

911: “I know. It's just that the connection is not going through. They may be experiencing a weather-related event.”

Caller: “What are you talking about? The weather is perfect here. I think I'm dying.”

911: “You don't understand. The ambulance is somewhere along the Baie Verte highway. All I know is, I am getting a message that the cell phone customer I'm trying to reach is not available.”

Caller: “Are they on another call? You do know that end of the Peninsula doesn't have a cell tower.”

911: “No, that's where they are stationed. Ever since it was decided that we needed to share ambulance services between Springdale and the Baie Verte Peninsula, the ambulance EMTs take up a position somewhere halfway between the two places, and that puts them near the TCH end of the Baie Verte highway. Alone. Desolate. Nowhere near a building of any sort”

Caller: “What genius came up with that idea? The light is starting to fade here!”

911: “I just do what I'm told. After all, we are only a call center located somewhere offshore.”

Caller: “This is crazy! I know for a fact there is an empty ambulance sitting at the health center in Baie Verte as we speak. Should I just call them?”

911: “That won't do any good. There are only two EMTs and they are on the ambulance I'm trying to reach.”

Caller: “What am I supposed to do if I need an ambulance? Was this a Department of Health decision?”

911: “Well, yes and no. You may not be aware, but ambulance services in rural Newfoundland have been transferred to Marine Atlantic.”

Caller: “Why in the world would our ambulance services be transferred to Marine Atlantic? If I wasn't having a heart attack already, you're going to give me one.”

911: “Well, when you think of it, rural ambulance services now have more in common with Marine Atlantic than they do with responding to your call in a timely manner. Not being able to contact them by telephone because of weather-related events is the same problem Marine Atlantic has when they can't sail because of weather. Not only that, EMTs that leave for the day on their jobs essentially leave their home port for their full shift and have to stay aboard of the ambulance wherever they may be until the end of the shift, unless of course there is an emergency call and we are able to get through to them."

Caller: “If the government is doing this to save money, why don't they just cut ambulance services altogether and force us to move where the services are?”

911: “Well, that's funny. We've all been talking about that here too.”

Caller: “You think that's funny? You're making my brain explode! There's a couple of EMTs sitting in an ambulance in the middle of nowhere 45 minutes away that you can't reach by telephone because of the potential of a weather-related event, while I'm choking myself with my free hand because I'd rather die that way than let some bureaucrat subject me to a slow death because they think it was a good idea to remove ambulance services to save money?”

911: “See, that's where you're wrong. There wasn't one person in government that made this decision. It was made by a committee. I think.”

Caller: “Who cares if it was one person or a committee? I need help! Help!”

(After another pause of about 20 seconds)

911: “Oh my! I've just gotten through to the ambulance. They're on their way! ETA is about 45 minutes. Would you like a weather report with that?”

Caller:

911: “Hello? Hello?”

click.
 

Alex Harrold is a retired teacher and attorney, living in Westport with his wife Eileen.

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