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B.C. woman says husband’s death while family waited on hold won’t ‘be put on a shelf’

Nancy Blakey says talks include ‘very progressive’ meeting with BC Emergency Health Services
The back of a BC Emergency Health Services ground ambulance. (PQB News file photo)

The wife of a Parksville man, who died in late August while his family was on hold for 31 minutes waiting for an ambulance to be dispatched, has spoken with BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) in what she considers “a very progressive meeting.”

“We know they’re taking it seriously. This is not going to be put on a shelf,” said Nancy Blakey.

As a former police officer, Blakey said she has both great sympathy and respect for dispatch workers.

“When I was working the night shift, my closest backup was in bed 45 minutes away. My lifeline was the dispatch,” she said. “I want to stress how important those frontline people are.”

From her conversations with BCEHS after the death of her husband Chuck, Blakey believes the emergency service understands how the last thing a distressed person wants to hear when calling is a recording.

READ MORE: Parksville man, 72, dies in home while family waits on hold with 911 dispatch

“They need a (person),” she said. “And that’s what they’re looking at changing in the system. And if they can do that, that’s huge, in my opinion.”

In an email to PQB News, Lesley Pritchard, media communications for BCEHS, wrote that, as part of the review of Blakey’s incident, they are looking at their processes in dispatch, including changes that may be related to the outgoing phone recording.

She also stated that to support their operations, BCEHS is adding 30 more dispatch staff members, with some starting as early as October.

Shannon Miller, also with media communications for BCEHS, wrote in an email they operate three separate, but integrated, dispatch operation centres in Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops. The centres all manage incoming 911 calls and co-ordinate all responses to those calls.

“We implemented new technology in 2019 that enables our emergency medical call-takers to seamlessly answer and process 911 calls for any of the three dispatch centres and the communities they serve. All 30 new emergency medical call takers (EMCTs) could potentially cover central Vancouver Island, as they are covering the province as a whole. When call volumes are high at one dispatch centre, calls are answered at other centres,” she wrote.

READ MORE: Hundreds of new B.C. paramedic positions announced as 24 stations go to full-time staffing

“There’s no one easy solution to this,” said Blakey.

She believes the answer to this problem should not only involve levels of government and public servants with expertise, but communities as well.

“It’s very important that the community voice be understood. And (Parksville Qualicum Beach), we are unique because of our demographic.”

She said when someone finds themselves in a stressful situation, such as needing to call an ambulance, and if they are in an older age group that may not have a support net or family close by, the voice on the other end is essentially their lifeline.

To Blakey, keeping the communications open to ensure these changes are made, or are at least being worked on, is as important as for communities to understand that “these people truly do care.”

“We were going forward knowing that our concerns have been addressed at the highest level,” she said.

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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