Maple Ridge needs more ambulances, says cancer survivor

Paramedics say wait times across Metro Vancouver have risen due to the shortage.

Paramedics say wait times across Metro Vancouver have risen due to the shortage

Musician and cancer survivor Matt Kelso says he doesn't want other people to risk their lives because of inadequate ambulance service in Maple Ridge, B.C. (CBC)

A cancer survivor in Maple Ridge, B.C., is calling for more ambulances in his community, highlighting what some say is a critical a lack of emergency services across the country. 

Musician Matt Kelso says two 24-hour ambulances for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, a region of almost 100,000 people, isn't enough. 

His request doesn't come out of the blue. He has relied on doctors, nurses and paramedics more than most people. 

"I had a seizure on my front yard, and went to the hospital. Within three days I found out I had a baseball-sized tumour inside the left side of my brain," he said. 

Kelso is now recovering from his battle with brain cancer, but he said he still sees the need for change. That's why he started an online petition for more ambulances.

"I'd hate to see someone else die because of long wait times," he said.

Compared to other municipalities in the Lower Mainland, Maple Ridge has fewer ambulances per capita. (CBC)

Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. said the region has seen significant population growth, without a corresponding increase in paramedic services. 

"What that has translated to is longer response times for paramedics when someone's having a medical emergency," said spokesperson Cameron Eby. 

Eby said the wait for critical care in Maple Ridge extends to nearby communities, who then have to pick up the slack.

Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. says there aren't enough ambulances across the Lower Mainland and the country. (CBC)

He said wait times across Metro Vancouver are a concern. The national standard for response times for urgent calls is nine minutes, he said. In Metro Vancouver, Eby said that number is closer to 12 or 13 minutes.

Eby argues Metro Vancouver would need at least 22 more ambulances to meet the industry standard. 

But long wait times aren't limited to B.C., according to Eby. 

"Paramedic staffing is an issue across the entire country," he said. "When you have an urgent situation, literally every second counts." 

B.C. Emergency Health Services, which manages the operations of ambulances, said it understands the concern and will be releasing a report later this month that will show where more resources are needed.

"It certainly does indicate that, yes, we do need to take a look at how we can better serve our patient population in that area. And that's the reason we've undertaken the review," said Jodi Jensen, the organization's COO. 

With files from Lien Yeung


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