Health officials in Lethbridge are defending a decision to call an ambulance for a woman who collapsed right in front of the hospital.


Tony Stephan, who witnessed the incident, said it took 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive and drive the woman who collapsed 100 metres from the hospital entrance to the emergency ward. (CBC)

The woman keeled over about 100 meters from the main entrance of the Chinook Regional Hospital on Friday.

A passerby ran into the hospital to get medical help but was told the receptionist would call 911.

It took about 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive and then drive the patient to the emergency ward, said Tony Stephan, who witnessed the incident.

"And we waited and we waited and we waited and this poor woman turned blue," he said.

"The only reason why she's alive is because there was a passerby that knew artificial respiration, and the peace officer that showed up. No medical staff came."

According to Vanessa Maclean, medical director for Alberta Health's south zone, there is no written policy, but paramedics generally handle incidents outside hospitals.

She said officials are reviewing the incident.

Fred Horne, minister of Alberta Health and Wellness, said he has asked Alberta Health Services (AHS) to provide an explanation of what happened in this case.

The minister also says he understands that AHS is working on a policy for these type of situations that would apply throughout the health system.

"And at the end, absolutely more than happy to sit down and say ‘this is what we've learned this is what we're going to continue to do and this is what we're going to do differently,’" she said.

Emergency room physician and safety advocate Dr. Louis Francescutti said calling for an ambulance — even right outside a hospital — actually makes sense.

Hospital staff don’t have the same training as paramedics, he said. 

"They're not properly trained to maintain, you know, spinal precautions ... to package this individual, to bring him within the institution," he said.

"So you know the public might say that's crazy. Well it may be crazy but experts have looked at it and ... concluded that the only thing that really makes sense is to call 911," he said.

There was no official word on the woman's condition, but Stephan said he was told she remains in intensive care.