New Brunswick

'Someone's going to lose a life': Blackville mayor worries ambulance response too slow

Blackville Mayor Christopher Hennessy is worried response times for Ambulance New Brunswick to his village are too slow and getting worse.

Mayor Christopher Hennessy, who is also a volunteer firefighter, says emergency calls take up to 40 minutes

Blackville Mayor Christopher Hennessy and Progressive Conservative MLA Jake Stewart are calling for improved response times by Ambulance New Brunswick. (Twitter)

Blackville Mayor Christopher Hennessy is worried response times for Ambulance New Brunswick to his village are too slow and getting worse.

In a photo posted on social media Wednesday, Hennessy and Jake Stewart, the Progressive Conservative MLA, are seen holding signs, one reading: "We are treated like second class citizens. Why?"

We're going to get caught here one of these days and someone's going to lose a life because of it.- Blackville Mayor Christopher Hennessy

Hennessy, who is also a volunteer firefighter in the community, said he's noticed response times are longer than they should be, even for rural New Brunswick.

"Over the past six months it even seems to be getting worse," he told Information Morning Fredericton.

"There's a wait time of 30 to 40 minutes, sometimes over that, for pretty serious calls in my opinion that would be classified as an emergency."

Hennessy said patients have told him that ambulances are coming from Boisetown, Doaktown or Miramichi, which are all 30 minutes away.

"It's just unacceptable."

Hennessy said early Thursday morning that he had reached out to Ambulance New Brunswick but was still waiting for a call back.

Ambulance New Brunswick responds

Yvon Bourque, director of operations at Ambulance New Brunswick, said later Thursday that a meeting has now been scheduled.

​"Our patients' care and treatment is our priority, and I have a meeting arranged with Mayor Hennessy set for Tuesday to hear his concerns," Bourque said.

Ambulance New Brunswick's contract with the province requires that emergency calls for ambulance service are provided to rural areas of the province in less than 22 minutes, 90 per cent of the time.

Yvon Bourque of Ambulance New Brunswick says he will meeting with the mayor of Blackville on Tuesday to hear his concerns about service. (CBC)
For non-emergency calls, the requirement is to respond within 25 minutes, 90 per cent of the time.

ANB said in an emailed statement that Blackville is considered a rural response area, which means it has a population of fewer than 5,000 people.

"During the one-year period ending November 30, 2016, our response time to emergency 911 calls in Blackville averaged eight minutes and 39 seconds. Our response time to non-emergency 911 calls averaged 13 minutes and 52 seconds," the statement said.

'I don't know where those numbers come from'

But Hennessy said his experience as a first responder doesn't match the information provided by the ambulance service.

"Being a volunteer firefighter, being there on the side of the road or at someone's home in the time of emergency — I don't know where those numbers have come from," Hennessy said.

"I just know that I've seen lots of circumstances where the wait times have been a lot greater than that. And if it happens more than once — to me it's too much."

Hennessy said it is difficult to sleep at night not knowing whether his village is being covered adequately.

"We're going to get caught here one of these days and someone's going to lose a life because of it."

Stewart tweeted about the problem on Thursday, saying Blackville is left uncovered "for significant time periods due to its proximity to Miramichi hospital."

The mayor said he isn't sure what the answer is but suggested it might be more ambulances, or to have one ambulance dedicated to transferring patients so local ambulances aren't tied up with planned patient appointments.

"Health care should be priority to us, especially emergency services like that," Hennessy said.

Ambulance New Brunswick said Blackville is considered a priority post, which means ambulances are posted to that area to maintain adequate coverage.

"These posts are established based on our dynamic deployment system," ANB said. "That means that when an ambulance is dispatched to a call, nearby ambulances move around to ensure no area is left without an ambulance close at hand."

But Hennessy said every patient should be a priority.

"Everyone should be a priority," Hennessy said. "How is ​a priority waiting 30 to 40 minutes for an ambulance? It doesn't make sense."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton