Nfld. & Labrador

Ambulances take too long to respond on Southern Shore, says MHA

"You could be looking at well over an hour-plus," says Keith Hutchings.

Keith Hutchings says he's heard of people waiting for an hour for ambulances

Keith Hutchings is the MHA for the Ferryland district. (Paula Gale/CBC)

People who live on Newfoundland's Southern Shore have to wait too long for an ambulance, and services need to be redistributed, says the area's MHA.

"This is a real issue," says Ferryland PC MHA Keith Hutchings.

This needs to be addressed in the immediate future.- Keith Hutchings

"The numbers are here, the concerns are here, we want this addressed and we want this addressed now."

Hutchings said he's heard from people on the ground that it's sometimes 45 minutes before an ambulance arrives on scene for a medical call. 

"That's not getting you to the acute-care facility — that's just getting an ambulance on the scene, doing the preparatory work to transport that individual, and then travelling to that acute-care facility," Hutchings told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"I mean you could be looking at well over an hour plus."

The region's population is about 4,500, Hutchings said, and where you're calling from will decide the ambulance's dispatch point. If you're in the north section, paramedics will have to be sent down from the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's.

Cabin season means more traffic

In an area where there are a lot of summer cabins, Hutchings said the population easily doubles seasonally, meaning more traffic and, therefore, increased demand on first responder calls.

The roughly 25 volunteer-based fire departments from Bauline East to Bay Bulls will respond when there is a medical call if they can, just to ensure a response.

"They're on site when it's solely for an ambulance, they will go if they're available to go, but that certainly eats up their time as well."

With summer and therefore increased traffic and tourism coming, Hutchings is worried about ambulance wait times in his district. (Glenn Payette/CBC News)

Hutchings said other regions of the province with similar population density have a primary and secondary ambulance service.

"There's been reorganization of the population of the province, of course, in terms of the services that are allocated, so we're confident that there may be other areas in the province with similar populations that have certain ambulance services that I think need to be refocused or redirected," he said.

"If you're not going to add new funding envelopes to the pot, then I think you need to look at reconfiguration."

The Department of Health and Community Services said in an emailed statement that it is working on completing a "thorough review of ambulance operations throughout the province. That report is expected to be completed and released to the public shortly."

Hutchings, meanwhile, said he knows the review of the ambulance service is coming, but that doesn't do much good for people who need changes now.

"We're just concerned again with summertime coming, increased volume, increased activity, that this needs to be addressed in the immediate future."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show