PEI

Man dies of heart attack in western P.E.I. as ambulance takes over an hour to arrive

A woman from western P.E.I. says she watched her father die of a massive heart attack at his workplace while an ambulance took more than an hour to arrive from Summerside.

George Kinch was lying on the floor unconcious for about an hour after suffering from a heart attack

George Kinch, 68, died of a massive heart attack at his Alma, P.E.I. workplace last month. (Submitted by Gail Kinch)

A woman from western P.E.I. says she watched her father die of a massive heart attack at his workplace while an ambulance took more than an hour to arrive from Summerside.

Gail Kinch received an urgent call at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 20 from her father's boss at the potato warehouse where he worked in Alma. 

She arrived to find 68-year-old George Kinch lying unconscious on the cold concrete floor, a towel under his head as people tried to perform CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"Every minute that went by was a minute that we knew we might not bring him back," she said. 

The Alberton fire department was there, with volunteer members doing their best to stabilize her father's condition. They tried a defibrillator with no luck. 

"Is this where we say our goodbyes?" Kinch wondered. 

And still the ambulance wasn't coming. There was no team available in West Prince that morning. Summerside is more than 70 kilometres away.

After 55 minutes, the emergency workers at the scene said there was no longer any hope that the Palmer Road man could be saved. (Submitted by Gail Kinch)

After 55 minutes, the emergency workers at the scene said there was no longer any hope that the Palmer Road man could be saved, and put a blanket over him. 

"This is what we remember him by, laying on a cold warehouse floor in minus-20 with the windchill that day," said Kinch. 

"It'd just be nice to have that closure that, you know, this isn't going to happen to someone else."

'A matter of minutes'

To seek that closure, Kinch wrote to her MLA, Liberal Hal Perry, telling him: "No one should have to wait this long in an emergency." 

Perry raised the case Friday in the P.E.I. legislature, reading out Kinch's letter.

He is among the MLAs who have been raising concerns about ambulance response times since the fall, calling for more staffing for the service so that more crews can be stationed across the province — especially in eastern and western regions. 

The latest aggregate ambulance response times posted by the P.E.I. Department of Health show it's taking longer for ambulances to reach the eastern and western ends of the Island.

Figures for October to December 2021 show the median response time for the Alberton region was 15 minutes 54 seconds. For O'Leary, the median time was 16 minutes and for Souris, in eastern P.E.I., the median was 17 minutes, 14 seconds.

In each case, those times are at least two minutes longer than those posted for the previous quarter.

For comparison, the median response times in Charlottetown and Summerside are both less than 10 minutes.

Perry said it should never take more than an hour for an ambulance to reach the scene of a medical emergency. 

"It's a matter of minutes that can save someone's life," he said. "They needed an immediate response." 

Island EMS is financed in part by the provincial government but operated by parent company Medavie Health Services.

A statement sent to CBC News on Friday said Medavie managers' thoughts are with the Kinch family, but declined to answer questions about the case. 

The statement did say: "There are many factors that can impact Island EMS response times, including a high volume of call demand, multiple calls in an area, and delays in offloading patients." 

Island EMS says it's working with the province on recruitment and retention strategies.

Perry is not satisfied, calling for the company to have to meet strict targets for response times. 

"There has to be times that are met and consequences to them if they are not met." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca

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