Saskatchewan

Former nurse in Buffalo Narrows, Sask. turns ambulance driver for ill husband

A woman in northern Saskatchewan took matters into her own hands Wednesday when she drove her ill husband to the hospital in Île-à-la-Crosse instead of waiting for an ambulance.

Candice Evans says she didn't want to risk a long wait for an ambulance to arrive from Île-à-la-Crosse

Duane Evans sits in the passenger seat - an IV bag stuck to the roof - as his wife Candice Evans drives him 63 kilometres south to a hospital in Île-à-la-Crosse. (Candice Evans)

There's playing nurse, and then there's this.

A woman in northern Saskatchewan took matters into her own hands Wednesday when she drove her ill, IV-strapped husband to the hospital in Île-à-la-Crosse instead of waiting for an ambulance.

Candice Evans of Buffalo Narrows says her experience highlights the need for ambulance services within her community of 1,100 people and is calling on local leaders, including Mayor Bobby Woods, to meet with the Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority about it.

"This has been escalating," said Evans, citing a recent incident in which a woman in the community was having seizures and had to wait up to two hours for an ambulance to arrive from Île-à-la-Crosse.

Not willing to wait 

Evans took to Facebook on Wednesday to vent about her ordeal, posting a photo of her husband-turned-patient, Duane, hunched in the passenger seat. (Can't seek the Facebook post? Click here.) 

As Evans later recalled to CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition, the on-call nurse at Buffalo Narrows' health centre saw Duane, hooked him up to an IV and decided he needed care at St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Centre in Île-à-la-Crosse, about a 45 minute drive south on Highway 155.

Evans says she used to work as a nurse in the Keewatin Yatthe heath region and knows ambulances can take a while to arrive when travelling to another community. (Candice Evans)

But Evans, a former nurse in the region, says she wasn't willing to risk a long wait with Duane in "excruciating pain" from an infection.

"We could have been there for a couple hours — if that ambulance was even available," she said. "It might have been at another call at another community. So I used my best judgement and said, 'you know what? I don't want to wait for the ambulance. I'm just going to drive him myself.'"

'One of the worst roads'

Affixing Duane's IV bag to the roof of her car, Evans took to the highway — "by far one of the worst roads anyone should have to travel [on]," she said. (Another portion of Highway 155, near LaLoche, was recently voted Saskatchewan's worst road.)

"It's insane. It's bumpy. It's just crazy," she said. "Just imagine being in pain or discomforting and in the back on a stretcher. It's not a nice trip to make."

Evans nevertheless made it to the hospital in good time, she says, and Duane is now "on the mend."

But her experience has her worried for the well-being of her community.

"It concerns me that if I was to have, or if anyone's family member, was having a heart attack or a stroke or if there was a major accident, we don't have a hospital in our community," she said. "We don't even have the ambulance based here."

A petition is now circulating calling for the reinstitution of community-based ambulances in Buffalo Narrows.

A petition circulating among Buffalo Narrows residents and calling for the reinstituion of (Tracy Tinker/Facebook)

Province looking at EMS services

A panel studying the province's health care system has recommended that Saskatchewan consolidate planning, dispatch and delivery of EMS services.

Evans says she hopes that doesn't result in a diminishment of services in Buffalo Narrows.

"I hope that that doesn't affect us even worse," she said. "We shouldn't have to fight for basic care living in Northern Saskatchewan."

with files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition