Former paramedic says daughter almost died after being told to wait 45 minutes for ambulance

Former paramedic Daniel Garvin says the government needs to invest more into health care after his daughter almost died.  (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)
Former paramedic Daniel Garvin says the government needs to invest more into health care after his daughter almost died. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)

Daniel Garvin said he went through one of the scariest moments of his life on Nov. 8, when he almost lost his 33-year-old daughter to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.

A former paramedic, he knew the pain in his daughter's abdomen could be life-threatening. He said he called 911 only to be told there would be a 45-minute wait for an ambulance. Not willing to wait, he drove her to the hospital himself.

"Once we got to the hospital, all my fears … were confirmed," said Garvin.

"The surgeon relayed to me on the side that if we had been another 25-30 minutes later, we would've been planning a funeral for my daughter."

The closest ambulance to Garvin's home in L'Île-Perrot, west of Montreal, at the time was over 90 kilometres away in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, according the union representing paramedics in the Montérégie.

"It's crazy," said Mathieu Lacombe, the vice-president of information and mobilization at the union.

"For an ambulance to drive all the way from Richelieu to L'Île-Perrot without any closer ambulance that were available to take the call — I've never seen that."

Lacombe attributes the long delays to paramedics getting held up at hospitals waiting for patients to be triaged, which can sometimes take hours.

More resources needed

Garvin says the incident reminded him of his early days as a paramedic, which he says were "even worse."

"Our government is not putting the resources where they should be putting them so it has a domino effect … and it affects every aspect of medicine," he said.

He says he doesn't want to think of what could have happened to his daughter had he not been around as a health-care professional.

"She would've died at home alone," he said.

His daughter is recovering as well as possible in her circumstances, he said.

Ambulance services in the Montérégie area, including L'Île-Perrot, are provided by La Coopérative des techniciens ambulanciers de la Montérégie (CETAM).

According to CETAM, it has been requesting more resources and has added three ambulances to the western sector this year — but the labour shortage, heavy workloads for paramedics and retention rates have been still affecting its service.

"To date, this is still a temporary addition and no official response has been sent to us as to the sustainability of these necessary additions," said CETAM spokesperson Renaud Pilon.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) says the government "intends to carry out a real transformation of the pre-hospital emergency system and this requires investments."

It is expected to soon present an action plan to tackle the issue.