Politicians call for inquest into emergency response to crash that killed MLA

·4 min read

Two northern Manitoba leaders are asking for an inquiry to be called into the death of MLA Danielle Adams, as both the time it took for emergency workers to arrive on scene and the ability of emergency workers to assist Adams once they got there have been called into question.

Adams, 38, was the MLA for Thompson, and a wife and mother to two sons when she was killed in a head-on collision with a semi-trailer truck on Highway 6 south of Ponton on Dec. 9. Highway 6 connects Thompson and Winnipeg, and Adams was travelling for work in Winnipeg when the collision happened.

According to Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook, who spoke to the Winnipeg Sun on Monday, after the accident Adams was still alive, but she died before emergency responders able to deal with the emergency and her injuries arrived on scene.

There have also been reports that one emergency worker who arrived on the scene that day didn’t know they were being called to the site of an accident and that Adams had already succumbed to her injuries by the time emergency workers with the proper equipment and training to extricate Adams from the vehicle arrived on scene.

Smook said it is time for an inquest to study how emergency services could be better coordinated in northern Manitoba and how the emergency system could do a better job of sending the right people, depending on what the specific emergency is.

“We have to do a better job of figuring out the state of our different emergency services and we need to figure out with the fire service and the emergency services what the protocols are once there is a call,” Smook said.

[caption id="attachment_667384" align="alignnone" width="828"] Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook said she supports calls for an inquiry into the emergency response to the Dec. 9 crash that killed Thompson MLA Danielle Adams. Handout photo[/caption]

According to Smook currently when people in the north call 911, dispatchers then contact the closest emergency department based on location, but that means that sometimes the most appropriate departments aren’t always sent out to deal with a call.

“There is a need to assess each department and see what training those departments have and what equipment they have, so that the appropriate people are always sent to accidents and emergencies,” Smook said.

Smook added she would like to see the inquiry because she believes that residents in northern Manitoba should not have to deal with slower wait times or inferior emergency services just because of where they live.

“We need to make sure that every person who calls in an emergency gets the best and most appropriate services that are available no matter where they are,” Smook said.

Niki Ashton, the federal NDP MP for Churchill-Keewtinook Aski, is calling for an inquiry into the response to the crash and has sent a letter to Manitoba’s chief medical examiner requesting an inquest to examine the emergency response.

Ashton says an inquiry should look into snow clearing and road maintenance in the area, because of how dangerous some of the roads and highways can get due to snow and other winter conditions.

The Winnipeg Sun reached out to Shared Health asking both for comment on the incident, and if they could offer a timeline of events that day.

In an email, a Shared Health spokesperson said they are now “reviewing the circumstances, timelines and response to this specific incident,” but could not comment specifically on what happened that day.

“Patient privacy legislation prevents us from speaking to specific individual cases, but we nevertheless want to express our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of this individual for their loss.

“Generally speaking, ground transport is the primary 911 response for the vast majority of incidents, including those on Manitoba highways. In northern Manitoba, response to remote locations can involve lengthy drive times, even when road conditions are ideal.”

Shared Health also explained what the process is in Manitoba when someone needs to be extricated from a vehicle, but said they are looking into whether that process needs to be changed so that more emergency workers can offer extrication.

“Extrication of patients is the responsibility of fire resources who respond to emergencies alongside emergency medical response. Prior to this incident, Shared Health had been reviewing options to ensure extrication is available in remote northern communities where an integrated fire/paramedic response is not always possible.”

The Winnipeg Sun also reached out to the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, (MAHCP) a union that represents hundreds of rural paramedics in the province, but in an email a MAHCP spokesperson said they were not in a position to offer comment at this time.

“We don’t have enough information to be able to comment on this incident specifically,” the spokesperson said. “We represent Shared Health paramedics, not any first responders (i.e., firefighters, police or paramedics) directly employed by the City of Thompson, nor do we know who responded.

“We have not received any details or heard from any of our members about this incident.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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