'Are you sending an ambulance?' Neighbour says multiple calls made to 911 following dog attack

·3 min read
On Tuesday Alberta Health Services says it started an 'immediate' review of why it took EMS 30 minutes to respond to a call Sunday about a dog attack on a senior.  (David Bell/CBC - image credit)
On Tuesday Alberta Health Services says it started an 'immediate' review of why it took EMS 30 minutes to respond to a call Sunday about a dog attack on a senior. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)

EMS response times in Calgary are under scrutiny following a dog attack that killed a senior in a northwest neighbourhood on Sunday.

Officials in charge of Alberta's emergency response system say the call was logged for police response, but the woman who made the call says the senior was clearly in need of medical attention.

On Tuesday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) said it looked into why it took 30 minutes for an ambulance to respond to the attack on the 86-year-old woman, identified by neighbours as Betty Ann Williams, who was mauled by three dogs.

An AHS spokesperson said the initial 911 call was received by City of Calgary dispatch and categorised for police response based on the information provided from the scene. AHS said the call was initially triaged as non-life-threatening.

A City of Calgary spokesperson did not respond to requests for information by the time of publishing.

Steve Buick, a spokesperson for Health Minister Jason Copping, said the minister was "relieved" to hear that the AHS investigation confirmed there was no undue delay in the EMS response.

Neighbours said they held Williams while she waited half an hour for an ambulance.

Helen Pike/CBC
Helen Pike/CBC

Nicola, whose full name CBC is withholding to protect her identity, called 911 that day.

"I said, 'There's an 80-year-old woman that's been mauled by three dogs,'" she said, adding that the whole thing was traumatic as the senior had significant injuries.

"I'm just like, 'Are you sending an ambulance?'"

She said her husband was holding Williams, and yelled for them to send EMS right away. She said she wishes the dispatcher asked more questions because she was in a state of shock, after witnessing the attack of a woman she had lived next to for decades.

She said she's going to counselling to deal with the incident and she feels like emergency response organizations are trying to shift some blame onto her through statements to the media.

A bylaw officer showed up within minutes, she said, and then he tried to get through to EMS, and his call didn't go through.

"He finally just said, 'You know what, let's call the fire department.' They will have somebody on hand who can at least work on her."

"I'd like to give him a hug. Because he tried so hard."

During a press conference Wednesday, Darren Sandbeck, chief paramedic and senior provincial director at Alberta Health Services, said they are still gathering facts and investigating this portion of the incident.


Calgary mayor says trauma 'could have been avoided' 

Early Wednesday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she had limited information about the incident, but added the trauma Williams' friends and neighbours experienced "could have been avoided" if EMS responded more quickly.

"We have to figure out how to make that happen," she told CBC's Calgary Eyeopener.

"I would say that our initial indications when EMS service was changed and dispatch service was changed, we were fearful that delayed times or delayed response times would cost lives."

Mike Symington/CBC
Mike Symington/CBC

Calgarians not interested in breed ban: mayor 

Authorities believe the three dogs to be a North American pit bull terrier mix, a North American Staffordshire mix and an American pit bull.

Earlier this week, police said the city seized the dogs and the animals would be held during the investigation. Criminal charges or fines could be laid, and the dogs could be put down.

Gondek said when the city was looking at the responsible pet ownership bylaw the "overwhelming response" from Calgarians was that a breed ban was not something people wanted to see.

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