Sirens sounded: Investigation launched after reports of hour-long ambulance wait in Labrador

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Sirens sounded: Investigation launched after reports of hour-long ambulance wait in Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister says if people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are waiting an hour for an ambulance, that's "certainly not an acceptable situation."

An investigation has been launched to get to the bottom of the allegations.

"[Labrador-Grenfell Health] will be looking into those kinds of [response] times and the documentation around it as part of an investigation that they will do of this problem," Minister John Haggie told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

CBC News reported Wednesday on several incidents where people claimed it took 30, 40 and even 60 minutes for help to arrive — in a town you can drive through in 15 minutes. 

Self-reporting, paper-based data

Ambulance services in the town are provided privately via Labrador Ambulance Services Ltd. and staff in Labrador aren't required to wait by their ambulances.

When an emergency call comes in, they drive to the ambulance bay on the far end of town before responding. 

Haggie said it's not clear if the full picture is being presented when it comes to response times.

"At the moment, there is self-reporting and it's paper-based," said Haggie, noting ambulance services staff will write on a form the time and date of the call. 

That's different than the electronic monitoring that happens when people make a 911 call, Haggie noted.

He said he believes consistency would go a long way.

"We're very interested at looking at a province-wide standard central medical dispatch system for ambulances for wherever they may be in the province, and that's a priority for the department over the coming year or so," he said. 

'Standards' drive the ambulance business

Ambulance services in Labrador City and Wabush are provided by Labrador-Grenfell Health — so should Happy Valley-Goose Bay follow suit? 

"I think that would be part of a discussion to be had based on an outcome of an investigation," Haggie said. 

Haggie said the contract with Labrador Ambulance Services Ltd. expired March 31 and is up for renewal, but appears to be far from a slam-dunk.

"Getting good value for the tax dollars that we spend is a priority for my department and our government," he said.

 "The nature of the service is — and should be — driven by standards, whoever provides it."