Woman in south Ottawa had to wait 6 hours for ambulance after hip fracture

·3 min read
Cathy Deschenes says no family should have to experience a wait for an ambulance similar to the six hours her mother-in-law spent in pain, huddled in the garage. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC - image credit)
Cathy Deschenes says no family should have to experience a wait for an ambulance similar to the six hours her mother-in-law spent in pain, huddled in the garage. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC - image credit)

A 75-year-old woman in south Ottawa had to wait six hours for an ambulance after falling and fracturing her hip in one of the latest incidents where Ottawa's paramedic service has been caught overstretched.

Nine-year-old Haisley Lavergne said she saw her grandmother screaming for help after she fell at the end of her Greely driveway while trying to move a waste bin.

"I looked out the window and I realized grandma was on the ground outside and ran downstairs to tell dad," she said. "It scared me a lot."

Elaine Deschenes' children, grandchildren and neighbours rushed to help, but had to wait six hours for an ambulance after calling around 5 p.m.

In that time, her daughter-in-law Cathy Deschenes said, family members wedged Elaine on a walker to shuffle up her driveway into the garage and out of the muggy heat Thursday evening.

"Each time we moved back like a foot at a time, she was yelling out in pain," Cathy said.

"We had no choice. We couldn't put her into a vehicle. If we could've, we would've and got her to the nearest hospital. But we absolutely needed an ambulance."

Cathy Deschenes/Submitted
Cathy Deschenes/Submitted

Cathy Deschenes said after the six-hour wait Elaine was taken to Winchester District Hospital by Cornwall paramedics and since then she's received excellent care. She's been transported to the Ottawa Hospital since her hip fracture was confirmed.

"I'm ultimately concerned more about patients and families that are alone and don't have anybody to help them. I think my mother-in-law was super fortunate that she had so many people around her," Cathy Deschenes said.

"We don't want this to happen to anyone else."

In another part of town late Thursday, Ottawa police said they provided first aid to a man who was shot on Clifford Private and transported him to hospital "as there was no ambulance immediately available."

Police said the injuries were non-life threatening.

CBC News contacted the Ottawa Paramedic Service Friday and received no response to questions about staffing levels or whether a level zero was declared on Thursday.

In a report this past June, city staff said there had been 526 instances where no ambulances were available in Ottawa between Jan. 1 and May 25 of this year — compared to 45 instances in the same period in 2021.

It attributed those delays to a 12 per cent rise in response volumes, as well as offload delays that tied paramedics up in hospital.

Coun. Matt Luloff, chair of the community and protective services committee, was not available for an interview Friday afternoon.

Reno Patry/CBC
Reno Patry/CBC

In a statement, he applauded paramedics efforts to reduce ambulance offload times so they can respond to calls and said the "widespread national and provincial issue" of level zeroes need to be addressed by the Ministry of Health.

Ontario's Ministry of Health provided a statement Friday saying they take the issue of ambulance availability very seriously.

The ministry said it has expanded the dedicated offload nurse program to free up paramedics when they get to emergency departments.

It said $7 million has been added to the program in the 2022-23 budget to hire nurses, paramedics, community paramedics, respiratory therapists and physician assistants to fill those positions.

The ministry said it is looking at both long- and short-term solutions to address hospital flow issues, space limitations, hospital culture and access to non-emergency care alternatives.

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