Difficult trip to hospital sparks call to restore Kwuna ferry sailings

A Sandspit woman is calling for better evening medical transfers to Queen Charlotte after seeing how hard it was on her mother.

A Sandspit woman is calling for better evening medical transfers to Queen Charlotte after seeing how hard it was on her mother.

In an open letter to BC Emergency Health Services, Tanya Krueger said her mother Patricia Matson faced a cold, stressful, and risky trip to the Haida Gwaii Hospital after the Kwuna ferry had stopped running on the night of Feb. 1.

“My hope in writing this letter to you is that no other resident of Sandspit ever has to endure these stressful and horrific circumstances in their most vulnerable health conditions,” she said.

“Whether they require an ambulance for a broken arm, a serious accident, or for the end of their life like my mother, everyone deserves a reasonable and comfortable level of care in transport to the hospital.”

Patricia Matson passed away on Feb. 3 after a decade-long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 71.

Many times before she made her last trip to hospital, Matson told her family that she hoped she would go during the day on the Kwuna ferry, rather than having to go after the last 5:30 p.m. sailing by ambulance and Coast Guard boat.

Krueger stressed that both the BC Ambulance attendant and the Coast Guard crew did everything they could to keep her mother comfortable during the voyage.

“But I believe that if my mom’s request to travel via the ferry service had been granted, it would have greatly reduced her discomfort, stress, and anxiety in her final days,” she wrote.

On Feb. 1 at 8:30 p.m., Krueger’s mother was moved by stretcher to an ambulance with portable oxygen, then taken down a steep, frosty gangway at the Sandspit marina to the waiting Coast Guard search-and-rescue boat.

Krueger and her husband held a pillow around her mother’s ears to shield her from the loud noise of the boat, but they could do nothing about the diesel smell on board.

The trip to Queen Charlotte took 40 minutes, with Coast Guard and BC Ambulance staff regularly checking her mother’s vital signs.

Because it was low tide, the group had a steep walk up another slippery gangway in the Queen Charlotte Harbour. Krueger’s husband did slip on the way up, but was unhurt.

Two days after she arrived at the hospital, Krueger’s mother passed away surrounded by family.

“To BC Ferries, I implore you to re-examine the cuts you have made to the scheduled service runs of the Kwuna,” Krueger wrote, referring to the evening sailings that were cancelled in 2014. She also called on BC Ambulance to advocate on behalf of its staff and the patients they serve by joining her call for a restored evening schedule.

“It is an essential service to the citizens of Sandspit, and its current level of service is unacceptable and endangers the lives of every soul on Moresby Island.”