Emergency Sandspit crossings catch minister’s attention

B.C. Emergency Health Services will discuss the lack of evening Kwuna ferry sailings with Northern Health and Queen Charlotte council.

Health Minister Terry Lake says B.C. Emergency Health Services will discuss the lack of evening Kwuna ferry sailings with Northern Health and Queen Charlotte council.

The talks follow what the family of the late Patricia Matson says was a cold, stressful, and risky trip from Sandspit to the Haida Gwaii Hospital by ambulance and Coast Guard boat on the night of Feb. 1. Matson, 71, passed away two days later in hospital, having struggled with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for a decade.

Matson’s daughter, Tanya Kreuger, wrote an open letter to B.C. Emergency Health Services that described how her mother was taken by stretcher up steep, frosty gangways after 40 minutes on a loud Coast Guard boat that smelled strongly of diesel.

“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.

Krueger said that before the trip, her mother hoped she would not need to go to hospital before the last 5:30 p.m. Kwuna ferry sailing to Skidegate Landing. The family made a special request to use the Kwuna ferry on Feb. 1, and Krueger also called on the province to restore its evening sailing schedule.

In reply to a letter about the issue from Queen Charlotte council, Minister Lake said the Kwuna had no crew available at the time, and B.C. Emergency Health Services does use water taxis or Coast Guard vessels when they are the best options at hand.

“The loss of a loved one is never easy, and I acknowledge the additional distress she has experienced in feeling that her mother did not receive the best possible care,” wrote Lake.

“I recognize that this experience was undesirable for Ms. Matson and her family, and the Ministry of Health takes the concerns raised by Ms. Krueger very seriously.”

Bill Beldessi, who represents Sandspit at the North Coast Regional District, said at a board meeting that the situation is absolutely unacceptable.

Besides Patricia Matson’s experience, Beldessi said that when one of his friends passed away in Sandspit recently, the body was transported to Queen Charlotte by police boat and the back of an RCMP pick-up truck.

“This is what we’re dealing with folks, and this is never ending,” said Beldessi.

“I just wanted to show everyone that if you die in Sandspit, die in the ambulance, don’t die at home. It’s so disrespectful.”

Barry Pages, chair of the NCRD, echoed other directors who praised local BC Ambulance crews, but said provincial regulations sometimes prevent them from taking charge in such scenarios.

“It’s kind of sad that they don’t let the local ambulance attendants make some decisions,” said Pages.

“I mean, it’s not like they have to go a long way anyways.”