No official after-hours ambulance service was available from Sandspit since the Kwuna went for a refit on September 11, hospital staff learned recently.
“We discovered by accident the barge wasn’t contracted to do after hours runs,” said Kerry Laidlaw, site manager for the hospital in Queen Charlotte.
Patient transport is not the hospital’s responsibility, but within three hours of an October 4 call to BC Ambulance, a good plan was in place, said Mr. Laidlaw.
The tug and barge will now provide service, at BC Ambulance expense, and the Coast Guard will provide back up, says Bruce Chambers, regional director of BC Ambulance.
Mr. Chambers says the ambulance service made a mistake in interpreting a letter received from BC Ferries.
When the Kwuna has been out for a refit in the past, BC Ferries has included after-hours service in its tug and barge contracts.
“There was a gap of misunderstanding. We would have thought it would be on the regular contract,” he said.
Mr. Chambers says patient care was never at risk, it was only a question of who would pay the tug and barge to provide service.
The answer is the ambulance service will, at a cost of $350 per call-out.
Mr. Laidlaw is satisfied with the plan, but he wonders how this situation came to be and why the hospital wasn’t informed about the change in ferry service.
Captain Edward Dahlgren, marine superintendent of the North Coast fleet at BC Ferries, said a letter, outlining their inability to provide after-hours service was sent to the Islands’ ambulance service August 2.
He was under the assumption the ambulance service would communicate this to other health officials, but realizes now that information should be circulated more broadly.
“I was very concerned the information hadn’t spread,” he said. Although it is not a requirement that BC Ferries provide after-hours service, he says it has a moral responsibility to make sure something is in place. He understood the Coast Guard would be providing the service.
When the time comes again for a refit, which it does every five years, he will make sure a letter is sent to more than one person and he will ask for confirmation of receipt.
Gail Henry of the Moresby Island Management committee was shocked to hear of this mix up when The Observer called.
“Here we go again. It is just another example of BC Ferries making changes with out consulting the communities Â…Have they endangered someone’s life. It doesn’t look like it, but who is responsible?”
Mr. Laidlaw says there had been no calls for after-hours ambulance service since the Kwuna left for a refit and that is why it took so long to discover the lack of planning.
“We would have made do. You would have had a story about the hospital commandeering a boat,” he said.
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