‘He would still be alive if help arrived on time’: B.C. senior dies after family calls 911, waits 33 minutes for ambulance

SURREY, B.C. –

A Metro Vancouver woman believes her dad would still be alive if help had arrived sooner when she called 911. Instead, she was put on hold and by the time emergency crews arrived, it was too late.

Crystal Campbell was at her parent’s Surrey home Sept. 24 when she heard her 70-year-old father, Gordon, calling for help.

“I was outside talking to my mom and my dad just started screaming ‘911, 911,'” she said. Her dad had chronic health issues.

She said she dialed 911 as her dad went into cardiac arrest.

Campbell said she asked for an ambulance and was then put on hold. She said a dispatcher came back on the line briefly and asked if her dad was breathing. She told the operator he was.

“Then they put me on hold for another eight minutes…I just held his hand and waited for someone to answer,” she told CTV News.

She said by the time the dispatcher got back on the line again, she was frantic. Soon after, her dad stopped breathing.

B.C. Emergency Health Services says a 911 call for breathing difficulties came in at 1:58 p.m. Eight minutes later, at 2:06 p.m., B.C. Emergency Health Services received a call into its system.

Fire first responders arrived on scene at 2:20 p.m. according to BC EHS.

The first paramedic crew was there at 2:31 p.m. That’s 33 minutes after the call was first made.

The Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. says the national benchmark is to respond to the most serious calls within 8.59 minutes 90 per cent of the time.

“In most of the places in the Lower Mainland, we’re not meeting that,” said Troy Clifford of the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of B.C. said in an interview last week.

“They’re over 10 minutes. We’re hearing from agencies…times of up to 20 minutes,” he explained.

B.C.’s premier acknowledges that these wait times are not acceptable.

“It’s not acceptable to the minister of health. It’s not acceptable to British Columbians. But we have an extraordinary situation that we find ourselves in,” Premier John Horgan said, referencing the pressures on the system including the overdose crisis and the pandemic.

The premier said his government will have more to say on this soon but did not provide specifics.

The province has already committed to hundreds of new paramedic positions and 30 new dispatchers in B.C.

Liberal Interim Leader Shirley Bond told CTV News she applauds the government for taking action but says more needs to be done.

“When you call for help, you need to know that someone is going to respond,” she said.

“We know it can’t be fixed overnight… but the bottom line is this has to be treated as the critical situation that it is.”

Crystal Campbell speaks to CTV News Vancouver.

Campbell said when emergency crews arrived, they did everything they could and were able to resuscitate her dad but he died a short time later in hospital.

“He would still be alive if help arrived on time,” an emotional Campbell said.

She believes B.C. needs more dispatchers and paramedics and thinks their wages should be better for the job they do.

She said that while she’s mourning her dad’s death, she’s also still in disbelief and feeling anger over what happened when she called for help.

“I was disgusted,” she said.

Crystal Campbell is pictured with her father, Gordon, in a provided photo.

Complaints about wait times for ambulances have become a serious issue in B.C.

Last week, a grandmother told CTV about how her family couldn’t get ahold of anybody when calling 911 while trying to get help for her bleeding grandson.

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