BC 911 callers left Thursday with ‘extensive’ delays

British Columbia’s emergency medical system faced a new investigation on Thursday, amid “extensive” delays for people calling 911.

E-Comm, the agency that operates BC’s 911 call centers, took to Twitter several times during the day to warn callers about backlogs.

“We are seeing consistent delays at 911 this morning as our call recorders are bound to transfer calls to ambulance. If you hear a recorded message, we need you to stay on the line, ”the service sent around

Two hours later, it announced another announcement, and warning delays also grew on police non-emergency lines as staff prioritized emergency calls.

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At 4:30 p.m., E-Comm said calls to 911 were still experiencing “periodic wait times,” which “were expected to last all evening.”

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E-Comm spokeswoman Kalia Butler told Global News that the backlog was due to the cessation of transferring calls for emergency medical care to the ambulance service.

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“When a caller calls 911 and asks for an ambulance, that call is immediately transferred to BC Emergency Health Services,” she said.

“We have experienced some extensive delays in transferring these calls to BCEHS, and this of course means that our 911 callers waiting in line with 911 callers are unable to disconnect and continue answering the next 911 call the queue. ”

Global News contacted both the BCEHS and the Provincial Health Services Authority, its parent health authority, to inquire about the reasons for these delays, but did not receive a response.

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Butler said the delays associated with ambulance shipments have been “steadily increasing” in recent months.

“They’re consistent, and unfortunately they persist,” she said.

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This is not the first time that Global News has reported delays related to 911 operators to the ambulance service.

Back in May, amid another increase in ambulance delays, several sources told Global News on a particularly bad day that it took ambulance dispatchers up to 10 minutes to take calls from an E-Comm operator.

Asked about the issue Thursday, Prime Minister John Horgan said the ongoing twin health crises associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid drug crisis had put an “extraordinary strain on frontline workers.”

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“It’s not acceptable to the health minister, it’s not acceptable to British Colombians,” Horgan said, promising health minister Adrian Dix would have more to say about a solution in the coming days.

The province has promised to hire hundreds of additional paramedics, and in July announced a review of the ambulance service in the wake of a heat wave that left hundreds dead.

Meanwhile, Butler said it was critical that anyone calling 911 who received a recorded message stays on the line and does not hang up.

Placing and redialing or calling from another phone only serves to further tie the lines and exacerbate delays, she said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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