March 31st, 2021

Ambulance delays must be addressed, family demands action

HALIFAX - Patients, paramedics, health care workers, and community leaders have been sounding the alarm about the impact of ambulance offload delays on Nova Scotia’s emergency health services. Now, another family is speaking about their experience.

In September 2020, Anne MacPhee’s husband, Kelly MacPhee, died of a heart attack while waiting for an ambulance. The ambulance took almost 40 minutes to arrive.

“My husband spent the last half an hour of his life in terror. He kept asking what was taking so long and he died before an ambulance arrived,” said MacPhee. “We live right next to the Armdale Rotary. If this can happen here in urban Halifax, it can happen anywhere. No other families should have to go through this.”

For more than a year, paramedics have been calling Code Critical to warn the public when there are no ambulances available for calls in a particular region. Many of these delays are caused by growing offload times at hospitals.

New information obtained by the NDP Caucus through a Freedom of Information request shows the problem of ambulance offload has been increasing over the past three years. The Halifax Infirmary (95 minutes), Cobequid Health Centre (71 minutes), and Dartmouth General (62 minutes) have the longest average offload times in the province. Throughout the province, 16 of 38 hospitals are above the recommended offload time of 20 minutes.

“For years, the Liberal government has known about the crisis in emergency health care and they have consistently failed to act. This Liberal government spent two years hiding the Fitch report from the public and now they are doing a limited thing to try and address a systemic problem,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. “I want to thank Anne MacPhee and her family for sharing their experience today. Long offload times aren’t just abstract numbers, they represent the experiences of people like Anne who were not able to get emergency support in the time it was needed.”