When Dallas Kalaman noticed his 81-year-old grandmother’s speech begin to slur and her body weaken, he called 911 expecting an emergency response.
Instead, Kalaman said it took two more 911 calls and 45 minutes for help to arrive.
“It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever experienced,” he said.
The Regina man told Global News he first called around 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 5 and was told there was no ambulance available, he’d be put in a queue, and to call if symptoms escalate.
He said he called again, around 15 minutes later.
“Then finally, the third call, they said one is on the way,” Kalaman said, adding he was never given an estimated wait or arrival time in any of the calls, which is why he didn’t consider driving instead.
“Nobody in their right mind, at that point in an emergency situation, is going to pack up an elderly woman that’s suffering potentially stroke-like symptoms. You’re not going to do that, you want the professionals to do that.”
Kalaman said his grandmother was taken to a Regina hospital that day, where she remains eight days later.
Surge in calls
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is in charge of emergency medical services in Regina, handling an annual average of 27,000 local calls.
“We’re constantly monitoring what the call volume is against demand. When we start to see problems developing, we put additional resources out on the street.” said Ken Luciak, director of EMS for southern Saskatchewan.
Luciak couldn’t comment on the details of Kalaman’s claims to Global News, but noted there were seven ambulances and a supervisor — the usual staffing level for a Sunday afternoon — on Jan. 5.
The average response time that day was 7.82 minutes for emergency calls, 9.2 minutes for non-emergencies.
“When we’re doing something wrong, we want to make sure we know what that is and study it and understand it and try to prevent it from happening again,” Luciak said.
However, Luciak noted, around the time of Kalaman’s emergency there was a surge of seven calls in 16 minutes. When that happens, calls are prioritized based on the information given to the communications centre.
“Despite the fact they had a surge that day, everything was done the way it was supposed to be done,” he said.
Luciak said there are a number of factors that can cause longer response times, such as road conditions and traffic volumes.
He said communications officer will tell callers if there will be a delay in sending an ambulance, and that often they will explain where the ambulance is responding from.
Meeting planned with family
The SHA said anyone who has has a service complaint should contact the patient advocate.
“When we’re doing something wrong, we want to make sure we know what that is and study it and understand it and try to prevent it from happening again,” Luciak said, adding that’s what is currently taking place with Kalaman’s complaint.
Meanwhile, the Regina caregiver said he’s still concerned about outlier response times like his, the fact they happen at all, and the stress it puts on first responders.
“They need help in order to help us, and they need more resources to do their jobs diligently,” he said.
Kalaman told Global News he has a meeting with the SHA scheduled for Jan. 14 to further discuss the response.
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