911 operators can now hang up on BC callers waiting for ambulances – .

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911 operators can now hang up on BC callers waiting for ambulances – .


The province’s largest 911 provider, E-Comm, said on Wednesday that operators will be allowed to disconnect the line after transferring callers to the agency in charge of dispatching ambulances.

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Emergency dispatchers in British Columbia are outraged over a decision this week that allows 911 operators to hang up on callers waiting for an ambulance.

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Donald Grant, of Vancouver, a dispatcher for seven years, said he “can’t imagine the pain” the choice to disconnect will cause people to face “what is possibly one of the worst days of their lives. “.

“The vast majority of people who call 911 have real emergencies – there’s an intruder in their home, or they’re having a heart attack. They need to be connected to a real human who can guide them through the process. “

The province’s largest 911 service provider, E-Comm, said on Wednesday that operators will be allowed to disconnect the line after transferring callers to BC Emergency Health Services, the agency responsible for dispatching ambulances.

Emergency Dispatcher Donald Grant: “The vast majority of people who call 911 have real emergencies – there’s an intruder in their home or they’re having a heart attack. They need to be connected to a real human who can guide them through the process. “ Photo par Arlen Redekop /PNG

E-Comm spokesperson Jasmine Bradley said the decision to allow operators to, at their own discretion, disconnect from paramedics was taken to free them from the ability to answer other calls incoming.

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“Delays in being able to transfer calls to the ambulance have put a strain on all emergency services,” Bradley said. “Anytime there is a delay in connecting a caller to a fire or police department, which accounts for 70% of our calls, there can be a serious risk to public safety. “

Akash Gill from Surrey, who accepted a position as a 911 operator to help people in 2019, said: “Now we transfer your call and disconnect the line while you wait, listening to an automated message over and over again until that the ambulance come upstairs. “

“It’s terrifying,” said the 27-year-old, who took to social media to express her anger.

“What we’re used to as operators is reassuring you and collecting any information in a worst-case scenario, like after a sexual assault or domestic violence when a panicked caller might request an ambulance due to of his injuries, but what he also did need was the police.

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“I have answered 911 calls in the past where it was vital that I was on the line because I would not have heard the details of what was going on in the 10 seconds I now have to direct calls.

Although operators are unable to provide medical advice, they still play a vital role with callers during an unfolding medical emergency.

“If a caller were to lose consciousness or become unable to respond while waiting for the ambulance to respond, the 911 operator would pass on any key information received from the caller,” said Grant, president of the British Columbia union representing 911 operators. , CUPE Local 8911.

“Now there will be no one left to audibly testify to what happened. “

Emergency operators are not the only ones to criticize the temporary change in procedure.

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Paramedic Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia, said the new protocol piled more work on the plates of ambulance dispatchers in British Columbia’s emergency health services.

“I can’t believe it has come to this. Recently it took us up to 20 minutes to answer a transferred call. We see people hang up. They’re scared, they don’t know if help is coming, and we can’t blame them, ”said Clifford.

“If we had enough people to answer 911 calls, this wouldn’t happen. “

A March report commissioned by E-Comm, carried out by consulting firm PwC, found that the service could not be successful if it remained understaffed, with its 153 full-time call takers answering calls from province-wide emergency.

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In addition to the need for ambulance dispatchers to call back those who have hung up or disconnected, there is also a risk that the injured person will leave the scene. Ultimately, Clifford said it’s the patients waiting for help who are suffering.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the province is aware that a wave of emergency events has resulted in periods of high call volumes, with some callers facing longer wait times than usual.

“E-Comm operators and dispatchers do an incredibly important job as the first point of contact for 911 calls, and I know they want to be there for as many people in need as possible. The safety of people in British Columbia is always a top priority, and I expect E-Comm to take action to ensure that is the case. “

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