People are waiting over 30 minutes for ambulances in Mississauga
Published May 11, 2023 at 1:39 pm
Three different experiences of people waiting for an ambulance in Mississauga— one for 90 minutes — highlight concerns over staffing levels and an uptick in the misuse of 911.
Two sisters say their 95-year-old mother fell and fractured her hip while at an appointment at Villa Forum Long Term Care Residence in Mississauga on April 13.
Rose, who wishes to use only her first name, tells insauga.com they called 911 four times.
“We were told that as soon as one becomes available, it will be dispatched, which was the same message we received for all four phone calls,” she says.
Finally, after waiting an hour and a half with their mother in pain, an ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital, Rose says. Once at the hospital they learned their mother had a fractured hip and needed surgery. She was still in the hospital as of May 3, recovering from the injury.
This is certainly not the norm — the latest numbers show an average wait time of eight minutes and 34 seconds, and even the lowest priority call has an average wait of just over 15 minutes, Peel Paramedics note in the 2023 budget report.
But in another incident, on May 2, an elderly woman fell on the street at Hurontario Street and Lakeshore Road in Port Credit and waited over half an hour, Doug Murless tells insauga.com.
A group gathered to help the woman and called an ambulance.
“…when an ambulance was called, we, the group helping her, were told that it was going to take a while because they had no one to send,” Murless said.
@RudyCuzzetto a 90 yr old senior fell on the street in Port Credit & injured her head today. She needed an ambulance, 911 was called only to be told they don't have anyone to send. 30 mins later & nobody showed. The Ont. Govt should be ashamed!
FYI @BonnieCrombie @DaskoWard1
— Murless (@Murless) May 3, 2023
The bystanders called a couple of times to get an update but dispatch said no ambulance was available, and they would come as soon as there was one free. But someone called the woman’s son and he finally decided, after 40 minutes with no ambulance, it would be faster to drive her to the hospital, Murlass said.
“She needed an ambulance, 911 was called only to be told they don’t have anyone to send. 30 mins later & nobody showed,” Murlass said in a tweet. “The Ont. Govt should be ashamed!”
In another case, Mississauga Ward 2 Councillor Alvin Tedjo recently tweeted about his brother’s experience trying to get help for their father after he fell off a ladder trying to fix a hole in his roof in April. His arm tore open at the elbow and dislocated, and he broke his wrist in a couple of places.
1/ My dad fell off a ladder 🪜trying to fix a hole in his roof this weekend. His arm tore open at the elbow, it dislocated and was exposed and bleeding a lot as he severed his brachial artery and broke some bones. 🤕My brother called 911 and waited 8 1/2 minutes with no answer…
— Alvin Tedjo (@AlvinTedjo) April 24, 2023
“He was losing a ton of blood,” Tedjo tells insauga.com.
Fortunately, Tedjo’s brother was there and he applied a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding. He immediately called 911 but was put on hold. He waited a few minutes and then took his father to a car with the help of a neighbour.
His brother didn’t wait and instead drove his father to the hospital.
“The entire time he was on hold with 911,” he says.
Tedjo said his father is now recovering after undergoing four and half hours of surgery.
“It was a little scary for a while,” he says.
But Tedjo is quick to say he doesn’t blame dispatchers who have tough jobs and work hard.
“It’s a very emotional, very stressful position,” he says.
Both dispatchers and paramedics need more resources and stable funding from the province, he says. Peel Regional Council recently approved funds for 10 more dispatchers and 44 paramedics, but this takes time for training.
And there are only so many people that can be trained at one time.
911 call volumes are steadily increasing due to population growth and population aging, the Region of Peel noted in the 2023 budget report.
Another big issue is a growing number of non-emergency 911 calls.
“We shouldn’t be talking about making people wait to get an ambulance or to get emergency services because other people are clogging up the lines with non-emergencies,” Tedjo says.
In April, more than 33,000 of 90,000 911 calls “were deemed misuse of 911 or hang-ups” at the Peel Communications Centre. One of the most ridiculous was a complaint about a sandwich order.
Currently, about 40 per cent of all 911 calls are non-emergencies.
In April 2023, our Communications Centre received 90,000+ calls, 33,000+ were deemed misuse of 911 or hang-ups. 9-1-1 is for emergencies only, such as a life is in danger or a crime in progress. For non-urgent/non-life-threatening incidents, call 905-453-3311 #911AwarenessPeel pic.twitter.com/IptarBPjbl
— Peel Regional Police (@PeelPolice) May 10, 2023
A new dispatch system started in December 2022 may also be impacting call wait times for some calls, a Peel paramedic tells insauga.com.
The Medical Priority Dispatch System prioritizes calls into five categories — from immediate life-threatening conditions to non-urgent and not serious with immediate threat to life very unlikely.
Peel Paramedics needed to prioritize higher acuity conditions over lower acuity conditions. Before this system, in most cases, once an ambulance was dedicated to a call, it would not be able to be re-routed.
Neither the 911 dispatcher nor the paramedic decides when an ambulance will arrive. The dispatcher asks the caller a series of very detailed questions which determines the priority of the call.
For example, a cardiac arrest is a high-priority call and will get the closest ambulance in the shortest amount of time compared to a lower-priority concern which is not considered life-threatening.insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising