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EXCLUSIVE: Ambulance shortage leaves man in street for over an hour with broken leg

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Sep 27th, 2016


Imagine lying on the road in agony, your leg snapped in two, waiting for an ambulance to rush you to the hospital and it takes over an hour for that ambulance to arrive.

That’s what happened to William Thom three weeks ago when his scooter tipped over on top of him on Dufferin Street near Eglinton Avenue West.

The first ambulance responded in six minutes but Thom needed a special bariatric ambulance designed to transport patients who are over 350 pounds and there are only three in Toronto.

Thom says he was in excruciating pain as he waited for help to come.

“I’ve never had pain like that before. It was just massive pain. I mean, I have bad arthritis as it is on my knee, but that was just terrible pain.”

Thom says first responders did what they could to protect his dignity as he lay in the street waiting for the bariatric ambulance to show up.

“They moved the fire truck in front and put up posts and a tarp over me to keep the sun off me.”

The Toronto Paramedic Service says it transports 220,000 patients a year and only 35 require bariatric ambulances, which have specialized stretchers.

To complicate matters, in William’s case the first bariatric ambulance called had to be diverted for a life-threatening case which added to his wait, but paramedics admit the average response time for a bariatric call is about one hour.

“That’s unfortunate,” said Commander Jennifer Shield, “And I acknowledge that must have been a very long time for him sitting out there in the middle of the intersection.”

The service says this is the first time a concern has been raised about Toronto’s bariatric ambulance response times but say they will be conducting a review.

“I think that gives us an opportunity to go back and look at our resources and see how we could not maximize the resources that we have a little bit better,” Shield said. “And if that means taking a look at the number of bariatric vehicles we have available to service our community then we would take a look at that.”

Ontario’s Minister of Health is also promising to investigate Thom’s case.

“It is concerning,” Dr. Eric Hoskins said when asked about the incident Monday. “What’s important here is that Ontarians who do find themselves in need of an ambulance, particularly for urgent reasons, can have confidence that the response time is going to be reasonable so I will have my staff look into this particular situation to find out more about it.”


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