Just days after it emerged an injured Dartmouth, N.S., man lay in his driveway for three hours waiting for paramedics to arrive from Parrsboro, 911 medical emergency dispatchers say they were directed not to divulge to other emergency responders where ambulances are coming from.

The union representing medical communications officers said an email sent to its members from Emergency Medical Care Inc. on Aug. 13, four days after the incident, instructed staff to provide only the estimated time of arrival to police and fire services, but not the location from where ambulances are being dispatched.

The email didn’t explain why the directive was being issued, said Jeff Callaghan, the national director for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which represents about 50 communications officers with Emergency Medical Care.

“We don’t think it’s any coincidence after the incident that happened with the Parrsboro call that this is the communication that goes out,” he said.

The privately owned company is contracted by the provincial government’s Emergency Health Services branch to operate Nova Scotia’s ambulance service and medical communications centre. 

‘It would be critical’

The news that Ross O’Brien, 86, spent hours with a broken hip waiting for an ambulance before police drove him to a hospital five minutes away from his home sparked a strong reaction around the province.

It was revealed the ambulance had been dispatched from Parrsboro, about a two-hour drive from Dartmouth, following O’Brien’s fall on Aug. 9.

Callaghan said medical communications officers have been advised for some time not to share where ambulances are coming from with the public, but not disclosing that information to police and fire departments is a troubling directive.

“They’re withholding information and pertinent information especially from police and fire agencies, where they would be on the scene before the ambulance, and it would be critical for them to know where that ambulance is coming from,” Callaghan said.

The union that represents Nova Scotia paramedics said police and fire crews, as well as patients and families, should have all the information that’s available about where ambulances are being dispatched from.  

“Any citizen in the province has a right to that information in my opinion and I don’t think it’s a great response,” said Michael Nickerson, the business manager for the Nova Scotia Paramedics International Union of Operating Engineers Local 727. 

EHS responds

Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP declined to comment on the issue. Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency said their response to emergencies would not be affected by the new directive.

Jan Jensen, executive director of medical communications, patient flow and system performance with Emergency Health Services (EHS), would not directly address what communications officers are being told to say.

“The EHS medical communications centre will continue to provide responding agencies, including medical first responders, the ETA for the arrival of paramedics based on the closest responding EHS unit. This process has not changed, as it is important for these agencies to be aware of this,” Jensen said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Emergency Medical Care deferred to Jensen’s statement.

Nova Scotia’s three main political party leaders have said what happened to O’Brien is unacceptable.

The Dartmouth man’s family is calling for concrete action to improve emergency medical care in the province.

Source From CBC News

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