‘Excruciating pain’: B.C. man waited 59 hours with broken hip for ambulance transfer

In the latest snow, an 82-year-old Grand Forks man suffered a broken hip and suffered severe pain for 59 hours as he waited for an ambulance to transport him to the Trail for surgery.

Marion Duralia said her father, Frank Duralia, was initially admitted to the Border District Hospital in Grand Forks on Sunday morning (Nov 6) and was scheduled to undergo surgery at the Kootenay Border District Hospital the same day – but the operation had to be cancelled. Apparently there was no ambulance to get him there.

“Three or four times we were given different times. It never happened,” Dulalia told Black Press Media.

Same goes for Monday. Countless times Duralia and her father were told he was next to go, and each time the ambulance didn’t show up.

‘Unbearable pain’

Frank was forced to stop eating and drinking in preparation for every possible operation. Duralia said her father was given IVs and painkillers, but he was in “extreme pain” whenever he moved a little.

Duralia said Frank wasn’t the only one in constant pain while waiting for an ambulance.

“I can see other people having the same experience in emergency situations and I’m sure there are thousands of other cases.”

Duralia said she spoke with other family members at the hospital and found that some of them chose to drive their sick or injured loved ones to the Trail themselves. In good conditions, the journey takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, but can take longer when the pass is covered with snow or ice, as it is on Sundays and Mondays.

“Several people took this risk and endangered their lives and the lives of their loved ones.”

BC Emergency Medical Services told Black Press Media that poor driving conditions were the reason ambulances couldn’t transport Frank on Monday.

No inter-hospital transfers of private services across Kootenay borders

Duralia discovered that other family members at Grand Forks Hospital were looking for private medical transport. She said she couldn’t drive herself because she didn’t have enough room for him to lie flat safely because he had a broken hip, but she did consider paying for private services.

However, inland health’s Kootenay border area does not allow inter-hospital transfers by private medical transport services – which are available in other parts of the province.

Interior Health told Black Press Media it was not currently considering changing its ambulance model, but in any case private services were not suitable for Frank’s injury. Private services in other parts of the province are generally only used for low-risk transfers.

Frank was eventually taken by ambulance to Terrell around noon Tuesday, where he later underwent surgery. Duralia said she didn’t blame the paramedics involved, saying they clearly did their best but the quality of care her father received was “unacceptable”.

“We are in a crisis. People are falling through the cracks.”

Duralia did place the blame on the B.C. government and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“I think he’s responsible for the mess we’re in.”

Dix met with other provincial and territorial health ministers and the federal government in Vancouver on Monday and Tuesday. Ministers had hoped for a deal on increased healthcare funding, but the federal government pulled out of talks on Tuesday afternoon without any deal. Dix had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

Loss of inpatient care means transfers can take up to four hours

Newly sworn in Grand Forks Mayors Everett Baker and Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell said they are both in touch with Duralia and are working with the internal health department and the province to come up with a solution.

Baker said he met with Dix at the B.C. Municipal League convention in September and invited him to visit Grand Forks to see the struggle firsthand. The rural city has been without hospitalization and maternity wards since March due to staff shortages, leaving many patients with no choice but to cross the mountain pass on their own or wait for an ambulance to take them to another hospital.

The community usually has three ambulances, but if one of them has to trek to the Trail and back, for example, it could disappear for three hours, Baker said. Because they have lost inpatient services, patients have been moved to Kelowna (2.5 hours each way) or Kamloops (more than 4 hours each way), depending on which hospital has available beds, Baker said. This means that one of the three ambulances may only occupy a patient for up to eight hours.

If driving conditions were deemed too dangerous, ambulances would not drive at all.

“Highways are not safe,” Baker said.

He said he had no immediate solution, but he was determined to make his voice heard and to ensure the Grand Forks were better taken care of.

“We need a solution now.”

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