Tales from Quebec's Broken Healthcare System
In Granby, the ambulance shortage is so bad that cops are routinely called to mop up the blood
Early Thursday morning in Granby, a person fell or jumped from a height of about 12 feet and fractured their leg so bad it was hemorrhaging from the wound.
Somehow, after waiting for almost an hour, the person was transported to the ER at the Granby Hospital by police and not paramedics, according to information obtained through The Last Ambulance project.
The call to 9-1-1 was placed at 01H22 in the morning. Police and an ambulance were requested. Inexplicably, for paramedics, the call was triaged as a Priority 4 response — a low priority call.
It wasn’t until 02H13 (51 minutes after the initial call to 9-1-1) when paramedics were finally assigned to the call — where a man lay in excruciating pain, bleeding internally as he waited for help. Leaving from Cowansville, that meant an additional 25 kilometres of travel before they would even reach Granby’s city limits.
En route to the call, the paramedics were cancelled and advised that police officers had transported the patient themselves to the ER. That was at 02H17 (55 minutes after the initial call to 9-1-1).
Now, if you’re of a certain age, you probably remember the Montreal cops doing the same thing in their minimally-equipped ambulances back in the 1970s and 80s (yes, each police station had an ambulance for a brief time and, yes, it seems strange in retrospect). But at least, those police officers had a bit of emergency medical training.
According to my source, when the injured person arrived at the ER in Granby, the fracture wasn’t immobilized and the bleeding wasn’t controlled. And by not controlled I mean to say the bleeding was abundant. That must have been a horrendously painful and scary ride to the hospital.
The media liaison officer for the Granby Police told me that while he was unable to confirm yesterday morning's case, he did say police officers in Granby regularly transport patients to the ER depending on the urgency of the situation so that they can rapidly receive care.
When I asked the officer if this was an exceptional case, he said not at all and reiterated that, depending on the gravity of the situation and the delay for paramedics, Granby Police will transport patients to the ER.
I reached out to Marc-André Morency, press attaché to Granby MNA, François Bonnardel for a comment and received this as a reply, "Pour ce qui a trait au transport ambulancier, vous devez vous tourner vers le Ministère de la Santé ou encore le CIUSSS pour obtenir plus d'informations."
I thought Bonnardel — who served as Transport Minister in the CAQ government — would have had more to say about the revelation that police officers in Granby regularly transport patients rather than wait for paramedics. However, the only other thing a member of his staff mentioned was that local paramedics have been “très méchant” in their dealings with the Minister during their prolonged contract negotiations.
Bonnardel’s riding office has, indeed, been the target of multiple boisterous protests by paramedics which have featured some rather creative visual demonstrations of their discontent with the contract negotiations.
I also reached out to the City of Granby seeking a reply to the following :
Earlier this morning, a patient was transported to the emergency room of the Granby hospital by the Granby police due to the delay in the intervention of the paramedics. When I checked with the Granby police to see if this was an exceptional case, they informed me that on the contrary, it is common practice and that depending on the seriousness of the situation, their agents will transport people to the emergency room so that they can be treated quickly.
I would like to know the reaction of the Mayor of Granby to the news that the Granby police feel the need to regularly transport sick/injured people rather than wait for paramedics.
Also, I would like to understand why a city as big as Granby (population of nearly 70,000) does not have a fire department first responder program - when very clearly there is a serious problem with ambulance coverage.
Finally, will the City of Granby contact the CIUSSS or the MSSS (Health Ministry) to demand better ambulance coverage for the citizens of Granby?
As of this hour, there has been no reply.
Several messages to The Last Ambulance from paramedics have suggested updating the Wikipedia definition for black holes to include a note about the ambulance coverage in the Granby region.
Despite the high volume of calls in the response zone, there are only three crews of paramedics scheduled for days and two on nights. There are regular assignments for inter-hospitals transfers and high-priority CVA, cardiac, trauma and pediatric patients are regularly re-routed to the CHUS Fleurimont in Sherbrooke - 88 km away.
When that happens, the ambulance is out of the response zone for several hours. So every ambulance which is supposed to be on-duty is critical.
Yesterday’s call was no exception. The paramedics who were assigned and eventually cancelled en route weren't even leaving from Granby.
They were 25 km away.
And so it goes in the second most populous city in Estrie where it’s a toss-up as to whether or not you’ll be transported to the ER by police or paramedics.
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Keeping in mind, the legal system protects that status quo.