Junior hockey player suspected of sustaining a head injury waits immobilized on an ice rink for an ambulance for nearly an hour

This story is part Critical situationa series of CBC British Columbia reports on the barriers residents of that province face in accessing timely and appropriate health care.

A junior hockey player suspected of sustaining a head injury waited nearly an hour on the ice of an arena in Prince George, British Columbia, before an ambulance responded to a 911 call, according to the general manager of the Prince George Spruce Kings.

“He’s lying on the cold ice, and at that moment, you know, the [hockey staff] were starting to worry a bit about hypothermia as well as what could be another injury,” Mike Hawes told CBC News.

Hawes said paramedics finally arrived at Kopar Memorial Arena about 50 minutes later after the game announcer went to the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia and asked paramedics for help. from the ambulance emergency bay.

It happened Saturday night in a game between the BC Hockey League’s Vernon Vipers and the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Shortly before the end of the third period, a 19-year-old Vernon player, identified by hockey officials as Will Blackburn, fell into the boards and appeared to hit his head.

The arena’s first aid attendant, along with team coaches and athletic therapists, attended to the player on the ice, and officials called 911.

“The player was aware, but he just wanted to make sure [he wasn’t seriously injured]“, said Hawes.

With the player’s spine immobilized but no paramedic in sight, Hawes said repeated calls were made to 911 to see where the ambulance was.

“In fact, a couple of times we were put on hold and couldn’t reach anyone on the expedition,” Hawes said.

“I had no answers for Vernon’s coach and the players, and they’re getting frustrated. Obviously there’s nothing I can do.”

Hawes said he eventually sent the team’s longtime public announcer to the hospital.

“Unfortunately I think that’s kind of how we ended up getting the paramedics to come in, it was the fact that we sent a member of our staff to the hospital to talk to them, face to face. .”

Shortly after, an ambulance attended the arena, about a three-minute drive from the hospital, and rushed Blackburn to the emergency room.

The player was discharged from hospital a few hours later after tests which included a CAT-scan.

He was able to return home with his teammates by bus.

Hawes says he doesn’t blame paramedics or dispatch, but what he calls a provincewide systemic problem with emergency response.

“I know it’s in every community in the province, and it’s something that hopefully can be fixed. What if it was a much, much more serious injury?”

British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) said when the call came in around 9:24 p.m. it was initially assigned as a “yellow” response, meaning no lights or sirens. was not necessary.

At 10 p.m., new information from the arena suggested the situation was more urgent than initially thought, and the call was upgraded to “orange”, complete with lights and sirens. The BCEHS said the ambulance arrived at 10:07 p.m.

“We know it’s stressful when someone who needs an ambulance is waiting for one,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.

“If the family is looking for information about their care, we encourage them to contact our Patient Care Quality Office.”

Catherine J. Martinez