Two-hour wait for ambulance after stroke just blocks from New Westminster hospital

Hours wait for ambulance

A former New Westminster city councillor remains in the hospital where she’s recovering from a stroke – and family and friends believe ambulance delays may have exacerbated her condition. 

Lorrie Williams, who served on city council for 16 years, suffered a stroke at her home on Aug. 7 – just a couple of blocks away from Royal Columbian Hospital. 

“She's still in hospital. She still has paralysis,” said Allan Greenwood, Williams’ brother. “We're just kind of waiting to see what's going to happen next.” 

Greenwood noted that advertisements says to act FAST to help ensure a good recovery for people having strokes. (FAST - Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time – is an acronym used by various health organizations to educate the public about the symptoms of a stroke.) 

“911 was called within 90 seconds, but it took them two hours to get her to RCH,” he said in an email. “It’s three blocks away from her house!!! This is unforgivable in my opinion.” 

Greenwood said his sister is paralyzed on her left side, something he believes is “directly related” to a two-hour delay in getting her to the hospital. 

“This ambulance problem is real and terrifying,” he said. “Who’s going to get brain damage or die waiting for the ambulance next in New Westminster? Or everywhere in B.C.?” 

Leona Green said Williams was at home with her friend Ruby, a doctor she met while she was volunteering in Kenya. 

“She knew right away that Lorrie was having a stroke, but she had to wait two-hours-and-15-minutes,” she said. “She was dead weight on the floor. Nobody could pick her up and take her in a car.” 

Green said Ruby and neighbours, including a nurse, called 911 several times to get an ambulance to transport Williams to the hospital on the night of Saturday, Aug. 6. 

“They're really, really in a bad way right now, the ambulances,” she said. “They just don't have staff.” 

In a phone interview, Williams said she wondered why she wasn’t being driven to the hospital and later learned she couldn’t be lifted. She said she was conscious while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

“I kept thinking that time was of the essence in a stroke,” she said. “It makes all the difference.”

Greenwood said the ambulance delay experienced by his sister is “extremely disturbing” as timing is critical for medical treatment when someone is having a stroke. 

“It's not just a concern, this is lethal,” he said.

Greenwood said he’s focused on helping his sister, but wants the province to make improvements to the ambulance system in B.C. 

“I'd like to see the ambulance system be back to where it was all my life that I've grown up here. It was reliable, it was consistent, it was fantastic,” he said. “And now, all of a sudden, it's falling apart.” 

Glacier Media has reached out to B.C. Emergency Health Services for comment. 

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